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Need to Know: Grading Redskins' Cousins against the Panthers

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Need to Know: Grading Redskins' Cousins against the Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 24, five days before the Redskins host the New York Giants.

Five final thoughts on Panthers 44, Redskins 16

—I simply don’t buy assertions that the Redskins suffered from some great “momentum” loss after Chris Culliver’s pick six was nullified by a shaky penalty call. They had a chance to grab momentum after Andre Roberts’ 99-yard kickoff return tied the game at 14. The Redskins did briefly, forcing a three and out on defense. But their offense promptly went three and out. The Panthers took the ensuing punt and drove all the way from their own eight into field goal range before the Culliver play. By that point it was clear that the Panthers were the superior team and while the final score might not have been as ugly if Culliver’s touchdown had stood the outcome would not have changed. Momentum matters much more if the two teams are evenly matched. On this day, Carolina was just better.

—I would argue that the holding penalty against Jordan Reed had just as big an impact as the Culliver penalty and it probably was a worse call. If Kirk Cousins’ run stands and the Redskins have first and goal at the three, they likely score and it’s 28-21 at halftime and Washington was receiving the second-half kickoff. The holding was a much worse call than the roughing because referees are trained to throw flag in borderline situations when the penalty involves player safety. They are not encouraged to call ticky-tack holding penalties.

—One more thing on penalties then we’ll move on. As Jay Gruden said during his press conference on Monday, illegal contact penalties need to be reviewable. If Gruden or any coach wants to use one of his challenges on such a play, why not? They are often big plays. Sure, it’s a judgment call, but so is whether a player got a second foot inbounds on a catch or if the ball broke the imaginary plane of the goal line. If there’s indisputable visual evidence that there was no prohibited contact, reverse the call. If not, it stands. In college they automatically review every such call. And the NFL reviews them each week to decide whether or not the player will be fined.

—I’ve been debating what grade to give Kirk Cousins for his performance on Sunday and I think I’m going with a C-, although I wouldn’t argue too hard if you want to go lower. His interception was completely on him as he overthrew DeSean Jackson for what would have been a first down near midfield. Cousins took five sacks and although at least one of them was due Josh LeRibeus snapping the ball too early and another came when Ty Nsekhe came in off the bench cold after Trent Williams was hurt and was evidently unprepared to, you know, block somebody, he takes his share of blame for them. On the good side, the TD pass to Jackson was very well thrown and he made a few other good throws. And his run that was nullified was very well executed. I’m grading on the curve a bit because he was up against the league’s best pass defense. All in all, the game was another data point to judge him by and this one on the down side of the “average” line.

—I’ve been giving Matt Jones something of a pass for his fumbles but he’s running out of rope. Four fumbles in 104 touches is beyond a concern and something to work on, it’s a five-alarm problem. Jones has been somewhat unlucky in that the Redskins lost all four fumbles and all of them either led to a touchdown for the other team or cost the Redskins a sure score. Jay Gruden can’t bench him because he is capable of making plays like the 78-yard touchdown rumble with a screen pass against the Saints. But “they work on ball security all the time” won’t cut it anymore. Jones needs special attention when it comes to holding on to the ball.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no media availability

Days until: Giants @ Redskins 5; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 13; Redskins @ Bears 19

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Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

With Memorial Day weekend between now and the Redskins next batch of OTAs, let's look at the three best quotes from the first organized team session. For Redskins fans, the biggest looming issue remains the contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the organization, but there are plenty of other spots worth watching. 

1) Bad recruiting - A long-term deal might not get done, but that doesn't mean the talks aren't moving along. Cousins sounded almost optimistic but also knows that football is never a sure thing. To explain, he told a story from his high school days:

I’ve just kind of learned from previous experiences and if you know my story going back to high school, I played my senior year of high school with no scholarship offers, in fact there was a coach here from Northwestern today who was my recruiting coach at Northwestern, he’s still the running backs coach 10 years later at Northwestern and I was getting recruited by Northwestern, wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me, and it was just a reminder that you never know what’s going to happen. 

2) Sky's the limit - Despite the high-cost addition of Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary in 2016 was hardly a strength. Much of that came from poor safety play, where the team had few experienced options and spent little. This offseason, Washington invested in the position, bringing in D.J. Swearinger from the Arizona Cardinals. The new safety thinks the secondary can become a strength, quickly.

We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out I think this group can be one of the best. We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit.

3) Does it even matter - The NFL gives out a lot of awards, but at least publicly, there is no hardware for the funniest head coach. If there was a trophy, Jay Gruden should win it. Earlier this week the league announced a number of rule changes, most noticeably a change to stodgy TD celebration penalties. Another rule change: Overtime will shrink from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Gruden wasn't impressed when asked about it. 

Who cares?

Bonus - Who you calling fat? Gruden is too funny to only make the list once. Asked about second-year running back Robert Kelley, the coach made sure people know the difference between a nickname and reality.

That was just a nickname, he wasn’t actually fat. I think when you’re a 22-year-old kid, 21-year-old guy out of Tulane and you understand the wear and tear that the NFL is going to give you, you better get yourself into shape if you want to maintain a career in the NFL as a running back.

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Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 26, 18 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 145 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 107 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 18
—Training camp starts (7/27) 62
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 76

A top 10 team? Or No. 22?

Former Cowboys VP and current SiriusXM commentator and NFL.com writer Gill Brandt did a list of his top 10 NFL teams in terms of talent. At the top of the list was the consensus pick for the best team in the league, the New England Patriots. Also on the list were some of the regulars on lists like this one—the Steelers, Falcons, Cowboys, etc.

But the team at No. 10 on the list was something of a surprise. Since it’s being mentioned here you’ve probably figured out that it’s the Washington Redskins.

Brandt points out that they have a significant number of quality players in what should be the prime seasons of their careers, which he says, “portends good things”.

Judging talent is always subjective, especially when you don’t know how new players who arrived as free agents or draft picks will fit in. But good players are good players. Do the Redskins really have enough of them to stack up as a top-10 team?

One way to gauge this is to try to figure out how many of a team’s players could start for at least half of the other teams in the NFL. That is subjective but that’s what we do here so here we go.

On the offensive line, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses could start for most teams. Of the skill players, Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, and Jamison Crowder are on the list.

Defense is a little trickier since not all the players in the front seven would be scheme fits everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say that most teams could find some way to utilize Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Zach Brown as starters. Josh Norman is probably the only member of the secondary who would qualify here although with as weak as the safety position is around the league you could make a case for D.J. Swearinger.

Not counting the safety, that makes a total of 10 who start for at least 16 teams, just less than half of the starters. There are some who could make it there is they take some steps towards reaching their potential. Brandy mentions Josh Doctson and Preston Smith. I would add Spencer Long and, if healthy, Junior Galette.

On the other side of the coin, where are the Redskins clearly below average? Left guard is the weak spot on the O-line. While the running backs aren’t awful I’m not sure many teams would trade their group for Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson. Despite the addition of Allen, the D-line remains suspect.

It is interesting to note that the Redskins are one of three NFC East teams on Brandy’s list; the Cowboys are fifth and the Giants are sixth.

You can look at the strong and weak points of the Redskins and write almost any 2017 storyline you want to. Peter King of The MMQB has his doubts about Pryor and Doctson being able to adequately compensate for the free agency losses of Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson and his power ranking have Washington at 22nd.

Two respected analysts, two very different views of how the Redskins stack up in 2017. We have a little more than 100 days before we start to find out who’s 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.

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