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Good news for Mason-ites?

Good news for Mason-ites?

An opening for Mason?

The first round of cuts generally are insignificant. I'm not exactly sure why the NFL has teams trim about 6% of the roster on one day and then the remaining 34% necessary to get to the limit four days later. The release of Alfred Fincher, however, was a mild surprise and it lines up some tea leaves that we will proceed to attempt to read.

The release of the veteran linebacker, who was on the active roster all 16 games in 2008, leaves the Redskins with seven pure linebackers in H. B. Blades, London Fletcher, Cody Glenn, Robert Henson, Rocky McIntosh, Robert Thomas and Darrel Young. In addition, Brian Orakpo and Chris Wilson are listed as hybrid DE/LB's.

When I projected the final roster a few days ago, I had the Redskins keeping Fincher and cutting Glenn and Young, a rookie free agent out of Villanova. So, one might think that the departure of Fincher is a positive development for Glenn's or Young's chances for making the team.

And it could well be. But I think it's good news for somebody else.

In Blades, Henson, and Thomas the Redskins have good, flexible depth behind Fletcher and McIntosh. Wilson backs up Orakpo. Although they generally like to keep another linebacker for special teams they could get by with this group.

By my prediction that would mean that the defense is taking 25 roster spots. With three reserved for specialists that would leave 25 for the offense:

QB-3 WR-5 TE-3 OL-9

And five running backs. The Redskins have carried four for the past couple of seasons. That would mean that Marcus Mason could join Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, and Mike Sellers.

That lets the Redskins keep their special teams stud in Cartwright, something that I believe Danny Smith will insist on given the departures of James Thrash and Khary Campbell. And it gives the Mason Masses, or whatever the group of fans out there insisting that Mason make the team, their man. And it gives the Redskins a four-tool running back—Mason can run, run with power, catch, and block.

The Redskins also could be creating a spot for Dominique Dorsey, who has done well returning punts and wasn't bad running the ball against New England. But I get the feeling that since the role of Antwaan Randle El is likely to diminish with the emergence of Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as budding starting-quality receivers, Randle El will continue carrying the punt return duties. That would leave no room for Dorsey.

Something else could be going on. Anthony Aldridge, making his first appearance of the preseason, looked like a player against New England, perhaps room is being made for him. It could happen that they'll keep Glenn or Young on the roster. Or maybe a sixth wide receiver although it's hard to figure out why you would keep a D. J. Hackett and cut Dorsey or Mason.

A lot can happen between now and when the final cuts are made on Saturday. Mason is battling some bruised ribs and if he can't play effectively on Thursday that will have to ding his chances.

But it appears that the door has been opened for Mason and it may be up to him to put on a flak jacket and run through it.

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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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