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So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

The debate ended last season. No longer should rational, sane purveyors of professional football question if Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. He is. 

The question about how good, however, is still very much valid. And it seems to be a question even Redskins coach Jay Gruden doesn't have the answer to.

"He’s got the ball to make the decisions. We just call the plays and try to get him progression reads and man-to-man take your shots with the matchups that you like," Gruden said Thursday. "But ultimately he is the one that is going to make the decisions of what he feels good about making throws."

Gruden's comments come after an interview in Sports Illustrated in which Cousins said that if he played QB like his coach wants, he would throw 20 interceptions per year. Told the quote, Gruden quipped, "He'd throw 60 touchdowns too." (Watch the video above so you can hear the remark yourself).

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That's the thing with Cousins.

He's smart and methodical, highly efficient and capable as a passer. But he does seem to be wary of going after big plays that aren't completely wide open. 

"I think there is going to be a point in time where he is going to have to give some receivers some chances that maybe look a little covered, but give them a chance to uncover or give them a chance to make a play," the coach said. "That’s probably the one area that we can force the issue on a little bit to give these receivers chances down the field."

Watching Redskins games, it certainly seems Cousins is hesitant to take big shots, especially if a wideout is covered. That's not just the most recent loss to the Cowboys either, which was played in a downpour for much of the second half. Washington's passer seems content in taking chunk yardage on underneath and shorter throws, getting his team down the field over time. 

This year too, his receivers have not helped him too much.

Terrelle Pryor has not produced on the level he or fans expected, and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson remains stalled, though perhaps ready for an explosion. 

Much of the Cousins conversation seems to be a Catch 22 debate. Might Cousins go downfield more if his wideouts made plays? Or might his wideouts make plays if Cousins goes downfield more? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Even weirder, the stats don't really support the debate.

Cousins ranks 5th in the NFL in yards-per-pass-attempt, behind only MVP candidates like Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and the injured Deshaun Watson. Looking at net-yards-per-pass-attempt, Cousins' numbers dip to 10th in the NFL. 

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Simple truth: Cousins completes a lot of passes, so his stats will usually look good. And for anybody wondering, that's a good thing.

"When the ball is complete, I never criticize," Gruden said. "We just always talk about other options possible for the next time we call it. That’s all, but he is doing good."

Watch enough game film of the Redskins, and yes, Cousins is missing chances down the field. It happens with most QBs in the NFL, but maybe it happens with Cousins a little bit more. 

Can it change? Sure. Will it? Time will tell. 

The debate if Cousins belongs as an NFL starting quarterback is over. He very obviously does. 

The debate if Cousins can lead a team to big wins, and evolve into a top talent in the league? That continues. 

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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

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Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

There was some confusion about the Redskins’ Week 16 game in Tennessee when the NFL schedule dropped. The schedule pushed out by the Redskins said that the game date and time are to be determined. Other versions that went out, including the one on NFL.com, says the game will be on Sunday, December 23 at 1 p.m.

So what’s the story? Well, if you’re thinking of making reservations to go to Nashville to watch the game you just might want to hold off for a while. Like, until early November. 

In an under the radar move, the NFL has established flex scheduling for its late-season Saturday games. Here are the details from the schedule press release from Redskins PR:

“Flexibility for Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16 is also part of the 2018 schedule. In Week 15, there will be two games played on Saturday on NFL Network, with the game times of 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. to be determined. In Week 16, two of four possible matchups will be scheduled for Saturday. Start times and Saturday games for Week 15 and 16 will be announced no later than following Week 8, with the non-Saturday games to be played on Sunday.”

The way it sets up, if the Redskins and Titans are playing well in midseason there is a good chance the game will be played on Saturday, December 22 at either 4:30 or 8:20. If one or both teams are struggling, the league and networks could choose to flex two of the other four matchups to Saturday. 

This is taking flex scheduling to a different level. It’s one thing shifting a Sunday kickoff seven and a half hours from 1 p.m. to 8:30. It’s another to shift a whole day. The visiting teams can’t make travel arrangements, not knowing if they need to come into town on Friday for a Saturday game or on Saturday for Sunday. Fans who want to travel to the game are in the same boat. 

Of course, if you can afford it, you can just add a day to your Nashville excursion. There are worse things in the world than spending an extra day or two in Music City. 

If you have to wait to make your plans, as the Redskins do, you will find out no later than October 29, which is when Week 8 ends. 

Do you believe in trends? Then you should hope that the game does get flexed to Saturday. The Redskins have won three straight Saturday games, beating the Eagles in both 2014 and 2015 (the latter game clinching the division title for Washington) and the Bears in 2016. 

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