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Need to Know: Redskins rookie Cravens has a lot to learn

Need to Know: Redskins rookie Cravens has a lot to learn

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 2, nine days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 205 days ago. It will be 41 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 17; Final roster cut 32; Cowboys @ Redskins 47

Read and react—Jay Gruden

Reading some segments of Gruden’s press conference and reacting to them.
“Right now we need [Su’a Cravens] to learn the system – his run fits obviously, his pass drops. His man-coverage skills are pretty good but he still can work on that. He’s learning. He’s a work-in-progress like all these young players are, like everybody is, like I am. So we’re just going to keep practicing, that’s what we’re out here for.”
I think that a lot of fans are too anxious to see Cravens accomplish great things. Sure he got a couple of takeaways in practice last week but he still has a lot to learn. It’s hard enough for a rookie to learn one position; for Cravens to reach his peak effectiveness it probably will take him at least several games into the regular season, possibly more. They aren’t going to want to throw him into positions where he isn’t comfortable. Look for him to get a role that increases as the season goes on and he learns more positions.
“I think [Will Blackmon] had a couple really good days, really. I’ve been really impressed with Will. His reaction time has been outstanding and he’s got his hands on some balls.”
I was surprised this spring when Blackmon said that he had never played safety before with the exception of a snap here and there over his nine years in the NFL. He has been doing a good job in camp but I will be interested to see how he does when they start playing against guys in the other colored jerseys. I’ve been calling him a lock to make the 53-man roster and he probably is but
Niles [Paul] came back a little quicker [from the ankle injury he suffered last August] than we anticipated. We weren’t sure how Niles was going to come back from his injury. We had to protect ourselves and Vernon [Davis] was staring us right in our face and we grabbed him.”
I had not heard that Davis was signed as insurance against Paul not making a complete recovery from the ankle injury that his doctors said was one of the worst he’s ever seen. They also signed Logan Paulsen while Paul was still a question mark. So they wound up with four (so far) healthy tight ends. There are scenarios for all four of the to make the roster but it’s not a given.
“[CB Greg Toler] has been the ‘forgotten man,’ in fact I forgot to mention him the other day when we were talking about corners. He’s been outstanding out here. You know, he keeps showing up and making plays. Had a big interception yesterday or two days ago and a veteran guy who knows routes and can run still.”
Toler has made a few plays out there. I’m still not sure how the player who was signed 10 days before Josh Norman unexpectedly became a free agent makes the roster. They will keep a maximum of five cornerbacks. Toler is clearly behind Norman, Bashaud Breeland, and draft pick Kendall Fuller. I don’t think they would keep Toler over Quinton Dunbar. That would leave Toler fighting with Dashaun Phillips for the last spot and I think Phillips has the edge. We will see.

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Redskins don't request roster exemption for Williams

Redskins don't request roster exemption for Williams

Trent Williams’ suspension ended on Monday and the Redskins did not wait to get him back on the 53-man roster.

NFL teams often request roster exemptions for players who return from suspensions that last multiple games. Such requests routinely are granted for the week leading up to the next game. It gives the team an extra player in practice while the formerly suspended player rounds back into shape.

But the Redskins apparently are going to throw Williams right into things. On Monday, they waived cornerback Dashaun Phillips and cleared a spot for Williams right away.

Yesterday, Jay Gruden confirmed what has been widely reported, that Williams will return to his left tackle spot. Leaving Ty Nsekhe, who did a solid job filling in while Williams was out, at left tackle and putting Williams at left guard is something that will remain something for fans and media to speculate on but not something that will happen on the field.

The Redskins managed to go 2-2 during Williams’ suspension. Perhaps one upside is that Williams may be fully healthy down the stretch after having five weeks off, including the bye week that preceded his suspension.

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Where did Redskins run game go? Gruden wants to recommit to Fat Rob

Where did Redskins run game go? Gruden wants to recommit to Fat Rob

Since the Redskins inserted Robert Kelley into the starting running back spot, Washington's ground game has stabilized and improved. It's well documented that Kelley limits negative plays in the run game - something his predecessor Matt Jones struggled with.

Kelley got his first start in London against the Bengals, and he ran the ball 21 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, good for more than 4 yards-per-carry. From there, Kelley gained 97 yards against the Vikings and 137 against the Packers, both Redskins wins. And in those post-bye week victories over the NFC North foes, Kelley got the ball 22 and 24 times respectively. 

RELATED: THERE'S LOTS OF TALK ABOUT TRENT WILLIAMS AT GUARD INSTEAD OF TACKLE. DON'T LISTEN TO IT.

Coming off the Green Bay win, it seemed obvious that getting Kelley the ball more than 20 times per game was a big boost for the Redskins offense. Against the Packers, Washington piled up more than 500 yards of offense and Kelley averaged 5.7 YPC.

The 'Skins headed to Dallas riding high for a Thanksigving matchup, and quickly got into a big hole en route to a shootout loss. Jay Gruden explained after the game that being down multiple touchdowns early in the game forced Washington to get away from Kelley and rely on Kirk Cousins' arm. The QB's performance was impressive, he threw for more than 400 yards, but Kelley got just 14 carries.

In the Cowboys game, that made sense. 

Against Arizona this past weekend, Kelley again got just 14 carries. And that did not make sense.

"There’s no doubt about it, we would like to get more of [Kelley] involved," Gruden said on Monday.

The Redskins never trailed by more than a TD against the Cardinals like they did against the Cowboys. Washington even held two different second half leads in Arizona, and still, Kelley did not get the ball enough. 

Further, Kelley was running the ball well in the desert. Where he struggled against Dallas - 14 rushes for 37 yards, good for just 2.64 YPC - Kelley gained more than 60 yards on 14 carries against the Cards, good for a 4.5 YPC average.

"We ideally would like to get that running game going a little bit more – more touches for Robert because he’s been very good as far as running the football," Gruden said. "We have got to make sure that we get him more involved, maintain the time of possession and stay more balanced."

Beyond a balanced offense, Cousins often throws his best passes off play action. Without a commitment to the run game, the play action passing looks struggle. Usually one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, Cousins did not play his best against the Cardinals. Some of that was missing throws, and some of it was heavy pressure from the Arizona defensive line. 

Regardless of the reason for Cousins' struggles - he completed only 21 of 37 pass attempts - more run plays might have helped the Redskins quarterback get into more of a rythym, not to mention slow down the Arizona pass rush.

In six wins this season, the Redskins have run the ball nearly 28 times per game. In five losses, that number dips to 19 runs per game. The proof is in the numbers. 

More Redskins: JAMISON CROWDER'S TOUCHDOWN DANCE WAS BETTER THAN HIS TOUCHDOWN