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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

In case you missed it

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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. 

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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. 

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