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State of the Redskins, Week 9: Getting healthy

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State of the Redskins, Week 9: Getting healthy

Here is where the Redskins stand in Week 9 of the NFL season.

Record: 3-4, T-2nd in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 1-1
vs. NFC: 3-2
vs. AFC: 0-2
Home: 3-1
Away: 0-3

Key numbers changes from 2014-2015

Rankings (through Sunday’s games)

Offense (yards/game): 340.3 (25th)
Defense (yards/game): 360.4 (17th)
Passer rating offense: 84.7 (21st)
Opp passer rating: 97.9 (24th )
Yards/rush attempt: 3.7 (28th)
Opp. yards/rush attempt:
 4.9 (30th)
DVOA through Week 8 (Football Outsiders): -5.6% (18th)

Top three storylines:

Returning to health—It looks like wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be back for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, although we still have to see how much he can participate in practice this week. Cornerbacks Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall appeared on the field this week for the first time in a while. Center Kory Lichtensteiger was wearing a helmet during Monday’s workout for the first time in a couple of weeks. It’s unlikely that they will go into New England at full strength but they should be there at some point later this month.

Tall tasks ahead—This team has struggled on the road and they have two road games with undefeated teams coming up in the next three weeks. The Patriots are dominating while the Panthers are just getting by. The odds are very much against the Redskins winning either game but how resilient they are will tell us a lot about how they may do the rest of the season.

Get a running back going—Jay Gruden said that both Matt Jones and Alfred Morris would get touches. But he has to find a hot hand to get a rushing attack that is now ranked 30th in the NFL in terms of average yards per carry going.

Next three games

Sunday @ Patriots (7-0)—It’s no insult to Gruden or Kirk Cousins to say that this one is a big mismatch at both head coach and quarterback with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on the other side.

November 15 vs. Saints (4-4)—The Saints look a whole lot better than they did a few weeks ago, after they handed the Falcons their first loss and then moved the ball at will against the Giants as Drew Brees threw a record-tying seven touchdown passes. Historically they are a different team playing outdoors on grass; we will see.

November 22 @ Panthers (7-0)—They lost a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to the struggling Colts so the strength of their vaunted defense has to be questioned. But Cam Newton seems to be able to move the chains whenever he really needs to and that has helped to keep them spotless in the loss column.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

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

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.