Quick Links

Tuesday Take—The Road Ahead

Tuesday Take—The Road Ahead

I still don't know what the 2008 Washington Redskins are.

Are they a playoff team? Probably. They have five wins in the bank. If they get to 10, they should make it to the postseason. They have games against Detroit, Cincinnati, Seattle, Baltimore, and San Francisco. All of those are on the road, so even if they slip up once they have nine wins.

That means that they would need just one win in home games against the Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles to get to 10. Even given the Cowboys' state of disarray, none of those is a given but it's hard to see them going 0-4 in those games.

But let's say that they sweep the games in the "easy" group (the finger-curl quotes are there, of course, because of the Rams game) and split the four home games. That gets them to 12 wins, a total they have not achieved since 1991.

If you win 12 games, you can generally expect to have at least a home playoff game and possibly a bye. But the Redskins currently trail the New York Giants in the division and the defending champions look like the best the NFC has to offer.

However, the Giants' 5-1 record has been built largely on the backs of some pretty bad teams. Since beating the Redskins, their wins have come against the Rams and 49ers, two teams who subsequently fired their coaches, the winless Bengals, who would fire their coach if they weren't too cheap to pay the balance of his contract, and the 1-6 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle's coach already has said that he will be done at the end of the season.

As I've said before, you only can beat the team that lines up in front of you so I'm not trying to devalue the Giants' record. It is fair to say, though, that the road ahead for the G-Men is much tougher than the stretch of road that they've already navigated. They have played only the one division game against the Redskins, so they have three NFC East road games left and they host the Eagles and Cowboys. They play at 5-1 Pittsburgh this Sunday. In November they play at Arizona and in December they host Carolina. Their season finale at Minnesota could be tough if the Vikings can play up to their level of talent. Only a Week 10 meeting against the Ravens in Giants Stadium could be considered a gimmie.

Are there three losses in those 10 games, a scenario that would get them into a tiebreaker set with a 12-4 Redskins team? I think so. Are there four, which would give a 12-win Redskins team the division outright? Possibly, but I doubt it.

(Note: I'm not going to go into the schedules of the Eagles and Cowboys here in the interest of brevity, but that doesn't mean that I'm writing them off as competition for the Skins. They face schedules that look more challenging than what the Redskins have ahead but less daunting that what the Giants are facing.)

The main concern, of course, is the Redskins getting to 12 wins. Clearly, they will have to play better than they have in the last two weeks in order to get there. The Redskins put together just four scoring drives against the Browns and Rams. They fumbled six times, losing four of them.

Yes, the defense has been strong but late drives by the other team led to the team having to watch late-game field goals fly through the air with the game hanging in the balance. You can't rely on the offense to kill the last two minutes in the Victory Formation every week.

Speaking of balance, a balanced offense is great but if the Smashmouth West Coast offense leads to just the aforementioned quartet of scoring drives in eight quarters it needs some tweaking. Clinton Portis spent more time in the trainer's room last week than he did on the practice field and the same scenario seems likely this week. You have to wonder what kind of shape he'll be in come December.

Fortunately, I'm not typing anything that Jim Zorn doesn't know. This isn't Norv "What We Do Works" Turner or Gibbs II. He knows full well that he'll have to score more and that's why he is resisting the notion that the Redskins are primarily a power running team.

Regardless of Zorn's play calling, I think that the Redskins are going to have to find a secret weapon on offense, someone who becomes a threat with which the opposition must deal. Think Mike Sellers in 2005. If you go back that far, think Ricky Ervins in 1991. Think of an offensive Chris Horton.

The obvious candidates here are the three second-round draft picks. Devin Thomas could become a deep threat to make the other team pay for doubling Santana Moss. Fred Davis could sneak into the secondary and haul in a few nice gains. Malcolm Kelly, if he can ever get onto the field, could become the guy to move the chains and provide a big Red-Zone target.

My dark horse to fill the new weapon role is Shaun Alexander. I don't think of him becoming a big threat as a runner but perhaps as a receiver out of the backfield. He was pretty good at it earlier in his career with Seattle, catching 59 passes for 460 yards in 2002. If he is willing to work at it over the next few weeks that might be able to find a role for the rest of the year and maybe beyond.

If the Redskins can get their scoring totals out of the teens and into the 20's and occasionally the 30's it's all there for them.

Quick Links

Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

RICHMOND—The Redskins will assemble here tomorrow to get ready to get ready for the 2017 season. There are plenty of position competitions and other storylines. Here is a look at what we at CSN will be paying attention to, starting with the offense.

Kiss Cousins goodbye?

As everyone reading this knows, the Redskins quarterback did not agree to a long-term contract by the deadline last week and he will play out the season on the franchise tag. The situation will have a major impact next spring as free agency approaches but that’s to be sorted out in 2018. The question here is whether Cousins’ contract status will affect what takes place here in Richmond and as the season unfolds starting in September.

Some believe that it will be a major storyline and that it will be a distraction with media asking lots of questions and the possibility that Cousins’ thoughts will drift towards next year and his potential free agency.

RELATED: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

However, Cousins was in a similar position last year, when he played on the franchise tag for the first time. There was a flurry of questions at the start of training camp, Cousins answered them, and then they moved on. The rule that prohibits contract negotiations with a tagged player during the season had its intended effect. There was no buzz about the situation until the season was over.

This year the situation is ratcheted up a bit because of the high cost of the tags available to the Redskins next year. But Cousins is very good at deflecting questions about his contract status and he should be able to handle the scrutiny.

Changes at wide receiver

No team had ever lost two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason until the Redskins saw both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson depart as free agents in March. It means that Josh Doctson steps into a featured role and Terrelle Pryor will be expected to produce as well as he did in Cleveland last year, if not better.

The changes also mean that Jamison Crowder is likely to see more targets and holdovers Maurice Harris and Ryan Grant could see increased roles. It all will be sorted out in training camp starting on Thursday.

Further down the depth chart, can sixth-round rookie Robert Davis get up to speed soon enough to justify a roster spot? And can veteran Brian Quick rebound from some shaky offseason practices to claim a slot on the 53?

Two-back attack?

Last year Rob Kelley worked his way up from being an overlooked, undrafted free agent rookie to being the starting running back. This year, Samaje Perine comes in as a fourth-round pick with an eye on taking the job away from Kelley.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, 11-20

It is likely that Kelley, who is a favorite of Jay Gruden’s, will be the Week 1 starter. Still, it would not be surprising if Perine led the team in carries and rushing yards in several games as the season unfolds, perhaps more.

Meanwhile, Mack Brown and Keith Marshall (if he can stay healthy) will compete for the fourth running back job—if the team decides to keep that many. They only kept three coming out of camp last year.

O-line stability

The same five starters will line up for the second year in a row. There’s really nothing to see here unless Arie Kouandjio can make a big push and move into Shawn Lauvao’s spot at left guard.

There is some intrigue about the backup center spot. If rookie Chase Roullier can’t get up to speed they may have to look at the waiver wire.

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.

Quick Links

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

When the Redskins open training camp in Richmond on Thursday, fans will line up to get autographs from Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. Plenty of other players will excite the fans too as optimism rules the first few days of practice in July and August. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

There are other players that fans probably won't scream their names, but who could play a role or fight for a roster spot this fall. Winning in the NFL is almost nearly as dependent on the final 10 players on the roster as it is the first five. Depth is key, and here are a few players that fans might have forgotten about. 

  • RB Keith Marshall - The speedster out of Georgia has a wildly impressive resume - on paper - but just can't stay healthy. In college he started ahead of Todd Gurley for a time, now considered one of the best RBs in the NFL for the Rams. Marshall landed on the injured reserve last year as a rookie but looked healthy and capable at Redskins Park this offseason during OTAs and minicamp. The running back position looks quite full, but if Marshall can show his elite speed and make it through four preseason games, he just might push Mack Brown for a roster spot. 
  • LB Martrell Spaight - A tackling machine in college at Arkansas, Spaight missed most of his rookie season in 2015 before appearing in 14 games last season. Bad luck struck again, and he finished the year on the IR. With the addition of Zach Brown to the interior linebackers, Spaight might have a tough battle for a roster spot. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Brown all seem certain to make the team. Spaight could also start the year on the PUP list, which might be the surest way to stay on the Redskins.
  • LB Chris Carter - Signed as a free agent this year, the journeyman Carter has played for six teams in six years and looks poised to play the special teams role that Terence Garvin took on last year. If Carter makes the roster, that means trouble for Spaight. 
  • DL Anthony Lanier - An undrafted rookie in 2016 that didn't see much game action, Lanier has really impressed coaches with his work ethic this offseason. He has great size at 6-foot-6 and added about 20 pounds of muscle since the season ended, which should allow him the strength to handle the trenches. Lanier could be a sneaky important player this fall for Washington. 
  • S Will Blackmon - D.J. Swearinger and Su'a Cravens look to be the starting safeties for the Redskins in 2017. Swearinger has a proven track record in the NFL secondary, Cravens does not, but showed the ability to do so in college at USC. After those two, and with DeAngelo Hall on the PUP list, the Redskins lack much depth or experience in the defensive backfield. That's where Blackmon should help. A versatile veteran, Blackmon has the speed to keep up with most wideouts and is one of the more cerebral players on the defense. 

Bonus: RB Matt Jones - He might want off the Redskins roster, but that hasn't happened yet. If the team sustains any injuries at the running back position, Jones' fortunes could change quickly. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!