Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, December 3, four days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football.
Five thoughts on the state of the Redskins
—Yesterday I presented three options the Redskins and DeSean Jackson will have regarding his future with the team. What I didn’t do was take $100 in imaginary poker chips and split them according to the chances I think of each of the three options coming to pass. I’ll got with $20 on him staying on his current contract, $30 on him getting cut and $50 on him getting a new deal with some guaranteed money and heavy on workout bonuses and per-game roster bonuses.
—I think that players-only meetings are sometimes overblown events but I don’t believe that the importance of the one the Redskins had last Saturday was overrated. This team has had issues with its mindset ever since I started covering them in 2009. With the exception of the seven-game winning streak in 2012, their results have always been less than the sum of their parts. To me, that's a problem that emanates from above the neck. The players needed to get on the same page and the ones who have played in Super Bowls needed to impart some wisdom. And they need to keep it rolling with more than a one-game pop out of the meeting.
—John Keim had a good post about Jay Gruden and his relationship with the players. Football is a people business and a big part of a coach’s job is relating to his players (just as is the case with any boss at any job). You should check out the post but two quotes caught my eye. This one from DeAngelo Hall: “You can’t help but notice him joking around with this guy or that guy. He’s not just talking to [DeSean Jackson] or Trent [Williams] or big-name guys. It’s everybody. He jokes with [Robert Griffin III] even to this day. It’s not something where I bench him so I won’t talk to him anymore.” And this one from an unnamed player: “It helps when you win a couple games. It could change if we lose a couple in a row.”
—In the post Keim says that Gruden has been assured that he will be back in 2016. Since the Redskins have now won five games they have improved on their record from last year. While Dan Snyder has been accused of having a quick trigger finger, he has never fired a coach after the team improved its win total from one season to the next. Gruden should and will be back.
—What about Kirk Cousins? I’ve found his refusal to say even a token, “Sure, I’d love to be back if things can be worked out,” when asked about his future with the team to be somewhat odd. I don’t get the impression that he has completely soured on the organization although he certainly could have some bad feelings over what has been a rocky ride with the Redskins. I think that eventually the natural tendency of a quarterback to want to stay in a system where he has had some success, especially one who is still developing, wins out over any ill will that may have been created. But I’d be a heck of a lot more confident about predicting that if he would give the slightest hint that it’s what he wants to do.
—Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30
—Days until: Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Bears 10; Bills @ Redskins 17
In case you missed it
After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.
Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.
Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either.
RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW
Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return.
Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games.
The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury.
MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS
For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond.
The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.
Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it.
- Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come.
- Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions.
- Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus.
Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-
We didn't spend last week playing checkers.
News & Notes:
- Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
- The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed.
- D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
- Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week.
- Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.
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