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Need to Know: Five bold predictions for the 2016 Redskins

Need to Know: Five bold predictions for the 2016 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, September 9, three days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conference and player availability after practice approx. 1:15

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 243 days ago. It will be three days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 9; Browns @ Redskins 23; Redskins @ Ravens 30

2016 Redskins bold predictions

Here are some long-shot predictions for the 2016 Redskins. They are best-case scenarios that will need everything going right plus a little bit of luck to for them to come to fruition. I did this a year ago and two of the five turned out to be correct.

Matt Jones will rush for 1000 yards—Normally saying that a starting running back has a chance to rush for 1000 yards in a season would not be very bold but there are a lot of questions surrounding Jones. If he runs as well as he is capable of, the only thing that will keep him from topping 1000 would be a lack of carries. An average of 4.0 per carry is a reasonable goal and with 250 carries he will get his 1000. An injury or someone like Rob Kelley taking carries from him will keep him short.

Ziggy Hood will get 7 sacks—Yes, I’ve gone from a guy who, at the start of training camp, predicted that Hood would not make the final 53 to a big fan of his play. He’ll have to stay healthy and play well for 16 games to make this happen and the defense will have to be playing with a lead consistently. But he has the ability to have a late-career revival season.

Preston Smith will be in DPOY discussion—This is probably the longest shot on the board here. Second-year players who didn't really come on until the end of their rookie years usually don't get serious defensive player of the year considerations. I don’t think he’ll win it but he could get a combination of sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and defensive touchdowns to raise some eyebrows.

Kirk Cousins will have a 5:1 touchdown to interception ratio—I’m thinking 30 touchdowns to six interceptions but it could be closer to 35 and seven. This would not require any vast improvement over last year, just a continuation of his last 10 games last year when he rang up 23 and three.

The Redskins will win 11 games—I see this is their best-case scenario, a number they could reach with a reasonable amount of good fortune. The key would be going 5-1 against the NFL East. Even if they aren’t at the level to be able to beat the Cardinals or Panthers they could get to 11 by winning three out of four against the NFC North and against the AFC North. Home games will be the key. They play only one true road game against a team that had a winning record (Cardinals). If they take care of business at FedEx Field they have a chance to have their highest win total since 1991.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

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.

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.