Quick Links

Tuesday Take: NFC East all shook up

Tuesday Take: NFC East all shook up

Just when the "experts" think they know everything, it turns out that they didn't know nearly as much as they thought they did.

--Redskins on a roll and the winless Rams have no chance? The turnover bug bites Washington and St. Louis steals a 19-17 win.

--The Cowboys are a lock for the Super Bowl? Dallas loses two out of three and they have an injury list that's filled with Pro Bowlers and future Pro Bowlers (of course, since in the eyes of the experts, every Cowboy is one or the other that's not as dramatic as it sounds). Terrell Owens isn't injured but his ego may be about to suffer a series of severe bruises as the weak-armed Brad Johnson takes over for the injured Tony Romo at quarterback. Neither of Owens' strengths, the deep out and the long bomb, are throws that Johnson can execute well.

--The Giants are the best in the business? Coming to a conclusion like that based largely on their performance in their last three games against opponents that are a combined 2-14 is dangerous. All it took was Eli Manning deciding that it was a good idea to throw off of his back foot a few times and New York gets spanked in Cleveland.

--Philly is out of it after two division losses? All it takes is the Niners and J. T. O'Sullivan to blow a fourth-quarter lead (go figure) and the Eagles are back in the thick of it.

Back to the main topic of discussion here, the Redskins, I wasn't buying the talk of 7-1 being a lock. Certainly, I didn't think that they would stumble against the Rams but I figured that there would be a loss, a tough win, and an easy win during that three-game "automatic win" stretch.

It remains to be seen if the Rams game becomes one that alters that line of thinking, or, for that matter, alters the season.

I don't believe that it will. As one commenter here said, the Redskins will lose every game during which an offensive lineman catches a first-down pass in the Red Zone, starts to run with it, fumbles, and sees the miscue returned for a touchdown. The loss wasn't a complete fluke and the Skins didn't play particularly well but if that one play you've never seen before and probably never will see again doesn't happen the Redskins probably win.

The most encouraging aspect of the game was that Jim Zorn did not abandon the run despite the fact that the Skins did not take a second-half snap with the lead. At halftime, they had 17 rushing attempts. Two of them were Jason
Campbell scrambles, so 15 running plays were called. In the second half, Zorn called 14 runs. After the Rams booted a field goal to go up by nine late in the third quarter, five out of the next six plays were runs. Six of their nine plays in the drive that put them into the lead were running plays.

That's establishing an identity and sticking with the game plan. An offensive line that opens holes despite the fact that it doesn't often blow the other team back and an MVP candidate in Clinton Portis at running back makes it relatively easy to do that. Still, Redskins coaches past and many other play callers around the league would have been pitchin' 'n' catchin' virtually the whole second half.

And Zorn and the Redskins might send out a signal today that they intend to keep intact this team's identity as a running team that can burn you through the air when necessary. With Ladell Betts out for at least one game, maybe more, Washington is bringing Shaun Alexander in for a look. Actually, it's probably more than a look as all indications are that Alexander will sign if he passes a physical. Since he passed an exit physical right before Seattle released him in April, there's no reason to believe that he won't come on board.

Zorn views the six or seven carries a game that Betts has been getting as critical. They want to keep Portis in the mid-twenties in terms of carries so if they want to rush the ball 35 times a game someone has to be productive in those other carries. It doesn't look like Zorn wants Rock Cartwright to handle those carries so he's bringing in someone with whom he is well familiar from Seattle.

The most likely candidate to get his walking papers should Alexander get added to the roster is Justin Hamilton, a reserve safety who has been inactive the last three games or ever since Kareem Moore has been healthy. Rookie defensive end Rob Jackson also could get cut and demoted to the practice squad given that he's one of 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster.

It's times like this when Jim Zorn's "stay medium" philosophy pays off. Things are topsy-turvy all around the NFC East. If the Redskins can stay calm in the midst of all of this, they have a good shot at coming out on top in the end.

Quick Links

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!

Quick Links

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!