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Need to Know: Was Cousins' self critique tough enough?

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Need to Know: Was Cousins' self critique tough enough?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 22, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Read and react

Some quotes from around Redskins Park on Wednesday and my comments on them.

Trent Williams on if he needs to be a more vocal leader as this critical game approaches:
“We're all grown men. I don't think I have to sit here and urge people to do better. So, no, I don't feel like I have to tell anybody anything . . . If I need to say something, of course I'll say something.”
Reaction: Since London Fletcher left, the Redskins haven’t really had a vocal leader. Williams is fine as a team captain but he is who he is and he’s not the kind of guy who is going to correct mistakes or demand that a play in practice be redone because it wasn’t right the first time. On defense, Dashon Goldson isn’t that guy either. Special teams captain Tress Way certainly isn’t. It will be interesting to see if Scot McCloughan puts an emphasis on acquiring a strong leader this offseason.

Colt McCoy was asked about the possibility that he could be thrust into the starting quarterback role if Kirk Cousins continues to struggle:
The most important thing--let's not make this about quarterbacks here--the most important thing for us is to go out and find a way to win this week. This is a winnable game, at home, and it's huge for us to find a way to get this thing done and go into our bye week feeling OK, feeling like we can come back and get back in the race. It's not about quarterbacks, it's not about anything other than this whole team rallying around each other and finding a way to win this week.
Reaction: I am always up for a quarterback discussion or even an controversy. But sometimes fans and all too many people in my line of work just make too much out of it. Barring an injury, at this moment McCoy isn’t all that much closer to becoming the Redskins’ starting quarterback than I am. When the team rushes for 34 yards and your defense allows 221 and you lose, quarterback is far from your biggest problem. Things can always change but the team is not on the verge of making a change and McCoy knows it.

Jay Gruden on the importance of Sunday’s game:
Well, it’s big. Obviously, I made that point pretty clear to everybody and I know it’s big for them. Every game should be treated like that. You only get 16 of these things. They’re all equally as important, but when you’re 2-4 and you’re getting pushed into the corner a little bit, I think there comes a point in time where you’ve got to really fight. That’s where we are right now. We are getting backed into a corner right now and I hope our guys come out swinging. I know they will. I know I will.
Reaction: A coach has to be careful when he says that one game is more important than the other 15, especially before December. But Gruden is right to put this one on another level. They just can’t lose to Tampa Bay at home for a second straight year. Yes, the Bucs are better than they were last year but if the Redskins have improved at all over last year they have to win this winnable game.

Kirk Cousins talking about his performance in the Jets game:
“I don’t think it was a great performance. You know, it was a lot of different reasons, a lot of different things going on, but it wasn’t what we wanted. We’re better than that and we will be better than that going forward. I do want to credit the Jets. They had a good plan and they have great players and a really good team. They’re 4-1 for a reason. We certainly ran into a good challenge. We can be much better and we will be much better going forward.”
Reaction: I’m sure that the many Cousins detractors out there won’t think that Cousins is beating himself up here nearly as badly as he should. Some will think he should channel Jim Zorn and call himself “the worst quarterback in America”. But this is perfectly appropriate to say at a news conference, the right blend of taking responsibility, tipping his cap to the opposition, and being optimistic about the future.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:40; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 3; Redskins @ Patriots 17; Saints @ Redskins 23

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”