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Five things we learned during Redskins 31, Bucs 30

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Five things we learned during Redskins 31, Bucs 30

—Jordan Reed is the best offensive skill player on the team. He was sorely missed while he was out for two weeks with a concussion. Kirk Cousins threw to him 13 time and he had 11 receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns.  His presence on the field provided Cousins with a much-needed security blanket out there.

—Kirk Cousins has the ability to turn it on in the fourth quarter. In Week 2 he led a drive that clinched the win over the Rams. Two weeks later it was a game-winning drive against the Eagles. A week after that in Atlanta he completed three passes in the last 24 seconds of regulation to allow Dustin Hopkins to boot a field goal to sent the game into overtime. And now, this. There is plenty that needs to be improved in the first three quarters of games but if the Redskins have a chance in the fourth quarter he is capable of working some magic.

—The Redskins defense still has work to do when it comes to stopping the run. The Bucs’ Doug Martin ran for 136 yards, going over the 100-yard mark on a 49-yard run that almost put the game out of reach. But Bashaud Breeland streaked to the ball and make the stop of the Redskins’ five yard line. They held the Bucs to a field goal with 2:24 left to make it a six-point game. Still, some shoddy tackling and missed gap responsibility almost ended up being fatal.

—Hopkins has been quite a find. The Bucs returned one of five kickoffs and a few of his kicks made it to the stands behind the end zone. His kick after the Redskins go-ahead touchdown was against the wind and not returnable. It takes some skill and practice to execute and onside kick. The Redskins had a couple of shots at the one the Jets knew was coming last week but couldn’t quite get. This one was executed perfectly and caught the Bucs napping.

—Pierre Garçon was angry as the Redskins fell behind 24-0. The rest of the team seemed to feed off of his energy and it helped fuel the comeback. He has a good but not great day statistically with five receptions for 55 yards but make no mistake he was a vital part of the comeback. 

RELATED: Redskins stun Buccaneers 31-30 after biggest comeback in team history

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Jacksonville is out, so who's still in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes?

Jacksonville is out, so who's still in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes?

Jacksonville locked up their quarterback situation during the weekend, agreeing to a three-year contract extension with Blake Bortles worth more than $50 million. 

That means one less team competing for Kirk Cousins when he likely hits free agency in March. 

With the Jaguars out of the picture, what teams are left to pursue Cousins? Let's take a look at the revamped QB market with some analysis below:

  • New York Jets - Oddsmakers have installed the Jets as the heavy favorite to land Cousins. Reports out of New York have made clear that the team intends to pursue Cousins, and the Jets have more than $70 million in salary cap space to spend this offseason. New York can afford Cousins and has a need for a QB. The Jets also pick 6th in the NFL Draft, which does mean drafting a new franchise QB remains an option. Status: Favorite
  • Cleveland Browns - The Browns have a ton of cap space, more than $100 million, and certainly a need at QB. Cleveland also has the Nos. 1 and 4 pick in the draft, so should new GM John Dorsey decide to draft a passer, the opportunity will be there. The Browns could pay Cousins more than any other team, but also need to completely rebuild their roster. Does spending $30 million or more on Cousins make sense for a team that has won one game in the last two years? Maybe, but it would also likely mean former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan has a change of heart. McCloughan is working with the Browns front office now, and has said repeatedly that a team should not overpay for Cousins. Status: Somewhat possible
  • Minnesota Vikings - If the Vikings decide to open up their wallet, Cousins should absolutely listen to the offer. Minnesota has one of the best defenses in the NFL and made the NFC Championship Game in 2017. The Vikings are good, have a ton of weapons on offense, and would be a great fit for Cousins. The problem here is the Vikings first have to decide what to do with Case Keenum, who played at a high level for in Minnesota last season. The Vikings also have a decision to make with former QB Teddy Bridgewater. Minnesota should be Cousins' first choice, but it's not clear if Cousins will be the Vikings first choice. Status: Somewhat possible
  • Denver Broncos - Plenty of people want to establish the Broncos as the favorite landing spot for Kirk Cousins. Until Denver makes some moves to clear salary cap space, they aren't. Right now, Denver has about $25 million to spend for the 2018 offseason. Maybe Cousins will take a slight discount to land with John Elway in Denver, but it won't be significant enough for the Broncos to pay him and other free agents without making some major cap space. Also, don't forget the Broncos hold the 5th pick in the NFL Draft. Elway might have his eye on a potential rookie star like Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield, a pair of young passers that would count far less on the salary cap than Cousins. Status: Possible, but need to make cap space
  • Arizona Cardinals - Similar to the Broncos, Arizona makes sense for Cousins until you look at the books. The Cardinals actually have less money available under the cap than the Broncos do. The team could always clear space, and with the 15th pick, it seems unlikely Steve Keim and the Cards brass are counting on one of the top rookie QBs in the draft. Status: Possible, but need to make cap space
  • Buffalo Bills - The Bills want better QB play than they've been getting from Tyrod Taylor. That became clear in 2017 when they benched Taylor for Nathan Peterman, who was terrible.  What makes this hard to figure out is Taylor is still under contract in 2018, and at a reasonable $11 million salary. Taylor guided the Bills to the playoffs in 2017. Would Buffalo be better off paying Cousins $30 million than it is paying Taylor a third of that? Those are decisions for the Bills brass. Buffalo also has two 1st-round draft picks, the 21st and 22nd picks, and could be looking to make a move in the draft to acquire a rookie passer. Status: Somewhat possible
  • Miami Dolphins - They might need better QB play in South Beach, but the Dolphins have no cap space. Could Miami dump Ndamukong Suh ($26M) and Ryan Tannehill ($19M) to free up cash? Sure. Plus trading away Jarvis Landry ($16M)? Sure. But that's a lot of moves to be made. Status: Longshot 
  • New York Giants - Eli Manning is 37 years old and will cost $22 million in 2018. That's not a good equation. New Giants GM Dave Gettleman seems committed to Manning at least for 2018, and New York has the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Big Blue can draft a new franchise passer should they choose to. This just doesn't make sense. Status: Very longshot

The Redskins decided to move on from Cousins and traded for Alex Smith. Reports of Washington's contract extension with Smith seem like good value for both sides. Smith will get guaranteed money of at least $50 million and Washington gets a Top 10 QB for less than $25 million per season. 

Jacksonville's decision to extend Bortles leaves some interesting questions. Since becoming a starter in 2015, Cousins has been undeniably better than Bortles. It's also obvious than Cousins will cost much more than Bortles on the free agent market. Maybe Jacksonville decided the team would be better off with Bortles at $20 million per year than Cousins at $30 million year.

If that's the case, and it seems like it was in D.C., might other teams think the same thing?

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196