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Need to Know: Five bold 2015 Redskins predictions

Need to Know: Five bold 2015 Redskins predictions

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 12, one day before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Five bold predictions about the 2015 Redskins

Note: These may contradict some other things I have predicted in other posts because I wasn’t in “bold” mode at the time. By the nature of “bold” the chances of these things happening are slim but I do see them as in the realm of possibility.

The Redskins will start the season 3-0—They will be underdogs against the Dolphins and Giants and perhaps a pick ‘em at home against the Rams. But while Miami and St. Louis have tough defenses neither has an offense that will scare you. The Giants are the other side of the coin, with a potentially powerful offense and a suspect defense. If the Redskins manage to play clean football and avoid dumb penalties and turnovers, they have a punchers chance in all three games.

Alfred Morris will rush for 700 yards—I’m not completely convinced that Morris will be nearly as effective behind power blocking as he was behind the zone-blocking scheme. He will still start all 16 games but if he is spinning his wheels, Gruden will start to sub in Matt Jones and maybe even Chris Thompson earlier and more often. The team is going to rely too much on the running game to keep giving the ball to an ineffective runner.

Kirk Cousins will start all 16 games—If he can beat the turnover problems that plagued him last year there could be no reason to turn to either Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III. Outside of the interceptions his numbers projected over a 16-game season were very good, as in top 10 in many major stat categories good. He never missed a game due to injury and that combined with his ability to avoid getting hit in the pocket he should stay healthy enough to go the distance.

The Redskins special teams won’t improve much if at all—You don’t essentially rip special teams players and leaders like Niles Paul, Adam Hayward, and Logan Paulsen out of the lineup for the season and even break even in performance, much less improve. Maybe young players like Kyshoen Jarrett and Martrell Spaight can pick up the slack and I think Jamison Crowder could provide some long-missing excitement in the return game. But missing the veteran stalwarts they will be doing well to tread water from their poor performance in 2014.

Preston Smith will be the defensive rookie of the year—This is the longest shot on the board here but it could happen. For one thing, he plays a position that generates stats in the form of sacks so that gives him a chance. Assuming he starts and/or gets up to playing 70 percent or more of the snaps, he could benefit from the added attention that Ryan Kerrigan will get. If he can get up to 10 that might be enough to earn the rookie honors if nobody else blows up.

What are your bold 2015 predictions? Let me know in the comments!

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No availability

—It’s been 258 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 1 day until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 12; Eagles @ Redskins 22

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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

Shortly after Kirk Cousins got the exclusive franchise tag from the Redskins on Saturday, two sort of conflicting reports. One, from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, was that Cousins “is not going anywhere” and a trade is essentially off the table. Mike Florio of Pro Football talk, quoting “a source familiar with the dynamics of the situation” reported that the Redskins would have to be “blown away” by a trade offer in order to pull the trigger on a deal.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

On the face of it, the reports conflict. One says that Cousins is available, the other says that he isn’t. But that valuation of them assumes the sources for these reports were intent on putting out the truth. The fact is that Cousins is very much available for the right offer.

A conversation along the lines of this one could well take place in Indianapolis this week:

“How much do you want for your house?”

“It’s not for sale.”

“No, really, how much do you want.”

“Really, it’s not for sale.”

“I’ll give you $50,000 over whatever it gets appraised for.”

“Sold!”

In short, you don’t need to have a “for sale” sign up in front of something to sell it. In fact, sometimes it’s better to act as though you have no intention of selling whatever it is. That can intrigue potential buyers even more.

The analogy falters a bit as it seems that the Redskins are unlikely to get a premium over whatever Cousins’ valuation on the open market might be. The receiving team will have to give the QB a massive contract. In addition, a team that wants Cousins is likely to be able to get him with no compensation in a year, when Cousins is likely to be an unfettered free agent. But you get the idea.

More Redskins: What happens next with Cousins?

The message from the Redskins is, don’t come at us with a couple of mid rounders. There is some point where the compensation for giving up Cousins a year earlier than they might have to isn’t enough. It literally would be better to rent Cousins for one more season than get, say, a third-round pick with a 2018 fifth thrown in.

That being said, they are not going to get the RG3 type haul—three firsts and a second—in exchange for Cousins. The likely would accept something south of that in exchange for Cousins’ rights.

So, he’s not available at any price—unless the price is right.

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.