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Redskins Have To 'Earn The Right' To Start

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Already having several changes to the lineup in just the first four games, head coach Jay Gruden is making it clear that players must produce to earn their playing time.

You must earn it.

That was the message from Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden this week in reference to playing time.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, the leader of a 90-yard game-winning drive against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at FedExField, earned his opportunity to be the team's starting quarterback before the regular season started.

Rookie wide receiver Jamison Crowder, was bumped up the team's slot receiver position over Andre Roberts, responding with seven catches for a team-high 65 yards.

"I think we've had to make these decisions with a lot of different positions, not just at receiver – you know, offensive line and defensive line," Gruden said at his Monday press conference. "[Chris] Baker got the nod starting for the first time this game and responded with a couple sacks. You know, you try to play the best player and I think the players understand that and they appreciate that and they understand that every day they have to earn the right to be a starter on this football team. Every game they have to perform to keep their job."

On the team's latest unofficial depth chart, Baker is listed as one of the team's two starting defensive ends opposite Jason Hatcher.

But that's not to say the team won't still rely on Stephen Paea, whom the coaches consider a "co-starter" at the position alongside Baker. Paea, who has six tackles along with a sack in the first four games of the season, along with other backups, will remain key contributors.

And through positive performances in practices and games, anyone not currently listed as a starter can become one.

"That's the only way it should be in pro football, and I don't think this is the only place that handles it like that," Gruden said. "I think every football team, every baseball team, basketball team does the same thing. It's a performance-based business. In order to keep your job, you have got to perform at a high level. That's what we're expecting from all our guys."

Among those earning more playing time, at least so far, have been five players from general manager Scot McCloughan's first draft class.

Yes, the team was going to lean on fifth-overall pick Brandon Scherff from the get-go, but it's also gotten a lot out of some of their later round draft picks.

Sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett, for example, has been playing more at nickel corner than he listed position of safety. That means he's sometimes seeing more action than some of the team's veteran cornerbacks.

"We had him penciled as competing for safety, being a special team player year one but he came in here and really surprised us with his versatility – being able to play nickel, being able to play safety, the smart football player that's very tough," Gruden said. 

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