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Two seasons turn on hinges

Two seasons turn on hinges

Two plays in the second quarter of two preseason games, taking place at roughly the same time, one in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the other in Charlotte, North Carolina and both involving famous defensive ends.

The seasons of the New York Giants and Washington Redskins hinged on hinge joints.

In Charlotte, Washington's Jason Taylor got pushed backwards on a running play. About five yards downfield he turned just in time to see Reed Doughty tackling the ball carrier. With his right foot planted, a player fell on Taylor's shin just as the other side of the pile hit him from behind.

It looked bad on TV and the reaction of the players on the field as they urged the Washington medical staff to hurry to tend to Taylor, who had screamed in pain when the knee bent the wrong way, seemed to confirm a grim prognosis. Although Taylor did leave the field under his own power, he was limping badly.

In Jersey, Osi Umenyiora lined up wide on a third-down play. He took an outside rush to try to go around tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson to get to Brett Favre. About five yards into the backfield, Ferguson gave Umenyiora a little shove to make the outside rush an even longer route to the quarterback. Umenyiora lost his balance slightly, fell to the ground, and started limping as he got back up to see Favre's pass fall incomplete. At the end of the play, he went back to the ground and the training staff came out.

Both injuries were described as knee sprains and initial examinations revealed no ligament damage. In both cases, the prognosis was preliminary pending an MRI examination.

Today, the MRI's were done. Taylor does indeed have a knee sprain. While he may or may not be available for the regular season opener, he will be back within two weeks.

That opener is against the Giants. Umenyiora will not be playing in that game, nor will he line up for New York at all this season. The pictures revealed a torn MCL and he will have season-ending surgery.

And so it goes. The incident in which Taylor was hurt was looked extremely dangerous. The knee appeared to be bent severely. But for whatever reason—good training, flexibility gained by dancing with stars or, most likely, plain dumb luck—the injury was relatively minor.

Umenyiora appeared simply to stumble. But exactly the wrong combination of forces acted on his knee joint in exactly the wrong way and a ligament popped.

The Redskins survived their moment of truth. They still have active visions of Taylor and fellow end Andre Carter providing a pass rush the likes of which hasn't been seen in a couple of decades in DC.

The Giants, on the other hand, suffered a key loss. Umenyiora's injury comes in the wake of the retirement of his bookend partner Michael Strahan. Suddenly, the New York pass rush, the key to their advance through the playoffs and their upset win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl, has gone from an exclamation point to a question mark.

In a fraction of a second, an unforeseen and unpredictable pivotal moment, each team's season came to a sudden turning point. Thousands of man hours and hundreds of millions of dollars that each team spent in planning the 2008 season came down to a few strands of sinewy material in a hinge joint.

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The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

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. 7 worst play of 2016

Giants at Redskins, Week 17

4:02 left in Q4, Giants ball 1st and 10 at their own 31, game tied 10-10

Eli Manning pass deep left to Tavarres King pushed ob at WAS 25 for 44 yards (Will Blackmon).

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: It looked like the Redskins were on the verge of saving their season. They were down 10-0 in the third quarter but they battled back to tie it up in the late going. But after lulling the Redskins defense to sleep with running plays and short passes, Manning launched one deep down the left sideline. King, who had one reception for six yards on the season coming into the game, had a step on cornerback Greg Toler and he hauled in the pass for 44 yards. Four plays later Robbie Gould kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Giants the lead.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: In a terrible game that led to many more questions than answers for the Redskins, this play was just a huge, huge disappointment. Washington fought back to tie up a game that they had largely been outplayed in, particulrly in the first half. Remember, the Giants had nothing to play for while for the 'Skins, a win would put them in the playoffs. The New York offense was laregly nonexistent in the second half of this game, as it became obvious Eli Manning did not want to get hit. And still, the embattled Redskins defense gave up a long pass play to a dude that had contrbuted basically nothing all 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!

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

MORE REDSKINS: Kevin O'Connell to be hired as QB coach

What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

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!