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Need to Know: Redskins need more than a different game plan to establish an identity

Need to Know: Redskins need more than a different game plan to establish an identity

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 11, 5 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Some thoughts on the 2015 Redskins establishing an identity as a running team:

—After a few OTAs it is hard to get a handle on what the identity of this team will be in 2015. The talk is that they want to be a team that runs the ball well and gets takeaways on defense. But before the season started last year I asked Jay Gruden what the identity of the team was and he sort of hemmed and hawed before saying they were a running team. But they were 19th in the league is rushing and passed on about 60 percent of their snaps. They really didn’t have an identity. We’ll continue to monitor and discuss the shaping of an identity for the Redskins but it probably won’t take shape in any meaningful way until at least halfway through the season.

—After establishing an identity, they then need to maintain it season after season. I was talking with a co-worker at CSN, a guy who is a fan who doesn’t directly cover the team. He said that it looks like Scot McCloughan has a plan that he’s putting in place but they need to stick to it. My response was that there are many different plans out there and usually the key is to pick one and stick with it. In the last seven years the team has gone from a power running team to one that relied on zone blocking and now they are going back to power. They haven’t bee able to decide if they want defensive backs who are ballhawks or solid tacklers. Other philosophy changes, some major, some minor, have left the team with a group of misfit parts and, not surprisingly, a bunch of last-place finishes.

—Perhaps the Redskins did intend to run more last year but their defense, turnovers on offense, and special teams frequently put them in too much of a hole to do it. It’s easy for fans to yell “pound the rock” but when Gruden looks up at the scoreboard and he’s down by 10 in the third quarter he almost has to throw. To be sure, there could be some confusion of cause and effect here. Perhaps the Redskins would not have been trailing if they had run the ball more often earlier in the game. Even given that, however, there is no question that they will be able to run the ball more frequently if the defense plays better than it did last year, if the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, and special teams deliver favorable field position.

—The development of the running game is critical in the development of Robert Griffin III. He dropped back to pass about 31 times per game last year (adding together the Jacksonville game where he left early and the game against the Giants when he came in after the first series as one game). That dropback number needs to be more like 25 for Griffin to be successful. But, again, it’s not just a matter of Gruden adjusting his game plan and including more running plays. The defense needs to do its job and the special teams units have to occasionally give them short field to work with.

—The magic number is 500. If the Redskins have that many rushing attempts (31.25 per game) that means that they will have an established offensive identity, a defense that is keeping the team in almost every game, and special team that are, at the very least, doing no harm. The further away they are from that total, the greater the chance that 2015 will be another disappointing and lost season.

Timeline

—It’s been 164 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 96 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 5; Redskins training camp starts 50; Preseason opener @ Browns 63

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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