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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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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

Shortly after Kirk Cousins got the exclusive franchise tag from the Redskins on Saturday, two sort of conflicting reports. One, from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, was that Cousins “is not going anywhere” and a trade is essentially off the table. Mike Florio of Pro Football talk, quoting “a source familiar with the dynamics of the situation” reported that the Redskins would have to be “blown away” by a trade offer in order to pull the trigger on a deal.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

On the face of it, the reports conflict. One says that Cousins is available, the other says that he isn’t. But that valuation of them assumes the sources for these reports were intent on putting out the truth. The fact is that Cousins is very much available for the right offer.

A conversation along the lines of this one could well take place in Indianapolis this week:

“How much do you want for your house?”

“It’s not for sale.”

“No, really, how much do you want.”

“Really, it’s not for sale.”

“I’ll give you $50,000 over whatever it gets appraised for.”

“Sold!”

In short, you don’t need to have a “for sale” sign up in front of something to sell it. In fact, sometimes it’s better to act as though you have no intention of selling whatever it is. That can intrigue potential buyers even more.

The analogy falters a bit as it seems that the Redskins are unlikely to get a premium over whatever Cousins’ valuation on the open market might be. The receiving team will have to give the QB a massive contract. In addition, a team that wants Cousins is likely to be able to get him with no compensation in a year, when Cousins is likely to be an unfettered free agent. But you get the idea.

More Redskins: What happens next with Cousins?

The message from the Redskins is, don’t come at us with a couple of mid rounders. There is some point where the compensation for giving up Cousins a year earlier than they might have to isn’t enough. It literally would be better to rent Cousins for one more season than get, say, a third-round pick with a 2018 fifth thrown in.

That being said, they are not going to get the RG3 type haul—three firsts and a second—in exchange for Cousins. The likely would accept something south of that in exchange for Cousins’ rights.

So, he’s not available at any price—unless the price is 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.