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Need to Know: Redskins have seen this QB switch before

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Need to Know: Redskins have seen this QB switch before

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 15, the day the Washington Redskins visit the Atlanta Falcons.

Dawn of a (mini) era

Welcome to the Kirk Cousins era in Washington even though it will only last three games. The insertion of the Redskins’ backup quarterback into the lineup adds a level of intrigue to the games as the team plays out the string in December for the fifth time in the last six years.

The Mike Shanahan Redskins have done this before. In 2010 Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb after a third straight loss sent the team to 5-8 and eliminated Washington from the playoff race. Rex Grossman started the final three games and was predictably mediocre as the Redskins went 1-2. After 13 games it was clear that the deal to acquire McNabb was a mistake.

If Cousins plays like Grossman did in 2010 (55.6 completion percentage, 6.6 yards/attempt, 81.2 passer rating) there will be no great call among the media and fan base for a quarterback competition between Cousins and Robert Griffin III in 2014. Actually, let me walk that back a bit. If Cousins completes three passes in a row at some point some of the less rational observers out there will start a Cousins in ’14 campaign. But beyond the lunatic fringe, a Rex-like performance will not stir a call for any change.

But let’s say Cousins completes 65 percent of his passes, throws for seven TD’s and one interception and puts up a 95 passer rating in his three games. Then the question becomes not so much if there should be a QB competition but if the Redskins should trade one of their quarterbacks. And Cousins is the only quarterback who can be traded.

Whether there is a new regime in place in 2014 or if somehow Shanahan survives, Griffin is going nowhere. Even if dealing him was a good idea (it’s not) and if they could get anything approaching what they gave up to get him (they couldn’t), the salary cap hit would be prohibitive. Such a move would create over $12 million in dead salary cap. They simply can’t afford that much dead money on the book as they attempt to climb out of the hole created in part by the $36 million salary cap penalty the Redskins were hit with over the last two years.

Part of what would make Cousins attractive to teams in the market for a quarterback is his contract. He has two years left on his rookie deal with salaries of $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015.

But nobody can be traded until the new league year begins on March 11. What’s at hand today is Cousins facing Atlanta defense that has allowed opposition quarterbacks to rack up a passer rating of 104.3, the highest in the leage. That basically means that every week the QB Atlanta is facing is like RG3 in 2012.

The Redskins, of course, are just ahead of Atlanta with an opposition passer rating of 101.2. You rarely see this kind of advice given out there but take the over.

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In case you missed it

Sunday 12.08

Monday 12.09

Tuesday 12.10

Wednesday 12.11

Thursday 12.12

Friday 12.13

Saturday 12.14

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3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

Championship Sunday produced a flurry of Redskins news. A pair of internal promotions erased the team's vacant coordinator positions, as Greg Manusky landed the defensive coordinator spot and Matt Cavanaugh will take over as offensive coordinator. When Sean McVay left to coach the Rams, many expected Cavanaugh to take over his spot. Here are three reasons why:

  1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it - There was plenty to criticize from the Redskins the last two seasons, but not much of it came on offense. Cavanaugh joined the organization in 2015 as quarterback coach, and the offense has consistently improved in those two seasons. Though the team struggled to score TDs in the Red Zone, the 2016 version of the Redskins moved the ball at a team-record clip and ranked among the top offensive teams in NFL yardage. When something is working as well as the 'Skins offense, it's not wise to change it dramatically.
  2. Impressive work - Cavanaugh began coaching QBs for the Redskins in 2015. Kirk Cousins took over as Redskins starting quarterback in 2015. In two years working together, Cousins twice broke the Redskins franchise passing record and is now poised to get a mega-contract in free agency. Talking after the 'Skins loss to the Giants earlier this month, Jay Gruden said, "I think [Cousins'] really improved his game a lot in the last couple years. And a lot of it has to do with Matt Cavanaugh and Sean McVay."
  3. Make the call - The biggest question remaining for the Redskins - outside of the HUGE unknown surrounding Cousins - will be about play calling. All indications are that Jay Gruden will return to calling the plays from the Washington sideline, and obviously, that's a situation Cavanaugh understands. For two seasons now, Cavanaugh along with McVay, Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan have had input on play calling. With McVay gone, Cavanaugh and Callahan will likely contribute even more in support of Gruden. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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