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Need to Know: Special teams gaffes were costly for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Special teams gaffes were costly for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 9, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Bears in Chicago.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—The more I look at Jackson’s punt return fiasco and think about the game situation the worse it gets. There are just under 2 minutes to play in a tie game. If Jackson fields the punt and runs forward he makes it to the 30, maybe even the 35 if he can dodge a tackle attempt or two. That would have left Kirk Cousins, who was playing pretty well, needing to gain about 35 yards to get into makable field goal range for Dustin Hopkins. They didn’t need a big chunk of yardage and that is what Jackson was trying to get. Maybe he wanted to make a big splash on Monday night. Maybe he felt an obligation to make a big play to justify Gruden putting him back there. In any case, it was just horrible situational football.

—It’s insane how many were on my Twitter timeline bashing Kirk Cousins after the game and yesterday. Look, folks, it’s not all about the quarterback. Cousins didn’t commit key penalties that killed drive after drive and make it difficult for the team to capitalize on three takeaways. He didn’t call 26 rushing plays despite the fact that the team was averaging just 2.8 yards per attempt. Cousins did make some bad throws and perhaps he checked down in some situations where he could have gone deeper. But he completed 71 percent of his passes, averaged a respectable 7.1 yards per attempt, didn’t turn the ball over and posted a 101.4 pass rating. I can’t look at that game, look at those numbers, and put Cousins’ performance anywhere on the list of top reasons the Redskins didn’t win.

—I was dead serious here yesterday when I said that the Redskins should abandon the run and put the last four games in Cousins’ hands. I’m old school and I think that being able to run the ball will be a vital part of this team’s long-term success. But the long term can wait. They are in a four-game sprint here to win the NFC East, which I presume they want to do. They aren’t going to get there pounding their heads against the wall running the ball. I mean, when you have second and one in the red zone and you line up with seven offensive linemen (two tackles as tight ends) and get stuffed for no gain and then in a more conventional set you run again on third and one and get his for a loss of two, what’s the point?

—Almost as galling as taking a loss despite winning the turnover battle three to one was losing while holding the opponent to just one of nine third down. Since the start of the 2012 seasons teams have converted zero or one third down conversions in a game 83 times and those teams are 14-69 (.169 winning percentage). If you add three turnovers into the criteria you get 26 games and a 2-24 record (.077).

—I gave the Redskins special teams some props here last week after they moved into the top five in the NFL in special teams DVOA. But they were as responsible for the loss as the offense or defense (saying that while recognizing that Jackson really isn’t part of the unit, just a very occasional part-time contributor). Dustin Hopkins’ missed 43-yard field goal changed the dynamic of the end of the game and the Redskins were unable to take their chances in overtime due to the kickoff return after their tying touchdown with 44 seconds left. Yes, it’s reasonable to expect Hopkins to pound the ball through the end zone but the coverage has to do a better job if he doesn’t.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Closed walkthrough; Open locker room 3:45, Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins new conferences starting at 4:10

Days until: Redskins @ Bears 4; Bills @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Eagles 17

In case you missed it

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

After a poor first preseason showing and some questions about the physicality of Redskins training camp, JP Finlay talks with Patriots Insider Phil Perry from CSN New England to discuss the differences between Washington's camp and how they run things in New England.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

Few Redskins players draw more heated fan reaction than Ryan Grant. In three seasons with Washington, Grant has never missed a game, but he also hasn't produced much. His career stats: 39 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. 

Regardless, Jay Gruden and the Redskins coaching staff appreciates Grant in a way few fans understand. Grant is able to back up both the slot and outside receivers, and knows the roles of all the players.

"He’s really strong, he’s in great shape, and he’s Mr. Consistent," Gruden said of Grant. "Everything we ask him to do he does, and he does it right."

When Jamison Crowder missed time in Richmond with a hamstring strain, Grant stepped into Crowder's slot role. When Josh Doctson hurt his hamstring and missed time, Grant stepped into his role on the outside of the offense.

Throughout camp, Grant has displayed good hands and an adept knowledge of the offense. 

"No matter where he lines up, no matter what we ask him to do, he can come in the core and block the safety, whatever we want him to do, he can run whatever route from whatever positon and he runs at the right depth, perfect angles coming out of them," Gruden said. "He’s just ‘Steady Eddie,’ and that’s why I like him. I like consistent, smart players and that’s what Ryan is."

Against the Ravens in the Redskins first preseason game, Grant hung on to a tough catch over the middle to give the team one of very few offensive sparks. The problem for fans as it relates to Grant has not been preseason play. It's been inconsistent play in regular season games. 

Gruden believes that could change this year.

"I think people may be surprised with how many balls Ryan Grant might catch. Either way, could happen, I don’t know. I can’t foresee the future there, but I would be just fine with Ryan Grant being the target of a lot of balls."

To state the obvious: Grant is definitely making the roster. Behind Terrelle Pyror, Crowder and Doctson, Grant is the Redskins fourth wideout and one of the few players on the roster that is interchangeable among the Washington receiver positions. 

Grant's career best season came in 2015 when he caught 23 balls for 268 yards and two TDs. Based on his preseason, it seems Grant could surpass those totals in 2017. Much of his early season work has been a result of injuries to Doctson and Crowder, but make no mistake, Grant has been impressive in practice. 

Will it translate to the real games? The opprotunity seems only likely to arise if the Redskins deal with injuries at the receiver spot. 

Last year, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon accounted for more than 2,000 of those yards. Doctson, Crowder and certainly Pryor are likely to be the major recepients of Cousins' aerial prowess. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson accounted for another 1,618 yards last year.

Keep in mind, this is the last year of Grant's rookie contract. If there was ever a time to show in games what coaches have long seen and loved in practice, this would be the year. It seems only an injury would give him a major opportunity. If the situation came to pass, Gruden would have faith in Grant. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!