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How the Redskins Will Make the Playoffs

How the Redskins Will Make the Playoffs

Tandler’s Redskins Blog Ver. 09.09.05

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net
The 2005 Washington Redskins will make the playoff and anything less than that will be a disappointment.
The team has good, talented football players, a lot of them. One quick way to assess the level of a team’s talent is to see how many of its players would start for most other NFL teams. With the definition being that a player could start for at least half of the other teams in the league, the Redskins have quality players at all five positions on the offensive line, one at wide receiver with Santana Moss, one at tight end with Chris Cooley, and one at running back with Clinton Portis. On the other side of the ball they have defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, linebackers LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington, cornerback Shawn Springs and safety Sean Taylor. A few others such as safety Matt Bowen and defensive end Renaldo Wynn are on the borderline, but even discounting them that makes 13 players who are above average at their positions. That’s enough to win with.

There was some truth to what people were saying about Joe Gibbs last year, that he was trying to win in 2004 with plays that worked in 1990. Certainly it didn’t work like the typical Joe Gibbs offense, one that took best advantage of the talents of its players and always had a surprise or two in store for the opposing defense. It’s surprising to learn that some still think that the game has passed him by. He didn’t spend 15-20 hours a day at Redskins Park during the offseason trying to convince people that what he did last year works, he spent it revamping the Washington offense. Gibbs has always said the he would change about 40% of his offense from year to year. From ’04 to ’05 the numbers will probably be flip-flopped, with the coaches putting 60% or more of last year’s schemes in the trashcan. The shotgun, which we have seen used effectively during the preseason and zone blocking for Portis to allow him to bust some long gainers, plays that were missing from his 1,300-yard season in 2004.

Even with all of the problems with the offense last year, the Redskins still won three of their last five games. One of the losses was to the Eagles and the Redskins’ strong bid for an upset in that game was derailed by a late interception of a Patrick Ramsey pass in the end zone. The other defeat came in the dying minutes at Texas Stadium when a late Dallas touchdown pass pulled out the win for the Cowboys.
That’s the framework. So how do the Redskins take these quality players running an effective offensive scheme and a Gregg Williams defensive scheme and win the nine or 10 games that will be needed to make the playoffs?

  • Win three in the division: The Redskins have favorable matchups in their four meetings with the Giants and Cowboys in regards to the quarterbacks they will be facing. Williams’ aggressive, blitzing packages are designed to terrorize young quarterbacks such as New York’s Eli Manning and immobile quarterbacks like Dallas’ Drew Bledsoe. Even if they can’t steal a win from the Eagles, something they almost did in Week 14 last year, they should be able to muster a 3-3 division record.

  • Beat the teams they should beat: The home games against the Bears and 49ers are games that the Redskins should be favored in by a touchdown or more. Seattle comes to FedEx Field and they’re a terrible road team. The Oakland Raiders also visit FedEx and even with the addition of Randy Moss they’re still a team that will post a double-digit loss total. Tampa Bay is just a few years removed from a Super Bowl win but they seem to be a lost franchise now. The Redskins travel to Arizona and the Cardinals are supposed to be an up and coming team but I’ll believe it when I see it. Washington will win five of those six games.

  • Pull an upset or two: The three division wins and the five against the lesser teams mean that the Redskins need to find another win, maybe two, to get a ticket to the playoffs. Among the more winnable road games is the one in Denver. The Broncos just aren’t very good this year and, like Manning and Bledsoe, the mistake-prone Jake Plummer is the kind of quarterback that plays right into Williams’ hand. The Chargers, who play at FedEx Field in late November and if the Redskins are playing well then that will be a very tough game for the Chargers to win. A win in a December trip to St. Louis may be a tall order, but the Rams are nothing if not erratic and a win there is not out of the realm of possibility.


Of course, the usual caveats are in place here. The Redskins, like virtually every other NFL team not named the Patriots, won’t be successful if they are hit with an extraordinary number of injuries or get more than their share of unfortunate breaks. Given an equality of luck, however, the Redskins will be extending their season into the playoffs in 2005.

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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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