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Need to Know: Special teams gaffes were costly for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Special teams gaffes were costly for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 9, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Bears in Chicago.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—The more I look at Jackson’s punt return fiasco and think about the game situation the worse it gets. There are just under 2 minutes to play in a tie game. If Jackson fields the punt and runs forward he makes it to the 30, maybe even the 35 if he can dodge a tackle attempt or two. That would have left Kirk Cousins, who was playing pretty well, needing to gain about 35 yards to get into makable field goal range for Dustin Hopkins. They didn’t need a big chunk of yardage and that is what Jackson was trying to get. Maybe he wanted to make a big splash on Monday night. Maybe he felt an obligation to make a big play to justify Gruden putting him back there. In any case, it was just horrible situational football.

—It’s insane how many were on my Twitter timeline bashing Kirk Cousins after the game and yesterday. Look, folks, it’s not all about the quarterback. Cousins didn’t commit key penalties that killed drive after drive and make it difficult for the team to capitalize on three takeaways. He didn’t call 26 rushing plays despite the fact that the team was averaging just 2.8 yards per attempt. Cousins did make some bad throws and perhaps he checked down in some situations where he could have gone deeper. But he completed 71 percent of his passes, averaged a respectable 7.1 yards per attempt, didn’t turn the ball over and posted a 101.4 pass rating. I can’t look at that game, look at those numbers, and put Cousins’ performance anywhere on the list of top reasons the Redskins didn’t win.

—I was dead serious here yesterday when I said that the Redskins should abandon the run and put the last four games in Cousins’ hands. I’m old school and I think that being able to run the ball will be a vital part of this team’s long-term success. But the long term can wait. They are in a four-game sprint here to win the NFC East, which I presume they want to do. They aren’t going to get there pounding their heads against the wall running the ball. I mean, when you have second and one in the red zone and you line up with seven offensive linemen (two tackles as tight ends) and get stuffed for no gain and then in a more conventional set you run again on third and one and get his for a loss of two, what’s the point?

—Almost as galling as taking a loss despite winning the turnover battle three to one was losing while holding the opponent to just one of nine third down. Since the start of the 2012 seasons teams have converted zero or one third down conversions in a game 83 times and those teams are 14-69 (.169 winning percentage). If you add three turnovers into the criteria you get 26 games and a 2-24 record (.077).

—I gave the Redskins special teams some props here last week after they moved into the top five in the NFL in special teams DVOA. But they were as responsible for the loss as the offense or defense (saying that while recognizing that Jackson really isn’t part of the unit, just a very occasional part-time contributor). Dustin Hopkins’ missed 43-yard field goal changed the dynamic of the end of the game and the Redskins were unable to take their chances in overtime due to the kickoff return after their tying touchdown with 44 seconds left. Yes, it’s reasonable to expect Hopkins to pound the ball through the end zone but the coverage has to do a better job if he doesn’t.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Closed walkthrough; Open locker room 3:45, Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins new conferences starting at 4:10

Days until: Redskins @ Bears 4; Bills @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Eagles 17

In case you missed it

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

MORE REDSKINS: Kevin O'Connell to be hired as QB coach

What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and at the 10 worst.

No. 7 best play of 2016

Redskins vs. Browns Week 4

6:37 left in Q4, Browns ball at their own 30, 2nd and 2, Redskins leading 24-20

Cody Kessler pass short middle intended for Terrelle Pryor INTERCEPTED by Josh Norman at CLV 25. Josh Norman to CLV 24 for 1 yard (Andre Hawkins).
PENALTY on WAS-J.Norman, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced at CLV 24.

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: Sometimes you have a great win, sometimes you dodge disaster. This one went in the latter category. The Redskins couldn’t quite shake the feisty Browns and Kessler for three and a half quarters. Then Norman stayed in Pryor’s hip pocket as the receiver ran a slat. Norman lunged in front of Pryor as the ball arrived and made the interception. He did draw a penalty for doing a bow and arrow celebration but the Redskins overcame that and drove in for the clinching touchdown in their 31-20 win.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: Josh Norman was the story of the Redskins offseason, and this game came one week after playing, and beating, Odell Beckham in New York. The spotlight was burning bright on Norman, and he made a crucial play when the Skins really needed it. Washington got out to a big lead early in this game only to let the Browns climb back in, mainly on the strength of Isaiah Crowell and th Cleveland run game. Losing at home to an awful Browns team would have completely derailed the modicum of momentum Kirk Cousins and the 'Skins established with the Week 3 win over the Giants, and Norman's INT made sure that didn't happen. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!