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Redskins' Gruden takes a more subtle approach to 'Code Red'

Redskins' Gruden takes a more subtle approach to 'Code Red'

Sometimes a coach will shout a message to his team from the rooftops. Sometimes he will take a subtler approach.

Jay Gruden took the former approach last year after his team fell to 2-4 with a loss to the Jets. He said that the team’s game against the Bucs the following week was a “Code Red”. The Redskins apparently got the message as they responded by rallying from a 24-0 deficit to shock Tampa Bay. That started a 7-3 run to end the season and the Redskins won the NFC East.

This week Gruden is being a bit more restrained in talking about the elevated importance of the team’s upcoming home game against the Vikings and the following game against the Packers, also being played at FedEx Field. But the message is clear.

“You hate to make one game more important than the other but these next two games in general are going to be important,” said Gruden. “They’re two home games that are very, very big for us. We’re 4-3-1. We’re right now currently I guess the No. 7 or 8 seed, whatever it is and we’re in a position that we’re in a good position but we’re in a position where we don’t have a lot of room for error. We really have to take advantage of our home games and the advantage that the home field gives us. We have to take advantage of those, so they are important.”

Actually, they are the No. 6 seed in the NFC, positioned for the second wild card spot. They are 0-1-1 in their last two games so if they are going to stay in playoff position they are going to have to start winning some games.

The games against the Vikings (5-3) and Packers (4-4) carry elevated performance because, as Gruden pointed out they are home games. The Redskins are 2-2 at home this year. They will need to do better than break even at FedEx Field to make the playoffs.

In addition, the next two games are against teams that will be in the wild card mix along with the Redskins. It is unlikely that the tiebreaker that comes with winning a head-to-head matchup will come into play since the Redskins’ tie against the Bengals means that barring a tie by one of those teams they won’t end up the same record as either the Packers or Vikings. But adding wins to your ledger while adding losses to your rivals’ records certainly helps your situation.  

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DeSean Jackson chose Tampa because he wanted a young QB with 'a lot of upside'

DeSean Jackson chose Tampa because he wanted a young QB with 'a lot of upside'

Kirk Cousins is a 28-year-old quarterback, which is pretty youthful by NFL standards, and he's thrown for 4,100+ and 4,900+ yards in the past two seasons, suggesting that his career is on the rise.

But when DeSean Jackson was evaluating where to ink his next contract during his time on the open market, he saw another passer who is younger than Cousins and, in his mind, has more potential than Cousins, too.

And that is one of the main reasons why Jackson left the Redskins and signed with the Buccaneers.

"I think it was a great fit, a great opportunity, a great up-and-coming, young team," the receiver said during an interview on ESPN's First Take. "Jameis [Winston], obviously, in my decision making, I really wanted to go with a young quarterback, someone who had a lot of upside to him and I think he was the one to fit that position."

Like Cousins, Winston has been a full-time starter for two seasons in the league, and like Cousins, he's posted some gaudy numbers.

Most of the numbers, however, don't stack up to Washington's QB. Cousins edges out Winston in touchdowns, completion percentage and yards, and has also taken fewer sacks and thrown fewer picks than the former Heisman Trophy winner, in the last two years.

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With those stats in mind, it's safe to say the Michigan State product is superior to the Florida State product today. But after hearing Jackson say he valued Winston's "upside," it's not hard to take that a step further and conclude that Jackson believes Winston's ceiling is higher than Cousins' ceiling. On top of that, the latter's contract situation probably was a factor to some extent.

Speaking of Cousins, the pass catcher was asked to talk about his old signal caller. His response was complimentary — but also quite short.

"I think he has what it takes," Jackson said. "At times, we probably needed more out of him and everybody else on the team as well, too. Kirk Cousins, obviously his numbers are off the charts. He had crazy numbers. But moving forward man, we're in Tampa now." 

It was a speedy answer from a speedy player. And while that speedy player did speak highly of Cousins, he's opting to wind down his career with Winston instead, which basically declares that he decided Winston must have "what it takes" more than Cousins.

Jackson is certainly moving forward in Tampa, but whether his production will move upward with Winston isn't as certain.

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Redskins could face RB decision: Christian McCaffery or Dalvin Cook?

Redskins could face RB decision: Christian McCaffery or Dalvin Cook?

Mel Kiper's latest mock draft has the Redskins selecting Stanford RB Christian McCaffery with the 17th overall pick, while Florida State RB Dalvin Cook remains on the board until the Packers with the 29th pick. 

Both runners put up ridiculous stats in college. Cook posted nearly 5,400 total yards to go with 48 touchdowns in three seasons as a Seminole. McCaffery went over 5,100 total yards to go with 31 touchdowns in three seasons.

Until the NFL Combine, however, Cook seemed certain to go before McCaffery. The Stanford product impressed coaches and scouts, particularly with his 40-time of 4.48, a tenth of a second faster than Cook.

Like many high-profile prospects before him, Cook's game is being picked apart, as is a track record with multiple arrests. From Cook's NFL.com Draft Profile:

Very talented runner with outstanding balance, footwork and burst. Cook lacks the power that you may find with some running backs in this year's draft, but he is a homerun hitter with a resume featuring monster games against his most highly regarded opponents. Cook creates for himself with elusiveness and speed, but his value could be diminished by injuries, character and issues in pass protection. If everything checks out, he could become a rookie of the year candidate right away.

Now is a good time to note that even with the questions, Cook's draft grade from NFL.com was a 6.47. McCaffery's was a 5.99, but has much fewer questions. Additionally, McCaffery might project as a player that could line up as a slot receiver or work on special teams, two things not expected from Cook. 

From McCaffery's NFL.com Draft Profile:

Multidimensional runner with flex appeal for teams looking for a player who can carry the ball 20 times or catch it 10 depending on the game plan. McCaffrey's size, power and speed are just average, but he is able to create yardage for himself with his vision and elusiveness. McCaffrey's ability to return punts and kicks could be the value sweetner that pushes his name into the first round.​

Beyond the draft grades and abilities of each player, the question remains if the Redskins should even consider a running back at 17. The team has much bigger holes on the roster, but, McCaffery or Cook present possible game-changing talents. Going into 2017, Robert Kelley holds the 'Skins RB1 job, with Chris Thompson expected to return as a restrcited free agent.

Matt Jones and Mack Brown are also on the roster. Jones, remember, was a third-round pick in 2015 and held the starting running back job until about the halfway point last season, then was inactive the second half of the year. Drafting an early RB might signal the end of Jones' tenure in Washington. 

Cook? McCaffery? Defense? What should the Redskins do at 17? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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