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Preview: Can Kirk Cousins and Co. keep the Redskins rolling in Dallas?


Preview: Can Kirk Cousins and Co. keep the Redskins rolling in Dallas?

Who: Redskins (8-7) at Cowboys (4-11).

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Watch: Redskins Kickoff on CSN Mid-Atlantic at 12 p.m., and Redskins Postgame Live at 4.

My five storylines/matchups to watch:

1-Although the Redskins can’t improve their playoff position, there’s still plenty to play for…at least, individually. Kirk Cousins will be chasing the franchise record for passing yards in a season. Cousins can claim the top spot with 120 more yards; Jay Schroeder currently owns the record with 4,109, set in 1986. Jordan Reed, meanwhile, can take sole possession of the team record for receptions by a tight end in a season with one more catch. (He’s currently tied with Chris Cooley with 83). Reed can also break the team record for receiving touchdowns in a season with two, and can become the first tight end in franchise history to record 1,000 receiving yards if he can pick up 93 more. Considering the fact that Coach Jay Gruden has said both Cousins and Reed will play, it’s likely that at least a couple of those records will be rewritten.    

2-Speaking of resting starters, Gruden hasn’t been specific when discussing who will sit and who will start. But this week’s injury report probably offers some clues. Safety Dashon Goldson (shoulder/rib) and cornerback Quinton Dunbar (quad) are the only players who did not practice at all Wednesday or Thursday. Running Matt Jones, meantime, was downgraded to ‘DNP’ on Thursday after suffering a setback on Wednesday. Got to imagine 32-year-old defensive back DeAngelo Hall (calf) and 33-year-old defensive end Jason Hatcher (neck/knee) are candidates to sit, as well. Gruden will designate players as probable, doubtful, questionable or out on Friday afternoon.   

3-So, yeah, it’s possible the Redskins won’t have some key players. And the Cowboys won’t have Tony Romo or Dez Bryant, both of whom are on injured reserve. But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins who do end up dressing should approach this contest any differently—even if it’s a little tougher to find the motivation. Momentum is a real thing in the NFL. And right now the Redskins have it. They’ve won three in a row, four of five and have a chance to post a winning season. “We got to keep this momentum going,” defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois said. “We need to finish the season out 4-0. …The team that usually finishes with the hot hand this time of year, usually ends up in the Super Bowl, a.k.a. Santa Clara. This is the same [Dallas] team that came here and beat us in our stadium, on the center stage.” Jean-Francois was, of course, referring to last month's gut-wrenching, 19-16 loss to the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

4-Is it possible Pierre Thomas can inject some life into a Redskins’ run game that’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry? (Only the Chargers, at 3.4, are averaging less.) Thomas enjoyed a breakout game in Philly, rushing for 22 yards on four carries (5.5 per) and snagging seven passes and 67 yards. Count Gruden among those who were impressed. “The thing you like about Pierre is there’s really nothing he can’t do,” Gruden said. “He can run between the tackles. He can run outside. He’s great in pass protection and catching the football. …I don’t know why he was on the streets.” Thomas did, however, tweak his knee in practice earlier this week. He told me on Wednesday that he expects to suit up in Dallas, but the situation bears watching.    

5-Is the Redskins’ run defense coming around at the perfect time? It certainly looks like it. During a six-game span from Week 5-11, opponents averaged 175 yards per game on the ground. The past five games? Just 100.4 per. While there are many reasons for the uptick, the biggest may be the fact that massive nose tackle Terrance Knighton is playing his best football of the season. Additionally, the defense on a whole is tackling better and doing a better job of limiting big plays. “Just look at the Philly game the other night,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “We held them to 2.8 yards per carry. They’re a team that lives and dies on the explosion run. When you do your job and you tackle, it’s amazing what happens.” As it just so happens, all three teams the Redskins could face in the first round have good running games. Seattle ranks third in rushing yards per game (141.6), while Minnesota is fifth (137.3) and Green Bay is 10th (118.3).       

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.