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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

Here is my report card on some players, coaches, and various other aspects of the Redskins’ 26-20 win over the Vikings. If you think I’m off or if I didn’t issue a grade where you think one is needed, hit the comments.

A

The Redskins have been waiting all season for Preston Smith to have a game like this one. He became the first Redskin with multiple sacks and at least one interception in a game since Marcus Washington did it in 2005. If he continues to make big plays the defense will improve by leaps and bounds.

For a couple of games it looked like Dustin Hopkins was trending towards being a bit wobbly, with misses of makeable field goals against both the Lions and the Bengals, the latter being a critical error. But he was back in form yesterday, drill four of four tries including one from 50 yards out.

B

I think that Rob Kelley got about 50 more yards than his blocking should have given him. That’s not based on film analysis, just from watching and figuring that he averaged around two additional yards on his 22 carries. Why not an A? I’m looking for over 100 yards and/or a couple of TD’s for him to earn that grade.

Since I graded them with an F a couple of weeks ago, I should point out when the officials do a good job. The crew of Pete Morelli kept the game moving along. Accepted penalties were exactly equal with each team with four for 35 yards for each team. The non-PI call on the throw to Ryan Grant was borderline but not awful. And the game moved at a brisk pace, finishing up in 2:52.

I really can’t find much to fault Jay Gruden on. He’s had his team ready to play just about every game this season and yesterday was no exception. There were no questionable fourth-down calls yesterday, no replay challenges. Just a normal, nerve-racking win in a critical game.

Pierre Garçon had another workmanlike day, with six receptions for 81 yards, leading the team in both categories. There is plenty of talk of him being underutilized but he’s on pace to catch 75 passes for 850 yards, not a bad season at all. He will make some money next year at age 30 whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere.

C

Slot corner Kendall Fuller was on Stefon Diggs for most of the Vikings’ wide receivers’ 13 receptions for 164 yards. It was a tough assignment and Fuller did prevent Diggs from breaking a long one. But it still was a rough day for the rookie.

D

WR Ryan Grant played 78 percent the offensive snaps (more than any WR except Pierre Garçon) and did not catch a pass. He was only targeted three time and perhaps he should have drawn a flag on one second-quarter throw. But at times it seems like the Redskins are playing with four eligible receivers when he is on the field.

The Redskins’ red zone efficiency was, well, not efficient at all. They scored a TD on their first trip to the red zone and they had to settle for field goals on the three subsequent trips inside the Minnesota 20. They are now dead last in the NFL in red zone performance at 38.9 percent.

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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