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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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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.