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Need to Know: Five moments that led to the Redskins' NFC East title

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Need to Know: Five moments that led to the Redskins' NFC East title

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 29, five days before the Washington Redskins travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys.

Five moments that led to the Redskins’ 2015 NFC East title

The Redskins clinched the 2015 division title on Saturday when DeAngelo Hall scooped up Demarco Murray’s fumble and ran 17 yards to the end zone. It was at that point where the Eagles’ win probability plummeted to just about zero. But other moments led up to that. Here is a look at a few of them.

The 2015 NFL draft—There wasn’t one moment there but rather a series of moments when the Redskins turned in cards for some players who proved to be very productive. It’s hard to see the Redskins being as successful as they were this year without the steady play of Brandon Scherff at guard, Preston Smith’s pass rush in the latter stages of the season, some big plays by Matt Jones, some spectacular catches by Jamison Crowder, and the versatility of safety/nickel corner Kyshoen Jarrett.

“It’s Kirk’s team”—On August 31, Jay Gruden announced that Kirk Cousins would be the starting quarterback for the season. Many predicted that controversy and turmoil would still be standard operating procedure at Redskins Park. After a somewhat shaky start for Cousins, with the Redskins going 2-4, things started to click and they haven’t looked back.

Onside kick vs. the Bucs—The Redskins were on the comeback trail after falling behind Tampa Bay 24-0 in the first half. But they needed a boost and after Cousins threw to Ryan Grant for a touchdown to make it 24-14 in the third quarter they created one. Dustin Hopkins perfectly executed a surprise onside kick and Trenton Robinson recovered for the Redskins. Seven plays later Cousins threw to Jordan Reed for three yards to make it a three-point game and the Redskins eventually came out with a 31-30 win.

Matt Jones’ catch against the Bears—The Redskins had led 14-0 and 21-7 in Chicago but they were very much in danger of having their first road win of the season slip from their grasp. Up 24-21, the Redskins were trying to burn the clock out with about four minutes to play. On third and five, Cousins scrambled to the right, stopped, and fired a pass across the field to Jordan Reed. The ball went off of Reed’s hands But Matt Jones was there to grab the ball before it hit the ground, giving the Redskins a key first down at the Bears 45. Although the Redskins had to punt, the play gave them enough time off the clock and enough field position to hold off the Bears for the win.

DeSean Jackson’s 77-yard TD catch against the Bills—The Redskins led 21-3 in the third quarter and the Bills were starting to move the ball. On first down from the 23, Jackson went down the left sideline. He had to slow down around midfield to gather in Cousins’ pass. He evaded two defenders, ran through an attempted ankle tackle, and outran the defense to the end zone. That gave the Redskins the working margin they needed to survive a Bills push on offense and get out of FedEx Field with a 35-25 win.

I'm sure you have some additions to the list; feel free to chime in with them in the comments. 

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings at Redskins Park, no availability

Days until: Redskins @Cowboys 5; start of NFL playoffs 11; start of divisional round 18

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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.