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Skins Can Win, But Will They?

Skins Can Win, But Will They?

Can they do it? Yes. Will they do it? Read on.

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

There is really no point in recounting and rehashing the futility that the Redskins have experienced against the Dallas Cowboys in the course of their domination—there’s no other word for it—of the Redskins over the past 15 games. Some games have been close, some have been routs. In some, the Cowboys’ star players have come through in the clutch, in others it’s been obscure players shining in key moments. Sometimes the Redskins have had better talent and/or a better record, sometimes the other guys have. Barry Switzer, Steve Spurrier, Bill Parcells, Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs, Dave Campo, it hasn’t mattered.

The Dallas Cowboys have been the Washington Redskins’ daddy.

The Dallas Cowboys have owned the Redskins like a rented mule (or something like that).

All that, however, has nothing to do with Monday night’s matchup. It’s not 1999, it’s not 2001, it’s 2005. The game will come down to offense vs. defense, blocking and tackling, strategy, game plans and the like. The past will not matter a whit.

It doesn’t matter they will have the induction ceremony for Dallas Hall of Rings or whatever it is for Aikman, Smith, and Irvin at halftime. That’s something for the fans and the press. If the Dallas players are paying any attention to it whatsoever Parcells will rip them a new one. They’re not going to try to win one for the Triplets, they’re going to try to win one so as not to have to face the Tuna the rest of the week if they lose a division home game.

And, speaking of the Tuna, his eight-game winning streak against Joe Gibbs will buy a gallon of gas if it’s accompanied by about three bucks. It means zilch.

Both teams are adjusting to new schemes and new players. Dallas spent $50 million in bonus money to buy some upgraded defensive talent and have switched to a 3-4 scheme. It was modestly successful in San Diego last week as they allowed almost 300 yards and three touchdowns to the Chargers, who were playing without star tight end Antonio Gates.

For their part, the Redskins have made the seemingly-contradictory moves of installing a big-play passing offense while reinstalling Mark Brunell as the starting quarterback. They racked up a respectable 325 yards but no touchdowns in their season-opening 9-7 win over Chicago.

Neither is an elite team, neither is awful. Overall, these two teams are a lot like the others in the muddled middle of the NFL. They both have some strong points and some weaknesses. The two quarterbacks both are past their primes. Brunell vs. Drew Bledsoe would have been a marquee matchup in 1998; in 2005 it’s misplaced in prime time. Dallas has some older, slower but accomplished receivers, some suspect spots on the offensive line and a questionable secondary with the exception of safety Roy Williams, while their defensive front seven could be very strong. Washington counters with a very good offensive line, some small, speedy receivers whose effectiveness with Brunell throwing the ball is questionable, and a defense that is greater than the sum of its parts although the parts include a stud DT in Cornelius Griffin, a Pro Bowl linebacker in Marcus Washington, a revived Shawn Springs at cornerback and a potential superstar in safety Sean Taylor.

The game is a coin flip and it could well come down to which running back performs better. Clinton Portis is more the proven commodity, with over 4,000 rushing yards to his credit in three NFL seasons. And, after holding Chicago’s Thomas Jones to 31 yards on 15 carries last week, the Redskins will try their luck against his younger brother Julius. Last year their luck was pretty good.

Jones’ 57 yards rushing (in 22 attempts) in the teams’ second meeting last year was by far his lowest output of the nine games he participated in. In the other eight games he played in during his injury-shortened rookie campaign he never gained fewer than 80 yards. And don’t try to say that he was wearing down after a long NFL season—he hung 149 yards on the Giants in the season finale the next week.

If Jones gains 57 yards on Monday, the Cowboys will lose. Should Portis put up just 2like he did in Dallas last year before he left with an injury, Washington will have a very tough road to a win.

So who will it be? Which back will lead his team to a win and a 2-0 start to the season?

Last year the policy in this space was that there would never again be a prediction that the Redskins would beat the Cowboys until such time that the Redskins actually did beat them. But, keeping with the theme here that what’s in the past is irrelevant, the final will be:

Washington 17, Dallas 16



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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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