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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 22, the day the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

CHAROLOTTE—A final look at today’s game as the Redskins try to knock the Panthers from the ranks of the undefeated.

—The Redskins started out great when it comes to starting out great. In their first six games the opposing team was shut out on its initial possession—the drives resulted in four punts, a fumble, and an interception. But in the last three games that pattern has changed. The Bucs, Patriots, and Saints all scored touchdowns the first time they had the ball. The visiting team needs to get off to a better start today.

—Like many games, this seems like the kind of game that will come down to turnovers. The Redskins had a turnover-free game last Sunday against the Saints after having given the ball away at least once in their previous 20 games. They will need to keep that up. The Redskins are 4-0 when Kirk Cousins doesn’t throw any interceptions and 0-5 when he throws at least one. Cam Newton had a three-pick game against the Eagles and was intercepted twice against the Seahawks. Passes will be in the air for the taking.

—You’ve heard about Cam and TE Greg Olsen all week. The other two offensive weapons to watch are RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Ted Ginn. Stewart is on pace to gain about 1,200 yards rushing and he will chew up yards and clock if the Redskins haven’t fixed their problems with rushing defense. Ginn is having a career renaissance at the age of 30. He’s the Panthers’ second-leading receiver with 25 catches and he’s averaging over 16 yards per reception. It’s possible that the Redskins hold down production from Olsen and Newton but get beaten by Ginn and Stewart.

—Somebody, anybody on the Redskins’ linebacker corps needs to step up. The group has been one of the stronger units on the team the past few years but not in 2015. Ryan Kerrigan wasn’t generating much consistent pass rush even before he suffered a broken hand. On the other side, Trent Murphy is good against the run but generating little pass rush and Preston Smith can’t develop the consistency he needs to take the starting job away from him. On the inside, Keenan Robinson has had lots of issues with missed tackles and Perry Riley looks lost at times. Will Compton has been competent filling in and now as the starter but he needs to find his next level. If they are going to contain Cam and Olsen one or more will have to have a big game.

—If the Redskins had shown an ability to win on the road any time in the last calendar year, I’d probably pick them to win this game. The Panthers are unbeaten but they have shown they are not unbeatable. I think the Redskins will be able to move the ball on the ground. With all of their defensive backs now healthy they will be able to mix and match coverage on Olsen. They should keep it close and have some chances to pull out a win. But eight straight losses is a trend that just can’t be ignored. I suppose you could say that the Redskins are due for a win away from home. Until they show me, however, I just can’t pick them to win. Panthers take a close one.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Panthers, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Giants @ Redskins 7; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 15; Redskins @ Bears 21

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.