Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins still cleaning up locker room issues

mccloughan-pregame-usat.png

Need to Know: Redskins still cleaning up locker room issues

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, September 22, three days before the Washington Redskins visit the New York Giants.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Joe Barry press conference 12:40; Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden press conference, player availability after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until: Browns @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Ravens 17; Eagles @ Redskins 24

A work in progress

So we heard from another former Redskin who had less than complimentary to say about his former employer. Among other things, current Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson said that there is a lot of “finger pointing” in the Redskins locker room when things go poorly, as they are now.

"Once they get down, they start pointing fingers,” he said to the New York media. “And that is true. That is what happens. And for the Redskins -- I've only been on one team before I came here, and that was them -- and all I saw was not the right way to handle it. I feel like they didn't handle it the right way when I was there.”

While this may sound like sour grapes to many Redskins fans, it does jibe with recent reports that players are complaining about the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins after his rough start to the season. There may or may not be fire to the smoke but it seems unlikely that all of this was made up out of whole cloth. Jay Gruden downplayed Robinson's remarks but he didn't flatly deny them.

Which brings us to the topic here yesterday which was Scot McCloughan’s strong preference for ignoring need in the draft and drafting his kind of football players. Here is what he said just before the draft last year:
“I want to draft well and identify the guys are Redskins, not just as players, but as people. ...It’s all about the Redskins, it’s about passion, it’s about football and that’s when you start hitting on guys."
No doubt the people that McCloughan is talking about being “Redskins” are not those who will point fingers in the locker room or complain to the media when things go poorly. I don’t know who is anonymously complaining publicly or privately but I would be willing to bet anything that they are not players drafted by McCloughan like Brandon Scherff, Jamison Crowder, or Preston Smith. I also would be in confident in speculating that the finger-pointers were not among the players who have signed long-term contract extensions like Jordan Reed, Ryan Kerrigan, or Trent Williams.

One player acquired by McCloughan who has voiced a complaint this season is Ricky Jean Francois, who talked about a lack of adjustments by the coaching staff. But what’s different there is that Francois did not complain anonymously. He put his name on it. If you feel the need to vent that’s the stand-up way to do it.

The locker room culture needed to be fixed when McCloughan got to Washington. There were plenty of issues before the arrival of Robert Griffin III but that whole saga magnified the problems and brought them to the national spotlight.

Just like McCloughan has been unable to acquire enough talented defensive linemen who fit his vision for the team at this point in time he has been unable to fill the locker room with players who will worry more about doing their own jobs than they are trying to assign blame to others.

This means two things. First, if McCloughan passes over your favorite prospect at a position you perceive to be a desperate need one reason might be that his research indicated that the player was one of “those guys” in the locker room. Also, expect to hear some more about grumbling and finger pointing for a few more seasons. It takes time to weed out those players.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it 

 

Quick Links

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

Quick Links

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!