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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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Josh Norman backs Kirk Cousins, points to Redskins' defense in argument with Jason Whitlock

Josh Norman backs Kirk Cousins, points to Redskins' defense in argument with Jason Whitlock

As the discussion rages around what the Redskins should do with free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, $75 million cornerback Josh Norman made clear he wants the passer back. Norman explained that the 'Skins struggles should not be pinned to Cousins, but rather, a Washington defense that finished the year near the bottom of the NFL.

"We got to help him out of defense, and stop somebody on the field," Norman said on FS1 (click here for full video). "We did not help him out at all. I'll be honest with you. We got to do our job."

Norman's comments came during a spirited argument with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Cris Carter in what amounted to a festival of hot takery. Whitlock's argument was that Cousins is not a franchise quarterback, and shoult not be paid as such, largely for losing the final two home games of the year against Carolina and the New York Giants.

Cousins passed for nearly 5,000 yards this year, a statitstic Norman pointed to in his defense of the QB. He also explained that Cousins still has room to grow.

"He only had two seasons," Norman said. "Cam Newton had five seasons."

Drafted in 2012, Cousins was just named the 'Skins starter in 2015. He's started every game the last two seasons and gone 17-16 while passing for more than 9,000 yards. Norman played with Newton in Carolina before signing with Washington last year, and got to watch the quarterback develop into the league MVP in 2015.

Norman described Cousins as a 'great guy' and leader in the locker room, but he allowed that, "I know a great guy don’t translate into wins. I'm not saying that."

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 9 worst play of 2016

Steelers at Redskins Week 1

10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0

Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!