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Reed could help Redskins spring upset

Reed could help Redskins spring upset

Here are five things to watch in the Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys matchup plus a prediction.

1. We’ve seen Jordan Reed make some catches (he’s tied for fourth on the team with 13) and score a touchdown (a nice grab in the end zone against the Packers). But we haven’t yet seen the Reed that played at Florida, a tight end who was a threat to take it to the house whenever he got his hands on the ball in space. Given the success that Broncos tight end Julius Thomas had against the Cowboys (9 rec., 122 yds., 2 TD) last Sunday we could see the Redskins try to get Reed untracked by hitting him with some quick slants on the move or with routes down the seam.

2. Prior to last Sunday Tony Romo had passed for over 400 yards four times in his career. The next week he has averaged 265 yards passing with a high of 321 and a low of 218. In those week-after games he threw for an average of two touchdowns and 1.25 interceptions. Dallas went 0-4 in his 400-plus-yard games and 1-3 the game after them. We will see how he follows up his first game with over 500 yards.

3. I’m not going to predict a “breakout” game for Robert Griffin III but someone whose opinion I respect thinks he’s headed in that direction. Evan Silva of Rotoworld posted the following in his fantasy preview of the game:
The Week 5 bye came at a perfect time for Robert Griffin III, a film junkie who undoubtedly pored over his shoddy early-season mechanics during the open date while simultaneously getting further removed from January's knee reconstruction. He's a candidate to take off statistically over the Redskins' final 12 games.
4. Will we see more of Roy Helu Jr.? He played quite a few snaps in the first three games but he only got six touches. That changed against the Raiders when he carried the ball 13 times and had two receptions. And, by the way, the Redskins won. Kyle Shanahan said that he wanted to get Helu the ball more but it’s unlikely that he will want to cut into Alfred Morris’ touches (Morris left the Oakland game early with a rib injury). The key for Helu to get more touches is that the offense needs to sustain drives and then get the ball to Helu in some of the “extra” plays.

5. The defense should vary the looks and the pressure it send on Romo. One snap rush four, the next rush three and drop eight into coverage, and occasionally bring the house and run a cover zero. It’s not like they’re going to confuse the veteran Romo but they could create doubt in the minds of the offensive line. They’re not going to sack Romo a lot but they can keep him off balance enough to force him into some turnovers and other mistakes.

Prediction: I think the Redskins have a real shot at winning this game. They should come in with confidence after beating the Cowboys twice last year. Griffin should come in playing better than he has all year. Still, it’s hard for me to see the Redskins winning this one. I’ll believe their offense can get into gear and score the 30+ point is it likely to take to win this one when they do it.

Cowboys 30, Redskins 27

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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 offenseDoes 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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