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Kirk Cousins could be running more often in the red zone

Kirk Cousins could be running more often in the red zone

When you look for reasons why the Redskins are so good at moving the ball (fourth in the NFL with 410 yards per game) but in the middle of the pack in scoring (14th in the league with 23.3 points per game), you really don’t have to search very far. Their inefficiency in the red zone has cost them points and has cost them games.

The Redskins get into the end zone 40.6 percent of the time they have at least one snap in a series inside the opponent’s 20. That’s 30th in the NFL. Related to that is how they do after achieving a first and goal situation. They put it in the end zone 50 percent of the time, also 30th in the league.

During the bye week the coaches spent some time doing some self-scouting to see how they can improve in areas such as the red zone. Quarterback Kirk Cousins said that he had two main takeaways regarding what he can do from what the coaches found.

For one thing, he said that turnovers in the red zone need to be eliminated. He has thrown two red zone interceptions this year after having thrown none in his career coming into the season. One was meaningless, a garbage time play late in the opener against the Steelers on a tipped pass that the league later said hit the ground before it was controlled. The other was critical, an end zone pick by the Cowboys in Week 2 when the Redskins were nursing a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. Washington ultimately lost the game by four.

It is realistic to have a goal of zero red zone interceptions. Per Pro Football Reference there are 20 teams that have not thrown a red zone pick this year. As noted, Cousins had never thrown on coming into the year.  

“We’ve got to get another streak going like that since the Dallas game,” said Cousins.

The other thing he talked about was tucking the ball in and running more often when passing targets aren’t available.

“I think there are times where in the rhythm of the play guys aren’t going to always be open,” said Cousins. “You know, if teams play max coverages and cover people, maybe everyone’s not open and that’s where I look and say, ‘Can I scramble? Can I make a play off-schedule?’”

Through eight games this year Cousins has run three times in the red zone. Two of the plays went for a combined loss of six yards. The other one came against the Lions when he ran 19 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:05 left to play.

The run in Detroit, however, was not an off-schedule scramble. It was the good old read option play and Cousins saw open spaces, pulled back the handoff, and took off.

Last year Cousins led the team in rushing touchdowns with five; all of them came on red zone runs. Some were designed runs like the one in Detroit, others were off schedule.

Avoiding interceptions obviously is a critical fix and tucking the ball and running can help out in some situations. But the red zone doesn’t need a tweak here and a little adjustment here. Game in and game out Cousins needs to complete more passes. Last year they had a 60 percent red zone success rate. Cousins completed 64 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 113.5.

It’s a different story this year. Cousins has completed 44.2 percent of his passes and he has a 72.9 rating. You don’t have to ask—yeah, that’s bad. Part of it is scheme, with teams focusing on taking away tight end Jordan Reed, Cousins’ favorite red zone target. But Cousins has to do his part and find other receivers.

The Redskins ability to make the playoffs for a second straight year may well hinge on their ability to turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns.

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


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.


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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details.

Until now.

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. The top line numbers are five years, $111 million, an average annual value of $22.2 million per year. 


Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer).

But there is another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million.

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith, but since we have no details, we’ll set those aside for now.

The cap hits on the contract are as follows:

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022.

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five.


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.