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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 23, three days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

—How good are the Eagles? Are they as bad as they looked against a couple of mediocre teams in the Bucs and the Lions? Or are they as good as the team that beat the Patriots? Sure, they had some good fortune in Foxborough but that’s a tough place to win under any circumstances. Like the Redskins they have been inconsistent from week to week. But unlike Washington, they haven’t alternated good and bad weeks; they have been streaky. That makes them harder to figure out.

—The Philly defense hasn’t been hard to figure out lately. The Eagles have given up over 400 yards of offense in six of their last seven games. They have been gashed on the ground lately, giving up a combined 382 yards to the Bills and Cardinals. It’s probably too much to hope for the Redskins to get their dormant running game going but the opportunity may be there.

—Eagles QB Sam Bradford had an odd day against the Redskins in Week 4. He only completed 54 percent of his passes but he threw three touchdown passes, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and posted a 122.6 passer rating. Cornerback Chris Culliver was hurting but he gamely gave it a go that day but he was ineffective. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had been slumping before last Sunday with an average of just 30 receiving yards per game in his last five. But he broke out of it with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Sure, a good chunk of his production came in garbage time, especially a 78-yard TD reception when the Eagles trailed 37-10 in the fourth quarter. But he is still a weapon to watch.

—For a while the Eagles were among the better teams in the NFL in terms of turnover ratio. After nine games they had accumulated a plus-six margin. But in their last five games they have given the ball away 12 times and taken it away just four times. Taking out my handy calculator, that makes them minus-two on the year. The Redskins have been in a bit of a takeaway slump with just one in their last two games after getting six in their two before that. We will see of Washington can get a few takeaways.

—I have no idea what to expect on Saturday. I do think that the Redskins will be ready to play. The win over the Bills was one of the least celebrated in recent memory. The players know that it likely means nothing if they don’t take care of business in Philly. There was much more of a determined atmosphere than a celebratory one. For their part, the Eagles were frustrated after their 23-point loss to the Cardinals. Of course, moods can change over the course of the week and we’ll see how things look when Saturday night rolls around.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 3; Redskins @Cowboys 11; start of NFL playoffs 17

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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.