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Need to Know: Forte is the Bear who should most concern the Redskins

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Need to Know: Forte is the Bear who should most concern the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, December 10, three days before the Washington Redskins play the Bears in Chicago.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Bears

The thoughts aren’t as early as they usually are due to the short week but here we go:

—We have two opposing forces working against each other here. The Redskins have been good at bouncing back from bad losses. The followed up five of their previous six losses with wins. But they haven’t been able to win on the road, going 0-5. As has been discussed here, the Redskins don’t have a road problem so much as they have a problem playing teams better than they are on the road. Going into their last four road games their opponents had lost a combined total of one game. We will see what trend prevails on Sunday. (Note: The tiebreaker here could come from the Bears. They are 1-8 in their last nine games at Soldier Field.)

—Chicago is called the Windy City but on Sunday it’s going to be the rainy city, if we are to believe the weather forecast three days out. As of right now they are calling for rain all day on Sunday with temperatures in the 50’s and 15 m.p.h. winds. The conventional strategy would be to try to control the game on the ground but the Redskins have had great difficulty trying to do that this year.

—Jay Cutler was either the joke or the punch line the last few years in Chicago but under John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase he’s now having a pretty good season. He’s throwing the ball less this year compared to 2014 and enjoying it more. The 32-year-old had 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. I’m not sure if he will beat the Redskins on Sunday but I doubt that he’ll beat the Bears.

—If you ask Jay Gruden a question he will give you an answer but it might not always be the truth. When I asked him about making changes to a running game that is has averaged less than three yards per carry in seven of the last eight games, he said that they would look doing things differently. I’m not sure if they will or not but one thing they should look at seriously is junking the zone runs and going with the power scheme exclusively. Besides the zone not being what Bill Callahan likes to call and coach, the Redskins line is built for post. And zone blocking requires timing and teamwork and that is in short supply on a line that is inexperienced and has changed 80 percent of its personnel from a year ago. Power blocking is more complex than “go push that guy in front of you out of the way” but it is simpler than zone and probably better for the personnel the Redskins have in place.

—Bears RB Matt Forte has missed three games with a knee injury and he still is having a year most backs would love to have. He’s just 57 yards from hitting 1,000 combined yards rushing and receiving for the season. He hasn’t had a big game on the ground since the season opener when he went for 141 yards against the Packers. But he gained 84 against the 49ers last Sunday and a few running backs have revived their seasons against the Redskins this year. Forte is the player the Redskins should be most afraid of this Sunday.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Bears 3; Bills @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Eagles 16

In case you missed it

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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.