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Redskins-Chargers: Five keys and a prediction

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Redskins-Chargers: Five keys and a prediction

Five keys to the Redskins-Chargers game plus a prediction.

1. The Chargers are 23rd in the league in total defense but they are ninth in points allowed. That can often indicate a team that’s good taking the ball away. That’s not the case here as San Diego has just four takeaways all year, the fewest in the league. But the Chargers are the seventh-best defense in the red zone, allowing opponents to score touchdown on just 47 percent of their trips inside the 20. The Redskins will need to find a way to get into the end zone when they have the opportunity.

2. Which version of Robert Griffin III are we going to get? The one who completed 49.2 percent of his passes combined against the Broncos and Cowboys, posting the two worst passer ratings of his career in the process? Or one more like the QB we saw against the Bears who posted a 105 rating and led a last-minute drive for a game-winning touchdown? The Chargers’ defense has allowed opposing passers a rating of 102.1, 29th in the NFL so Griffin should have a chance at having a solid game.

3. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is second in the NFL with a passer rating of 111.1. The schedule makers have done the Redskins no favors so far this season when it comes to facing quality quarterbacks. By the end of Sunday’s game the Redskins will have played eight games and five of them will have been against quarterbacks with passer ratings currently ranked in the top nine. In addition to Rivers, they have already gone up against Peyton Manning (119.4 rating, 1st in NFL), Aaron Rodgers (108.0, 4th), Tony Romo (101.7, 5th), and Matthew Stafford (94.7, 9th). Fortunately, the only top-10 passer they face for the rest of the year is the rematch with Romo and the Cowboys in Week 16.

4. As they do every game, the Redskins will go into this contest with stopping the run on the top of their defensive priorities list. The Chargers are an OK running team ranking 15th in terms of overall yardage and 20th in yards per carry with 3.8. Ryan Matthews has been healthy and while he may never justify his selection with the 12th overall pick in the draft (2010) he has been productive, gaining 446 yards on 110 carries (4.1 per carry). His backup, Danny Woodhead, gains most of his yardage via the pass; he has 40 receptions for 314 yards.

5. Can the Redskins regain their home-field advantage? They dropped their first two home games this year before sending the crowd home happy after the Bears game. If they want to make a playoff run they are going to have to make some hay at FedEx Field. With home meetings with the 49ers and Chiefs upcoming, the Redskins need to grab this home game.

I don’t think that it will be easy but I think that Griffin will come through with a solid performance, the defense will bottle up the run and they will survive the dink and dunk attack of Rivers.

Redskins 28, Chargers 24

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offense—Does Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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.

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