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Results more important than process

Results more important than process

The main complaint about the Washington Redskins draft that is making the rounds is that they didn't "address" the defensive line. It's a complaint heard almost every year as the Redskins do generally ignore the D-line during the annual selection meeting.

Of course, Rob Jackson of Kansas State, the defensive end that the Redskins took in the seventh round in the last dozen picks might take umbrage to such remarks, but nobody is expecting big things out of him, probably not even Mr. and Mrs. Jackson.

Not since 1997, when they tabbed Kennard Lang in the first round, have the Skins used their initial pick for a defensive lineman. Since then the first line of defense has received very limited draft-day attention in the form of late-round draft picks like Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston.

A funny thing has happened during the time that the Redskins have been neglecting the defensive line on the last weekend in April. The defense has been pretty good. Not necessarily great, not dominant, but good enough to win with.

How good? Starting with the 2000 season, the Redskins defense has been ranked 7, 13, 21, 24, 5, 9, 27, and 11 in points allowed. In those eight years they've been in the top 10 three times and in the top half of the league a total of five times.

Whatever method the Redskins are using to acquire defensive players has been working. To worry about where they have acquired their personnel is to be concerned with process over results.

The Redskins have not been mediocre this decade because of their defense. They have struggled because they haven't been able to score points. In that same eight-year span, from 2000-2007 their NFL rankings in point scored have been 24, 28, 25, 22, 31, 13, 20, and 18. They haven't been in the top 10 once and they were in the bottom half of the league in seven of the eight years.

That sounds to me like a team that needs to score more points. They have a ways to go here to move from being awful to merely run of the mill.

We keep on hearing that the Redskins should go after beefing up the defensive line because that's how the Giants won the Super Bowl. It's a copycat league and trying to overwhelm the other team with a fierce pass rush is a solid strategy in any era.

But the Giants weren't the team that was on the verge of being anointed the greatest of all time. That team was the Patriots, the team that added three veteran wide receivers in the offseason and became the greatest scoring machine in league history.

Now, which team do you want to copy? The one that lost six games, had to become road warriors, and needed a miracle throw and catch to become the champs? Or the one that cruised through its schedule undefeated, stayed at home for the playoffs and was a mis-timed jump by Assante Samuel on what would have been a game-ending interception away from the best season ever?

It's funny how just a couple of plays can turn the perception of how you should build your team. If the ball bounces out of David Tyree's grasp when he hits the ground, you should build your team to score points and obliterate the opposition. He catches it and suddenly every team needs to find an Osi and a Strahan in the middle rounds.

Devin Thomas, Fred Davis, and Malcolm Kelly will not turn Jason Campbell into Tom Brady. The Redskins will not win their first 18 games in 2008 or set the all time scoring record. But in time, perhaps as early as midseason, Thomas, Davis, and Kelly will be helping the Redskins score more points. By then Campbell should find the trio providing much more appealing targets than were Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell, and Todd Yoder.

If that happens, the biggest problem the team has had over the past eight years will be on its way to being solved.

They do not have to become a Pats-like dynamo to win more games. If they consistently can even score as many points as the average team in the league, that will be a major improvement.

Those who would rather fret over the process rather than look at the result will continue to do so. Too bad, they could be missing out on a lot of fun.

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Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

RICHMOND - Looking at the contracts for the two most important people associated with the Washington Redskins, a clear discrepancy arises. The head coach, Jay Gruden, is under contract until 2020. The quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is only under contract for 2017. 

Some speculation suggested that, given the diverging deals, at some point Gruden might look to develop another passer that's locked in with the Redskins for the long-term. Backup QB Colt McCoy is under contract for the next two seasons, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld is under team control through the 2019 season. 

Gruden made clear that isn't the case. Crystal clear. 

"We're focused on Kirk," the head coach said. "He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period."

Cousins should obviously be the focus. In the past two seasons he's twice broken the Washington single season passing yards record, and his rise has coincided with the Redskins first back to back winning seasons in 20 years. 

As for practice reps, Cousins will get the vast majority. McCoy will get work, and Sudfeld too, but this Redskins team is focused on winning this season. 2018 contracts are not on the coach's mind in July of 2017, nor should they be. 

"Colt [McCoy] will take advantage of his reps, I'm sure he will. And Nate [Sudfeld] will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But, this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him. Trying to get him used to [Josh] Doctson, get him used to [Terrelle] Pryor, we have some new weapons around him, so it's a matter of getting him ready. But Kirk will get all of them."

With a rebuilt defense and plenty of options offensively, the Redskins should compete for a playoff spot this year. Is there a scenario where the team sputters and spirals into a lost season? Maybe. And in that hypothetical scenario, perhaps at some point it makes sense to see what another passer can do. It's a long shot. 

For Redskins fans, know that Cousins is the unequivocal starter. Period. 


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Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

RICHMOND—The Redskins will be without Jordan Reed in training camp for an unknown period of time. Although his toe injury does not appear to be serious, others will have to fill the gap until he is able to return. And the Redskins just so happen to have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL and they added another one with NFL playing experience on Thursday.

Jay Gruden said that the Redskins needed to sign E.J. Bibbs, who has one NFL catch in his career, because Vernon Davis, the backup tight end, has “a little bit of a tweaked hamstring.” Davis, who caught 44 passes for 583 yards last year, seemed to me moving fine in practice after Gruden spoke to the media but he could need some reps off on occasion so they brought in Bibbs to fill in the gap. There is no point in pushing the 33-year-old Davis if it’s not necessary.

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The Redskins have even more options at tight end. Niles Paul is back and he appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last eight games in 2016. Paul is going into his seventh season and while he is mostly relied on for special teams play he does have a 500-yard season on his resume (2014).

During offseason practices fifth-round rookie Jeremy Sprinkle looked like he had a lot to learn as he goes from a run-based offense at Arkansas to the Redskins’ sophisticated pass-first scheme. He will need to find his comfort level before he takes any snaps in Reed’s place.

The forgotten veteran is Derek Carrier, who now appears to be fully healthy after he missed the first half of last season with a knee injury he suffered late in 2015. He had just two receptions for 10 yards last year in limited playing time on offense.

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Joining Bibbs in the long shot category is Manasseh Garner, a first-year player out of Pitt. While neither player seems to have a shot at the 53-man roster, the Redskins could carry one of the tight ends on the practice squad.

Depth is a good thing to have and the Redskins have done a good job assembling a backup plan at tight end. But you just can’t replace Reed, one of the best few tight ends in the NFL, without a significant drop off in production. The Redskins will let the backups compete and learn in training camp and will keep Reed either on the sideline or doing very light work until he is fully ready to go (and then some).

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.