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EL-BASHIR: For Redskins, 2nd half schedule allows for some playoffs hope

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EL-BASHIR: For Redskins, 2nd half schedule allows for some playoffs hope

“Everything we want is still in our grasp,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said afterSunday’s 27-10 loss to the Patriots.

“It’s just one game,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry reassured players as they trudged off the field in Foxboro.

And they’re right. Getting blown out by Tom Brady and the defending champions, as unsightly as it was at times, didn’t end the competitive portion of the Redskins’ season, nor did it count for more than one ‘L’ on their record.

It did, however, narrow the Redskins' margin for error. They’re now 3-5 at the midway point of the season, with Drew Brees and the Saints (4-5) coming to Landover on Sunday.

“If we don’t play better, then nothing is in our grasp,” Gruden said Monday afternoon, asked about his message to the team this week. “We’ve got to make sure that we turn up the heat a little bit, challenge these guys, try to get more out of them as coaches. Hopefully, we play better because we are right in the thick of things, as far as the division is concerned.”

MORE REDSKINS: HOW TO FIX THE RUN GAME 

If you’re ready for a few paragraphs of unbridled optimism, here’s a heaping dose of it.

Assuming 8-8 or 9-7 will be good enough to take the decidedly mediocre NFC East then, yeah, a playoff berth is certainly within the Redskins’ grasp.

In fact, the second half of their schedule seems quite favorable when compared to their division rivals’ remaining slates.

Of the Redskins’ eight remaining games, only two of them are against opponents with winning records (at Carolina and vs. the New York Giants). The combined records of their opponents are 31-34. 

The Giants (5-4), meantime, face four teams with winning records down the stretch, including three division leaders (vs. New England, vs. Carolina and at Minnesota). The combined records of their opponents are 37-19.

The Eagles (4-4), on the other hand, face three teams with winning records, including two division leaders (at New England and vs. Arizona). The combined records of their opponents are 33-32.

(For the purposes of this discussion, I’m leaving out the 2-6 Cowboys. They’re done.)

Now for a dose of reality. 

For the Redskins to have any hope, they’ve got to engineer a midseason turnaround in a number of critical areas. Among them:

  1. They’ve got to fix the ground attack. Much has been made about the running game’s struggles over the past month, but there has been little change in the bottom line. Overall, the Redskins have averaged only 43 yards per game over the past four contests. That’s not just bad, it’s historically bad.  
  2. They’ve also got to stop the run better, too. Like a lot better. Including the 161 yards gained by LaGarrette Blount and the Patriots, the Redskins have allowed a whopping 187 yards on average the past four games. Their record is 1-3 in those contests. That’s no coincidence.
  3. They also need more production overall from the Kirk Cousins-led offense. Through eight games, they’re averaging just 19.8 points per game. Only Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit and San Francisco are averaging fewer—all of whom are .500 or worse.   
  4. And, finally, they’ve got to find a way to eke out a win (or two) on the road—a feat they’ve mustered just once in the Gruden Era. They face road tests at the Panthers, Bears, Eagles and Cowboys down the stretch.

That’s it. Just those four not-so-insignificant things.

Sound like a long shot? It probably is. Almost as long as the Redskins’ odds of actually making the playoffs. But there’s a chance. And right now that’s what Gruden and his players are clinging to.

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

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: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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