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Tuesday Take—The Drive

Tuesday Take—The Drive

Make no mistake about it, the Washington Redskins' 26-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys was no fluke.

The better team won.

Not the better collection of talent. Jerry Jones has pieced together an excellent mosaic of individual talent. They are big and fast on defense, quick and sharp on offense.

The Redskins aren't as impressive under the stop watch or doing the bench press. They sent three players to the Pro Bowl, 10 fewer than did Dallas, and one of them was their long snapper.

But in the fourth quarter of a six-point game, the Redskins got it done and the Cowboys didn't. The Skins came together as a team while Dallas was focused on one tile in its mosaic.

Dallas took possession with 10:48 after the Redskins had taken that six-point lead. Washington had turned Chris Horton's interception of Tony Romo into a field goal. Romo, of course, is one of the NFL's glamour boys while Horton is a rookie seventh-round pick. But the rook jumped the route and picked off the Pro Bowler.

So the Redskins go back on defense with some of their backs sidelined with cramps and other muscle ailments. The Cowboys go three and out with all three plays being passes going to a tightly covered individual, one Terrell Owens.

Were the three attempts to TO an response to "give me the ball" complaints on the sideline, an effort to prevent a blowup by #81?

As far as I know, nobody asked those questions.

In any case, the Redskins took over at their own 34 after a punt. What followed hasn't been talked about much, but if this turns out to be a special season for the Washington Redskins the 12-play, 6:54 drive that followed will be one of those moments to remember.

Back in the prime of The Hogs, game-clinching drives like this one were accomplished primarily through brute strength with the offensive line blasting back a tired defensive front and a big back slamming in behind them.

This drive was achieved by using a combination of brains and brawn.

Watching it again and breaking it down, I noted that on a few occasions Dallas was in a pass-defense alignment, with only five in the box, when it seemed apparent that the Redskins were in a running frame of mind. This was a result of Jim Zorn's play calling in late-game situations over the last two weeks when he has shown a willingness to pass in run-out-the-clock scenarios.

1-10-WAS 34 (10:16) 26-C.Portis left guard to WAS 37 for 3 yards (94-D.Ware).

Dallas has the two outside linebacker crowding the line with an inside linebacker five yards off the line.

2-7-WAS 37 (9:38) 26-C.Portis up the middle to WAS 48 for 11 yards (25-P.Watkins).

The two outside backers are again at the line with the two inside LB's within five yards. The safeties both are fairly shallow, about 11 yards downfield. The offensive line gets about three yards of push and Sellers clears the way for Portis to break for the last five yards.

1-10-WAS 48 (8:58) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 39 for 13 yards (55-Z.Thomas).

Every Dallas defender except one safety is within five yards of the line. There isn't as much surge by the line this time but a large hole opens between Jansen and Thomas. Portis shakes off an attempted tackle by Bradie James (who was expending an awful lot of energy preening and celebrating earlier in the game) and breaks loose for five more.

1-10-DAL 39 (8:18) 17-J.Campbell pass short right to 47-C.Cooley pushed ob at DAL 33 for 6 yards (98-G.Ellis). Pass complete off play-action and roll right.

Only six in the box this time, a pass defense alignment. Cooley sets up as if to block for a moment and Greg Ellis and a safety are fooled. Cooley slides into the flat and catches Campbell's throw off of the bootleg.

2-4-DAL 33 (7:43) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 31 for 2 yards (94-D.Ware; 55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #1 by WAS at 06:58.

Three linebackers crowd the line and the line gets no push.

3-2-DAL 31 (6:58) (Shotgun) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 31 for no gain (94-D.Ware). PENALTY on DAL, Defensive 12 On-field, 5 yards, enforced at DAL 31 - No Play.

All 12 defenders are within five yards of the line with nine of them on the line. I'm not sure how Wade Phillips could be paying attention and not see the mistake. As you know, it wasn't one of these situations where a player is caught running off the field at the snap. They were all right there, seven crowding the middle, two corners in press coverage and a linebacker and a safety—apparently the extra defender—five yards back.

1-10-DAL 26 (6:32) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 25 for 1 yard (96-M.Spears).

Dallas has six in the box. The Redskins get no push and Marcus Spears gets penetration and trips up Portis before he got going.

2-9-DAL 25 (5:52) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 18 for 7 yards (72-S.Bowen).

This is where it looks like the fact that Zorn has shown that he's willing to call a pass in what normally would be a running situation pays off. The safeties are 10 yards downfield, the corners are playing seven yards back from Moss and Randle El, and Zack Thomas is six yards downfield. So in a situation where the other team is pounding the ball down your throat and is in an I formation with a tight end, the Dallas D is lined up just like it would be in the second quarter of a 7-7 game. The offensive line gets a nice surge and Betts follows the pile for seven yards.

3-2-DAL 18 (5:07) 46-L.Betts right guard to DAL 16 for 2 yards (99-C.Canty; 96-M.Spears).

The entire Dallas defense is within eight yards of the line this time. Betts disappears into the pile at the line of scrimmage and finds enough daylight in between three Dallas defenders to get just enough for the first down.

1-10-DAL 16 (4:22) 46-L.Betts left guard to DAL 16 for no gain (96-M.Spears).

The defense is bunched at the line, Betts has no chance.

2-10-DAL 16 (3:37) 26-C.Portis right guard to DAL 12 for 4 yards (55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #2 by DAL at 03:30.

Again, the Cowboys are playing loose. Only six defenders are within five yards of the line.

3-6-DAL 12 (3:30) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 11 for 1 yard (97-J.Hatcher). Timeout #3 by DAL at 03:26.

Zorn got the defense spread out by lining up with four wide receivers, but the line couldn't get any push despite a 5-4 man advantage. The run up the middle kept the ball in the center of the field for Suisham's clincher.

4-5-DAL 11 (3:26) (Field Goal formation) 6-S.Suisham 29 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-67-E.Albright, Holder-14-D.Brooks.

WAS 26    DAL 17    Plays: 12    Possession: 6:54

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Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual playoff contenders.

The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart.

Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Today we’ll look at the offense and project the defense in the next couple of days.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

— Quarterback: Kirk Cousins*
Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

It’s not a sure thing that Kirk Cousins will be back under center but it’s very much more likely than not, either with a new long-term contract or via the franchise tag. McCoy is under contract and will continue to be the backup. I think they are happy with Sudfeld as their developmental guy although I wouldn’t be shocked if Scot McCloughan decided that a quarterback is the best available player sometime in the fifth round in April.

RELATED: REDSKINS RESUME - MATT CAVANAUGH

— Running backs: Rob Kelley
Backups: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, draft pick

Gruden gave Kelley a vote of confidence in his final press conference but that could be fluid. If Jones can get things straight between his ears he has the physical tools to be a very good running back but they can’t count on that. There is some talk that the Redskins will look to take a back in the middle rounds if they can find one with some impact.

— Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon*, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder (slot receiver),
Backups: Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris

Right now, it looks like it’s slightly better than 50-50 that Garçon will be back. If he’s not they will have to sign a starter in free agency; as we found out last year, you can’t count on a rookie receiver to produce, even if you take one high in the draft. If McCloughan does take a receiver in the later stages of the draft he likely will replace Grant, not Harris.

More Redskins: THE REDSKINS' WEEK THAT WAS

— Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis*, Niles Paul

It seems likely that Davis will re-sign, although since it could be his last NFL contract I don’t think he will give the Redskins much of a hometown discount. The organization will pay, however, as it is apparent that the need a quality backup for Reed. I’m on the fence about Paul. On the one hand, I could see the organization looking for an alternative since he has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. But he’s the kind of guy that McCloughan likes to have on the team.

— Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, C John Sullivan*, 1-2 free agents/draft picks

Could it be that the Redskins are nearly set on the O-line with the exception of some parts further down the depth chart? Nsekhe is a restricted free agent and he will be back either on the tag or with a new contract. Maybe Kouandjio can challenge Lauvao for the starting job but both are likely to be on the 53. If they move on from Kory Lichtensteiger to save $3.5 million in cap room and if Sullivan opts to try to find a starting job elsewhere they could find a veteran center to back up Long.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOST IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.