With the Redskins coming off a humbling loss in Pittsburgh and in desperate need of a victory, there was a palpable sense of urgency Wednesday in Ashburn.
“We’ve had a chance to win some games that we haven’t,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “So our backs are against the wall right now. We’ve got to find a way to win this game before our break. The only way we’re going to enjoy the week off is to win the game. Anything less than that, it won’t be enjoyable.”
After the Redskins (3-5) host Cam Newton and the Panthers(1-6), they don't play again until Nov. 18 against the Eagles.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III said practice was noticeably sharper -- for both units.
"I don't feel a greater pressure, but I know there is a sense of urgency," Griffin said. "I thought we had a good practice, both offense and defense. Guys just know, hey, we have to go out and get a win."
The rookie added: "Of course, everybody wants to go on a bye week, to get away and rest your mind and get ready for the second part of the season. But right now the biggest thing is making sure we come out with a win on Sunday."
Shanahan stopped short of calling it a must win, but acknowledged that a turnaround must begin at FedEx Field four days from now.
“You want to play your best football in November and December,” Shanahan said. “It’s a November game. Everybody talks about the ‘musts’ and all those types of things. Our backs are against the wall. So we’ll see how we step up and play. We know [the Panthers] are very, very disgusted as well. You’re going to find two football teams that are wanting to win.”
Asked if he’s worried his players may overlook the Panthers and ahead to the week off, Shanahan said: “Not where we we’re at.”
As the discussion rages around what the Redskins should do with free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, $75 million cornerback Josh Norman made clear he wants the passer back. Norman explained that the 'Skins struggles should not be pinned to Cousins, but rather, a Washington defense that finished the year near the bottom of the NFL.
"We got to help him out of defense, and stop somebody on the field," Norman said on FS1 (click here for full video). "We did not help him out at all. I'll be honest with you. We got to do our job."
Norman's comments came during a spirited argument with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Cris Carter in what amounted to a festival of hot takery. Whitlock's argument was that Cousins is not a franchise quarterback, and shoult not be paid as such, largely for losing the final two home games of the year against Carolina and the New York Giants.
Cousins passed for nearly 5,000 yards this year, a statitstic Norman pointed to in his defense of the QB. He also explained that Cousins still has room to grow.
"He only had two seasons," Norman said. "Cam Newton had five seasons."
Drafted in 2012, Cousins was just named the 'Skins starter in 2015. He's started every game the last two seasons and gone 17-16 while passing for more than 9,000 yards. Norman played with Newton in Carolina before signing with Washington last year, and got to watch the quarterback develop into the league MVP in 2015.
Norman described Cousins as a 'great guy' and leader in the locker room, but he allowed that, "I know a great guy don’t translate into wins. I'm not saying that."
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As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.
No. 9 worst play of 2016
Steelers at Redskins Week 1
10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0
Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
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Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.
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Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.
10 best plays countdown
10 worst plays countdown
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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!