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Need to Know: How will the Redskins do in the second half of the season?

Need to Know: How will the Redskins do in the second half of the season?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 14, one day before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five thoughts on the Redskins at the midway point of the season

—The defense has improved only marginally from last year, a somewhat disappointing result after the big free agent expenditures there during the offseason. They have allowed 24.4 points per game (17th in the NFL) compared to 27.4 last year (29th), so that’s marginally better. But after they started out well giving up just 27 points in their first two games, they have given up 27 or more points in four of their last six.

—Offensively, they are about a wash. Scoring per game has increased by just a tenth of a point (18.8 last year to 18.9 this year). You can argue over which quarterback should be playing (although there seems to be unanimous agreement at Redskins Park), but it’s hard to argue that sticking with one guy has helped. By the time eight games had passed in 2014 there had already been three quarterback changes with more to come. The issue is the rushing game, with the average yards per carry plummeting from a middle of the pack 4.2 last year to a pathetic 3.6 average.

—Special teams got off to a rocky start with a punt return for a touchdown costing them in the season opener and a blocked punt getting Week 3 in the Meadowlands off to a rocky start. But they have turned things around, scoring TDs on a kickoff return and on a blocked punt. And they haven’t allowed any big returns against them since Week 1. Part of the credit goes to Dustin Hopkins, who is taking kickoff returns out of the equation by pounding many of his kickoffs through the end zone.

—How much have injuries hurt the Redskins? Some more than others. Jordan Reed being out of the lineup may have been the difference in the loss to the Falcons. Chris Culliver could have helped against Brandon Marshall and the Jets. If you want to go back to the preseason, maybe Niles Paul on special teams and Junior Galette edge rushing could have turned around the result of the Miami game. I think that they would have lost at the Giants and at the Patriots even if they were fully healthy. And, of course, the opponents have had their share of injuries, too, so perhaps these things would even out.

—The Redskins are 3-5 at the midway point of the season for the fourth year in a row. Only in 2012, when they lost game No. 9 and won their last seven to win the NFC East, have things ended well after that start. I don’t see a magical run to the division title like we saw with RG3 in 2012. But I also don’t see an 0-8 record in the second half like we saw in 2013 or a six-game slide that started off the second half last year. I could see them going 3-5 in the second half, maybe 4-4 if they catch a few breaks.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 1; Redskins @ Panthers 8; Giants @ Redskins 15

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For Redskins, will shorter term with full guarantees get a Cousins deal done?

For Redskins, will shorter term with full guarantees get a Cousins deal done?

The prevailing notion around the Redskins negotiations with Kirk Cousins on a long-term deal seem to center around a five-year contract, especially after the Raiders reached a five-year extension with Derek Carr, their young star quarterback. 

Much group think points to a similar deal between Cousins and the Redskins. If you're Cousins, however, why sign?

The Redskins passer has all the leverage in the situation. He's got $20 million in the bank from the 2016 season, and he's due $24 million this season on the franchise tag. All guaranteed. 

RELATED: What is the risk for Kirk Cousins in terms of a deal?

Washington team president Bruce Allen has repeatedly talked about team options for 2018. Those options would be a $28 million transition tag or another franchise tag at $34 million. Expensive options. Cousins has repeatedly talked about market value, and how he has little choice in what happens. 

One area Cousins has control: signing a multi-year contract. 

The longer this thing drags out, it seems more and more likely Cousins will play on the tag in 2017. While it might seem crazy, the Redskins have strongly suggested another tag is in play for 2018. 

That means Cousins would be in D.C. at least two more seasons. As Grant Paulsen reported, last offseason the Cousins camp was looking for a three-year deal with all guaranteed money, based on the 2016 franchise tag salary of about $20 million.

Could a similar, albeit more costly, deal get done now based on the 2017 franchise tag? Three years, $24 million per, all guaranteed?

Cousins knows, and has said, that the team can keep him at least two more seasons. The Redskins also know, should they use the transition tag to save some money, Cousins can walk with hardly any compensation next offseason. Is the organization brave enough to try a non-exclusive franchise tag in 2018? Cousins would likely be quick to sign a one-year deal at $34 million, and teams could wait for him to hit free agency in 2019.

The Redskins are low on options. Maybe less years makes more sense for Cousins, and maybe, just maybe, that can get a deal done. 

Washington might want a long-term deal, but after messing up this contract situation for two years, maybe now they should take what they can get. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Picking 10 Redskins players to protect in a hypothetical NFL expansion draft

Picking 10 Redskins players to protect in a hypothetical NFL expansion draft

With the NHL adding a team in Las Vegas and the league's expansion draft taking place Wednesday, the internet started thinking about a hypothetical NFL expansion draft.

Since it's June and there's more than a month until training camp, why not give it a shot with the Redskins in mind? 

Remember the rules: In the NHL, no first- or second-year players were eligible for the Vegas Knights to pluck, so the same applies here. Nobody in the last year of their deal, either.

Going off of those parameters, check out this list of Redskins players who'd be wise to protect against possible expansion.

  1. Kirk Cousins - Obvious. Every team needs a QB, and with a long-term deal or not, Cousins is very likely under contract with the Redskins at least for the next two seasons. That has a huge amount of value.
  2. Jordan Reed - This contract jumps big time in 2018, but Reed is arguably the best tight end in the NFL. An elite route runner and gifted athlete, in his last 17 starts Reed has posted more than 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns. The only thing that can slow Reed is his health, and that's a guy any team would want. 
  3. Trent Williams - Five straight Pro Bowls and perhaps the best left tackle in football makes this is a gimme. Williams is under contract through 2020, and by then, the money will seem like a bargain. 
  4. Jamison Crowder - Only two years left on his rookie deal, Crowder probably has the most valuable contract on the Redskins roster. Poised for his first 1,000 yard season in 2017, Crowder should emerge as one of the best slot WRs in the NFL. 
  5. Brandon Scherff - He was drafted to play tackle but it quickly became obvious that guard was the correct spot. Even with the shift in position, Scherff made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and looks primed to do the same for the next five years. Still on a rookie deal for two more years too. 
  6. Josh Norman - Don't be surprised that the first five protected players on this list come from the offense. Norman is an elite talent, yet he's being paid as such. In 2017, he will make $20 million. From 2018 to 2020, he will make at least $14.5 million per season. His skills are undeniable, but if you're building a team from scratch, that's a lot of salary cap. 
  7. Ryan Kerrigan - Pencil him in for double digit sacks. Count on him to work hard. Oh yeah, his contract runs through 2020. This one is easy. 
  8. Morgan Moses - Fresh off a new deal that will keep him with the Redskins through 2022, Moses is developing into one of the top right tackles in football. This contract would get snatched up in an expansion draft.
  9. Preston Smith - Two years left on his rookie deal and he still has all the potential in the world. Smith flashed serious sack potential as a rookie but fell off a bit in his second season. Year 3 will tell a lot, but in an expansion situation, the Redskins would rather have him than lose him.
  10. D.J. Swearinger - New to the Redskins, sure, but he played quite well for the Cardinals in 2016. Washington is desperate for some stability in the back end of the secondary, and Swearinger should provide it. Plus, he's signed through 2019. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back