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Is the door open for Redskins' Cousins?

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Is the door open for Redskins' Cousins?

Late in the 2012 season, the Redskins faced an eight-point deficit in the last two minutes in an important game against the Ravens. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, in the midst of one of the best rookie seasons a quarterback has ever had, limped out of the game with a knee injury. In came Kirk Cousins for his first meaningful NFL action. The rookie finished the drive, throwing a touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon to bring the Redskins within two. He then scored the tying two-point conversion on a quarterback draw. The Redskins won on a field goal in overtime.

Fast forward to nearly three years later. The Redskins are again facing the Ravens. And although it’s an exhibition and not a game with heavy playoff implications, it still represents another big opportunity for Cousins.

Although the Redskins have not announced anything yet, and probably won’t until nearly game time, it seems certain that Cousins will start at quarterback for the Redskins against the Ravens tonight. That spot is vacant because the independent neurologists who originally cleared Griffin to play after being diagnosed with a concussion on August 20 against the Lions reversed the decision on Friday.

In the NFL, one player’s bad break can represent the big break that another player has been looking for. Could the unusual, perhaps unprecedented reversal following Griffin’s concussion represent an opportunity for Cousins?

It could, but a lot has to happen. First, Cousins has to play well tonight, perhaps very well. The Redskins have not scored a touchdown during the preseason with their first-team offense since 2013. If Cousins can guide the offense to a touchdown or two, stay away from what is usually a fierce Ravens pass rush, and, perhaps most importantly, stay away from turnovers.

Cousins’ last big chance came last year when Griffin was injured in the second game of the season. Jay Gruden left the door open for Cousins to keep the job if he played well. Cousins moved the team well in five starts but nine interceptions and his bad body language after throwing them landed him on the bench in favor of Colt McCoy. Later in the year when Gruden decided to bench a healthy Griffin, it was McCoy who went in behind center, not Cousins.

That is why protecting the ball will be vital for Cousins. If he turns the ball over he could well lose his chance again.

Even if Cousins plays well tonight, nothing is guaranteed for him. Griffin could be re-tested again in a week. If he passes that test he could be inserted back in as the starter no matter how good Cousins is against the Ravens. The dynamics of the decision making regarding Griffin are complicated, as discussed here earlier this week.

And if Griffin can’t go it would be unwise to rule out McCoy. As noted above, he was Gruden’s choice to replace a struggling Griffin last November. The general perception is that Cousins is ahead of McCoy in the competition to be the backup quarterback but Gruden may not go with the conventional wisdom.

But Cousins can’t worry about all of that. He is likely to play for only the first half, about five or six series, thirty or forty snaps. The fourth-year player needs to play as well as he ever has. The rest is out of his hands. 

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

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.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 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

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

In case you missed it