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Prediction: Will more Eagles plays equal more turnovers?

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Prediction: Will more Eagles plays equal more turnovers?

Week 1 games are difficult to predict. Without looking it up, I’m sure that I picked the Saints to win comfortably a year ago today as the Redskins went to New Orleans for RG3’s debut. I don’t think I saw them beating the Giants behind Rex Grossman in 2011. Perhaps I called the win over Dallas to open the Mike Shanahan era but even if you give me that one out of three isn’t a great track record.

I have to say that it’s tough to be confident about predicting tonight’s game. For a change, the Redskins are the known quantity, assuming that Dr. Andrews’ repair of RG3’s knee is sound. It’s the opponent, the Eagles, that is the mystery. They have a new coach (Chip Kelly), a new offense (some sort of up tempo spread) and a new defense (a 3-4, even though Kelly won’t call it that).

The Eagles do have many of the same players running Kelly’s new offense—running back LeSean McCoy, receiver DeSean Jackson, and quarterback Michael Vick. While there may be very limited game film of the NFL version of Kelly’s offense there is plenty of tape on these players, especially Vick. He has played in 121 NFL games so there is ample data available to study his tendencies.

And if the best guesses on Kelly’s offense are correct, it calls for Vick to do things that he has not done well during the course of his career. It calls for quick decisions and that isn’t Vick’s strong point. Soon after he was hired Kelly said that he wants his quarterback to release his passes within 1.6 seconds after the snap. He hasn’t talked much about that lately as it took Vick about 3.6 seconds to get his passes off during the preseason.

Kelly’s offense is designed to get off more plays. His logic is that more plays equals more yards. Yes, but with Vick more plays could also equal more turnovers. In the past two years he has started 23 games and he has 24 interceptions and 21 fumbles. More snaps could be the proverbial double-edged sword for Philly.

Will the fast-paced attack work in the NFL? Kelly likes to point to a 2010 game when Oregon had 21 minutes of possession time to 39 for UCLA. The Ducks won 60-13. But that was a bad 4-8 UCLA team. There are no such talent disparities in the NFL.

On the other side of the ball, it looks like the Eagles are having a rough go at transitioning to the 3-4 defense. This is pain the Redskins know well, having one through it in 2010 and at least into 2012. They will take many of the 4-3 players who were members of the 2012 Philly defense, a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed and 23rd against the run, and have them adapt to the new scheme.

It seems to be a safe bet that the Redskins will put up some points. Despite the fact that he was hobbled by a knee injury in their second meeting, Griffin was deadly efficient against the Eagles last year. He completed 77 percent of his passes, averaged 10.2 yards per attempt, and threw six touchdowns to one interception.

But the key could be Alfred Morris. There was no sign during the preseason that the Eagles will be any better against the run. Morris didn’t run wild against them last year (167 yards combined in the two games) but if he gets rolling that will help keep the Eagles’ offense off the field and help the Redskins put up some points?

How many will they score? They averaged 27 a game last year. Let’s give them another TD and go with 35 with two TD’s being the result of takeaways.

And they’ll need to score a lot to keep from sweating this one out. Even though a lot of the time the Eagles’ offense will be a lot of movement and sound and fury that doesn’t accomplish much. They’ll break a long play, maybe more than one. McCoy could have a pretty big day. But many drives will die because Vick, the guy pulling the trigger, will make a mistake to kill it. A few succeed, perhaps one or two because of a big play. It won’t be enough.

Redskins 35, Eagles 21

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was 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. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!