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Redskins Eagles After Further Review

Redskins Eagles After Further Review

Had the Washington Redskins managed to beat the Cincinnati Bengals last week or the St. Louis Rams in mid-October, yesterday's 10-3 win over the Eagles would have been a landmark game with a legendary finish. It would have propelled them into a position to snag a spot in the playoffs by beating the 49ers next Sunday.

In the real world, however, it was a somewhat entertaining game that featured a mix of good defense and bad offense on the part of both teams.

The Washington secondary swarmed over the Eagle receivers most of the game. Donovan McNabb frequently was unable to find open receivers and that gave Jason Taylor a chance to rack up two sacks, more than doubling his total for the season. One of those sacks was accompanied by a strip of the ball, and London Fletcher's subsequent recovery and return set up the Redskins' only touchdown.

When McNabb had time to throw—and he did frequently—his receivers were getting rocked. LaRon Landry, who had his best game in a long time, smacked the Eagles' receiver DeSean Jackson on a couple of occasions, once sending the rookie into the locker room to have the medical staff take a look at his ribs.

In another, less spectacular but equally effective play in the fourth quarter, Shawn Springs executed a classic strip of the ball on a McNabb to Jackson pass over the middle.

That was the good defense part. The bad offense came when the Eagles got a severe case of the dropsies. First it was tight end L. J. Smith dropping a couple of short passes with a lot of green grass in front of him. Then Jackson couldn't get the handle on a couple of deep passes, including one in the end zone that would have tied the game in the late going. Someone in the press box counted seven drops (presumably not counting Assante Samuel's drop of an interception that cost the Eagles some 40 yards of field position).

The Eagles had ample opportunity to drop passes since Andy Reid had McNabb drop back 48 times and hand off just 16 times. Even if you take out the 15 passes that McNabb attempted in that final drive you still have a pass to run ratio of two to one. This in a game that the Redskins led by more than a touchdown for just over four minutes on a cold, windy evening and that Philly entered with two of its top receivers inactive. It appeared for a while the Reid was buying into the concept of offensive balance but it certainly eluded him in this game.

It's hard to say whether or not the Eagles played great defense since the Washington offense was its usual unproductive self. The one sustained scoring drive, a 16-play field goal march that consumed 8:31 of the second quarter was nice but it ended with three points instead of seven.

About the best you can say about the Washington offense was that it did move the chains and thus was able to give the defense some rest. They didn't have any three and out series in the first three quarters.

The D needed the time on the sideline as the Redskins went three and out on three straight drives in the fourth quarter. Two of those started in Eagle territory but the Redskins, thanks primarily to some ultra-conservative play calling by Zorn, couldn't salt it away.

The defense got the job done, forcing four straight three-play Eagle possessions. They had enough left in the tank to stop their last drive a yard short of the end zone.

Again, if this game had playoff implications the high-low stop of Reggie Brown by Fred Smoot and Landry would have been wall poster material. I asked Landry if he'd ever heard of Ken Houston and, to my disappointment but not to my surprise, he said that he had not. The stop wasn't exactly like the solo tackle of Walt Garrison that Houston made in 1973, but it was the closest thing we've seen since. There was no question that the ball never crossed the plane of the goal line but everyone had to wait another minute or so for that to be confirmed by replay.

Zorn and the locker room were appropriately "medium" after this one, certainly happy to get a win in a game that had meaning to the other team (and, technically, meaning for the Redskins as it unfolded as it was on at the same time as the Falcons game) but far from giddy over breaking their three-game losing streak.

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. Thek players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being trade to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in a Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

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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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. 

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