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Need to Know: Redskins are lost away from home

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Need to Know: Redskins are lost away from home

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Atlanta Falcons.

Lost away from home

Among the issues the Redskins must solve before they can be considered a competitive NFL team is their inability to win on the road.

Under Jay Gruden, the Redskins are doing a better job of sending the FedEx Field fans home happy. They are 5-6 at home since the start of the 2014 season. That is a .454 winning percentage, certainly not where they want to be. But it is an improvement on the 12-20 home record (.375) they posted in four years under Mike Shanahan.

But Gruden has plenty of work cut out for him when it comes to games on to road. The Redskins are 1-8 away from FedEx Field under him, a dismal .111 winning percentage. With Shanahan in charge they were 12-20 on the road, the same .375 winning percentage they had at home.

Over the years in the NFL, home teams (going back to 1966), home teams have won 57.3 percent of the time, meaning that to be average on the road you need a winning percentage of .427. The Redskins aren’t there.

“I don’t what the reason is, to be honest with you,” said Gruden. “We’ve just been outplayed on the road for whatever reason. I guess the only game we’ve won was Dallas on Monday night. I don’t really have a reason for it. I don’t have an answer. We just have to come out of the tunnel and start fast and try to get some momentum on our side and take the crowd out of it. A lot of times, we go on the road, like the Giants game for instance, we weren’t able to maintain the momentum and quiet the crowd. We’ve got to try to figure out ways to do that. That’s forcing turnovers. That’s obviously protecting the football and making some plays on special teams.”

The thing is, this is not a team that forces many turnovers, protects the ball particularly, and makes plays on special teams, the kinds of things that take a crowd out of a game.

But another thing that can blunt the home team’s momentum and lull a crowd to sleep are long, time-consuming drives by the visiting team’s offense. The Redskins are pretty good at these. They have 13 drives of 10 plays or more, the most in the NFL. Those drives have consumed an average of just under six minutes of clock time and 11 of them have finished in scores (6 touchdowns, 5 field goals).

If they can get a few of these going, and avoid the mistakes that had them back on their heels from the start against the Giants, they might have a shot in the dome in Atlanta on Sunday. But since they have not demonstrated the ability to get it done on the road, the best course is to remain skeptical until they do.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:15; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 12:30

Days until: Redskins @ Falcons 2; Redskins @ Jets 9; Bucs @ Redskins 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.