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Need to Know: Five bold 2015 Redskins predictions

Need to Know: Five bold 2015 Redskins predictions

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 12, one day before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Five bold predictions about the 2015 Redskins

Note: These may contradict some other things I have predicted in other posts because I wasn’t in “bold” mode at the time. By the nature of “bold” the chances of these things happening are slim but I do see them as in the realm of possibility.

The Redskins will start the season 3-0—They will be underdogs against the Dolphins and Giants and perhaps a pick ‘em at home against the Rams. But while Miami and St. Louis have tough defenses neither has an offense that will scare you. The Giants are the other side of the coin, with a potentially powerful offense and a suspect defense. If the Redskins manage to play clean football and avoid dumb penalties and turnovers, they have a punchers chance in all three games.

Alfred Morris will rush for 700 yards—I’m not completely convinced that Morris will be nearly as effective behind power blocking as he was behind the zone-blocking scheme. He will still start all 16 games but if he is spinning his wheels, Gruden will start to sub in Matt Jones and maybe even Chris Thompson earlier and more often. The team is going to rely too much on the running game to keep giving the ball to an ineffective runner.

Kirk Cousins will start all 16 games—If he can beat the turnover problems that plagued him last year there could be no reason to turn to either Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III. Outside of the interceptions his numbers projected over a 16-game season were very good, as in top 10 in many major stat categories good. He never missed a game due to injury and that combined with his ability to avoid getting hit in the pocket he should stay healthy enough to go the distance.

The Redskins special teams won’t improve much if at all—You don’t essentially rip special teams players and leaders like Niles Paul, Adam Hayward, and Logan Paulsen out of the lineup for the season and even break even in performance, much less improve. Maybe young players like Kyshoen Jarrett and Martrell Spaight can pick up the slack and I think Jamison Crowder could provide some long-missing excitement in the return game. But missing the veteran stalwarts they will be doing well to tread water from their poor performance in 2014.

Preston Smith will be the defensive rookie of the year—This is the longest shot on the board here but it could happen. For one thing, he plays a position that generates stats in the form of sacks so that gives him a chance. Assuming he starts and/or gets up to playing 70 percent or more of the snaps, he could benefit from the added attention that Ryan Kerrigan will get. If he can get up to 10 that might be enough to earn the rookie honors if nobody else blows up.

What are your bold 2015 predictions? Let me know in the comments!

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No availability

—It’s been 258 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 1 day until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 12; Eagles @ Redskins 22

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.