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Instant Analysis: Cousins, Redskins defense closes the door on near-loss to winless 49ers


Instant Analysis: Cousins, Redskins defense closes the door on near-loss to winless 49ers

The Redskins didn't make it easy on themselves in Week 6 against the 49ers.

After taking a commanding 17-0 lead in the second quarter, the 49ers made a quarterback change, swapping in C.J. beathard for Brian Hoyer.

The 49ers proceeded to score at the end of the first half, and then again off a bizarre Vernon Davis fumble. But new dad Kirk Cousins wouldn't let his team falter in his first game as a proud papa.

Here are my observations made during the Redskins’ tense 26-24 win over the 49ers:


First quarter

— The Redskins rolled to a touchdown on their opening drive as Jay Gruden opened up the playbook a bit. A jet sweep by Jamison Crowder started things off and the Redskins got good chunks of yardage on screens to Chris Thompson, who started at running back, and Samaje Perine. The score came on a 16-yard strike over the middle from Kirk Cousins to Josh Doctson. Even that play was something of a departure from the norm as Doctson had only been targeted six times coming into the game.

— The Redskins played solid defense on the Niners’ first series. San Francisco got a first down on a penalty but they went three and out after that.

— A three and out on the 49ers second possession ended with Preston Smith and Matt Ioannidis splitting a sack of Brian Hoyer. At this point the 49ers have run eight plays and they have six net yards. Smith now has at least half a sack in every game this season.

Second quarter

— Redskins had a golden opportunity starting from their 36 near the end of the first quarter. They lost nine yards on a first-down play from the San Francisco 40. But Jordan Reed made his first two receptions of the game, good for 10 and 14 yards and a first down. The past couple of years, being that far behind the sticks would be a near-automatic punt.

— That drive got down to third and one at the three. Cousins faked a handoff to Perine and then as the defense ignored him, tossed to the back on a swing route. Perine lunged the last yard and a half into the end zone. The drive had three runs and seven passes.

— The insertion of rookie C.J. Beathard (Bobby’s grandson) at QB seemed to spark the 49ers offense as they picked up two quick first downs on a pass and on a run. But a dropped third-down pass stopped the momentum. The Redskins were a little lucky there.

— I’m not sure if the Redskins are ever going to be able to go easy on using Chris Thompson. On second and 25 after a penalty, he took a screen pass and picked his way into the open and bolted for 39 yards. The offense stalled and they settled for a 48-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to make it 17-0.

— Beathard again got the offense rolling. Passes gaining 20, 20, and 12 yards got the 49ers into the red zone. Carlos Hyde ran it in on fourth down at the one and it looks like a new ballgame at 17-7.

Third quarter

— The Redskins’ pass rush has slowed down considerably and Beathard is marching the 49ers down the field. A Kerrigan sack for a loss of 11 yard blunted the momentum but the 49ers did muster a 52-yard field goal to make it one-score game. Kyle Shanahan is calling quick passes to protect Beathard so it will be important to keep them on third and long.

— The Redskins offense continued to sputter on their first possession of the second half and a 39-yard punt return set up the 49ers at midfield midway through the quarter. That resulted in a missed field goal.

—On the first play after the miss, however, Vernon Davis fumbled and the ball was returned to the Redskins one. Carlos Hyde ran it in on the next play and Washington’s 17-0 lead was gone. After looking like the new Redskins early on, they now looked like the team that always plays down to the level of the competition.

Fourth quarter

— The Redskins got a sense of urgency on offense after the 49ers tied the game. Cousins scrambled up the middle for 18 yards and threw to Ryan Grant for 18 more. A pass to Thompson converted a third and long. Cousins to Grant, who did some nice footwork down the sideline, got them into the red zone. On third and goal at the three, But after getting first and goal at the four they went no further and Hopkins booted a go-head three-pointer.

— Vernon Davis does it again. He takes a pass in the seam from Cousins and cuts across the field, rolling all the way down to the 22 yard line for a gain of 51. The man is 33 and plays like he’s 23. Cousins got the score from seven yards out on a read option that sent him untouched into the end zone. The PAT was missed but the Redskins had a two-score lead with 3:28 left.

— The 49ers were not done. Beathard launched a 45-yard touchdown pass to former Redskin Aldrick Robinson and they were within a field goal of taking the lead at the two-minute warning. Their TD drive consumed just 1:36.

—Fabian Moreau recovered the onside kick. But three Perine runs gained only six yards and the 49ers had a chance to drive for the winning field goal. Why not a bootleg option by Cousins? It had a better chance of success than a Perine run.

—A Garçon catch while he landed on his knee just inbounds got the 49ers a first down at the 40 with 28 seconds left. An offensive pass interference on Garçon took away 10. On fourth and 20 at midfield with nine second left, Fuller picked off Beathard’s pass near the sideline to end the sweaty victory.

RELATED: Must See Photos: NFL Week 6, Redskins 26 San Francisco 2

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News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year. 

A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all. 

  • The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded. 
  • We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now. 


  • Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above. 
  • Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react. 
  • The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous. 
  • Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson. 
  • Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player. 
  • Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
  • Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing. 
  • The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold. 
  • The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
  • To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long. 


  • A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid. 
  • What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore. 
  • Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up. 
  • Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre. 

  • Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due. 
  • I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done. 
  • Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying. 
  • So is Bennie Logan. Just saying. 

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

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 17, 40 days before the NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Redskins and NFL free agency tracker—I started this a week ago today and it grew to 3,500 words. The problem was there wasn’t much to add by the time that free agency actually started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The legal tampering period or, as I dubbed it to avoid an oxymoron being used, the “permitted tampering-like activities period” was when all of the news happened. By the time actual free agency opened on Wednesday afternoon it pretty much was all over. Thanks to those of you who followed along.

Zach Brown agrees to terms with Redskins, per source—Since Kirk Cousins’ departure was a foregone conclusion, Brown was the Redskins’ most important free agent. His retention provides continuity in the defense and that will benefit both the team and Brown. His contract (preliminary numbers three years, $24 million) showed that the Redskins are willing to invest some money in the inside linebacker spot for the first time since Joe Gibbs brought in London Fletcher to play middle linebacker in 2007.

Report: Kirk Cousins to sign epic new deal with Vikings—We heard you, folks. The collective voice of the fans who visit NBC Sports Washington on a regular basis let us know that you were not interested in a lot of posts about the Cousins saga that was unfolding in Minnesota. So this was one of very few articles on Cousins that we posted even though Cousins posts have been popular, but with the vast majority of traffic coming from out of town. So, you’re welcome. It should be noted that we will write about Cousins in the future but infrequently.

Redskins officially announce 5-year deal with WR Richardson—He was the opening act for the Alex Smith press conference, and he handled himself very well. If Richardson is even moderately successful I think he will be a major fan favorite.  

Tweet of the week

Here is what fans need to know—a team can afford to do virtually anything it wants in free agency in a given year. If they wanted to the Redskins could restructure deals and sign all of their free agents to contracts that have very small first-year cap hits, creating room to sign the Honey Badger or Suh. The problems come in later years when the cap space you pushed back starts to pile up. The Redskins generally do squeeze free agent contracts into relatively small cap spaces. For example, Richardson’s deal average $8 million per year but the 2018 cap hit is just $4 million. But they don’t like to restructure deals to push money back into later years. That created problems during the Vinny Cerrato years.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 30
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 132
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 176

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