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Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 2, 68 days before the start of free agency.

Nickel coverage

The Mike Shanahan era is over. On Tuesday we took a look at some things that went well during the last four years. Yesterday was about what went wrong. Today, the question is what’s still up in the air?

In chronological order, five moves by Shanahan of which we don’t know the results.

1. The Redskins went into the 2011 draft missing picks in the third and fourth rounds but due to some wheeling and dealing they ended up picking 12 players including at least one in every round. Eight of them are still on the roster or finished the year on injured reserve and only one, top pick Ryan Kerrigan, is set as a starter. Some others need to step up in their fourth seasons to prevent this draft from being a bust.

2. The blockbuster trade to move up to get Robert Griffin III looked like a winner a year ago. Now with Griffin coming off of a bad season with two ACL tears highlighting his medical history and the final installment of the trade ending up being the No. 2 overall pick going to the Rams, it’s not so clear. Griffin will have to be stellar for many years to justify the price. He appears to be capable of doing that but we won’t know for a while.

3. In 2012 the Redskins gave Pierre Garçon a five-year contract worth $42.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed. He proved to be valuable in 2012 when he could play and he was the offensive MVP this past year, leading the league in receptions. But that hefty price means that the team needs to get another solid season or two out of him. Out of all of the questions on this list, the confidence that Garçon will work out is the highest.

4. In 2012 Shanahan spent three draft picks on offensive linemen. But guards Josh LeRibeus (3rd round) and Adam Gettis (5th) and tackle Tom Compton (6th) have yet to play except for an emergency appearance here and there. LeRibeus was inactive for all 16 games this year. Is there any depth on the offensive line?

5. Tight end Jordan Reed looked to be a third-round steal when he started catching everything thrown near him in the first half of the season. But he missed the last six games of the season with a concussion. Reed will have to shake the injury bug if he is going to live up to that “steal” status.

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Stat of the day

—In 2013 Roy Helu was the Redskins second-leading rusher among running backs with 62 carries for 274 yards. The previous season that distinction went to Evan Royster, who had just 23 carries for 88 yards.

Timeline

—Former Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer was born on this date in 1940.

—Days until: NFL free agency 68; 2014 NFL Draft 126; 2014 Opening Sunday 249

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offense—Does Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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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