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Redskins savor rare opportunity

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Redskins savor rare opportunity

The last time the Redskins played a home game in December that had postseason implications was 2007.

The next time arrives Monday, when the Giants (7-4) visit FedEx Field for a pivotal NFC East matchup on national television. With a victory, the Redskins (5-6) would vault themselves into the thick of the division and wild card races. 

For veterans like Lorenzo Alexander, the five years in between have felt like an eternity. 

“It’s great,” he said Wednesday. “This is the first meaningful game I’ve played in December in a while, still having the playoffs on the table. It’s a great feeling that we’re still playing for something outside of personal pride. It’s for postseason play.”

The mood around Redskins Park, as a result, has been more upbeat in comparison to recent years, when the post-Thanksgiving focus had already shifted to the following season.

Not this week, however. Not after back-to-back wins over the Eagles and Cowboys breathed life back into a season that had been left for dead at the bye. 

“It’s more important to everybody,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “They’re putting in the work. Whether it’s in weight room, the classroom, the field, they’re putting in extra work.”

"The last two weeks have given us confidence because of the way that we’re playing," Bowen continued. "We know we still have an opportunity to make a run. It’s good for team morale. It shows that all that hard work you put in the offseason wasn’t for naught." 

Tackle Trent Williams added: “The last couple of years, we haven’t had anything of this nature. It feels great. It’s definitely a huge game for us, for this organization. A win Monday night could do a lot for us in the near future and also in the distant future.”

Coach Mike Shanahan noted last week that there's been an increased sense of urgency for his players. Fullback Darrel Young, however, said the key to the turnaround has in fact been something more tangible: players are making clutch plays at critical junctures.

“Execution under pressure,” Young said. “Look at Santana [Moss] making big plays on third-and-one. We didn’t have that. We came into the season with the worst percentage on third down. We’re not we want to be, but guys are making plays.”

Alexander agreed.

“If you look at all of our losses, we have had mental lapses, especially the last Giants’ game when we gave up that big play at the end,” he said. “Compare that to the Dallas game where you had Dez Bryant in the end zone and Madieu Williams comes over, hits him and dislodges the ball. A couple of weeks ago, [Bryant] would have caught that ball.”

The challenge now, Alexander said, is maintaining the momentum.

“It’s all about confidence and winning games,” he said. “The great teams, especially the Super Bowl teams over the last three or four years, have been able to play good ball in the second half of the season. They’ve gone into December playing at a high level, like the Giants and Green Bay Packers. They started a little slow but were able to finish strong. If we’re able to mimic some of that, we have a great chance achieving a lot of our goals here.”

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Need to Know: Sunday six pack—Cousins' next step and a positive step for Doctson

Need to Know: Sunday six pack—Cousins' next step and a positive step for Doctson

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 26, 11 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 3
—NFL Combine (3/2) 4
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 50
—NFL Draft (4/27) 60
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 196

Sunday six pack

1. JP and I looked at the question of whether Kirk Cousins would “take the next step”. We interpreted the question differently.

Here’s some of what JP had to say:

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

And part of my answer:

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

2. Apprently, Josh Doctson is running and cutting. That’s great but it’s a long way from being productive on the field in the fall. We’ll see how this turns out.

3. The combine is five days away and as of now no Redskins officials are scheduled to speak to the media in Indianapolis. They are one of three teams, along with the Patriots and Saints, no having a coach or GM-type take the podium. Those fans who have wanted the Redskins to be more like the Patriots are getting their wish. Well, except for all those Super Bowl trophies, anyway.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

4. I’m not sure what the chances of Cousins getting traded to the 49ers are but they are monitoring the possibility in San Francisco.

Looking at the list of trades in my friend Matt Maiocco’s post, I think if Cousins is dealt most Redskins fans would like to see something like the Palmer or Cutler trades. Reality is probably closer to the Alex Smith trade.

5. San Francisco signed career mediocrity DT Earl Mitchell, who had been released by the Dolphins.

The deal will pay him $5.5 million in the first year. Mitchell played in nine games last year, starting five. He hasn’t had a sack since 2014 and he has only 5.5 in his seven-year career. This is of interest here because it isn’t good news for a team that will be looking for defensive linemen in free agency. If players without sacks over the last two seasons can get that kind of money, imagine what productive D-linemen will get paid.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

6. Speaking of linemen who are going to get paid by somebody, Chris Baker retweeted this video of his Week 3 sack of Eli Manning.

The tweeter here was correct; Eli was off the rest of the game as I noted a few days later. Baker’s sack was a huge factor in the Redskins’ win.

In case you missed it

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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OLB Junior Galette signs one-year deal with Redskins

OLB Junior Galette signs one-year deal with Redskins

The Redskins and outside linebacker Junior Galette have come to a contract agreement. But they can’t really count on him to be on the field.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN Galette has signed a one-year with Washington with a base salary of $775,000 and a workout bonus of $25,000. 

Galette has been under contract to the Redskins for the last two seasons but he has yet to see the field due to suffering a torn Achilles tendon prior to the start of each season. 

Galette was not a pending free agent despite having signed a one-year deal last spring because he spent the season on the non-football (NFI) list. He suffered his second torn Achilles a few days before training camp while working out on his own. As unfair as it may seem, an injury suffered while working out off of team property is considered a non-football injury. A player on NFI does not get paid and if he misses the whole year as Galette did his contract rolls over to the next season.

Related: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Cousins talk continues

Galette originally signed with the team early in training camp in 2015. Even though he racked up a combined 22 sacks in 2013-2014 the Saints released him due to some off-field issues, including a domestic abuse case.

Galette needed to rehab an injury and get into football shape so he didn’t play early in the preseason. Days before he was to make his preseason debut he suffered a torn left Achilles in practice. He spent the year on injured reserve.

He rehabbed the injury, signed another one-year deal with the Redskins, and then just a few days before it was time to report to training camp he tore his right Achilles, the other one, while working out, putting him out for the season again.

Galette’s addition is a real-life instance the adage that you can’t have too much pass rush. If he gets on the field and can stay there, great, that’s one more pass rusher. Figuring out where to play him, Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy will be a problem that new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will be happy to handle. And if the injury bug bites again they still have some potent rushers and it would behoove them to add even more.

There are reasons to believe that Galette can be effective when he returns. The following is from former NFL team physician Dr. David Chao:

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.