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Tuesday Take: NFC East all shook up

Tuesday Take: NFC East all shook up

Just when the "experts" think they know everything, it turns out that they didn't know nearly as much as they thought they did.

--Redskins on a roll and the winless Rams have no chance? The turnover bug bites Washington and St. Louis steals a 19-17 win.

--The Cowboys are a lock for the Super Bowl? Dallas loses two out of three and they have an injury list that's filled with Pro Bowlers and future Pro Bowlers (of course, since in the eyes of the experts, every Cowboy is one or the other that's not as dramatic as it sounds). Terrell Owens isn't injured but his ego may be about to suffer a series of severe bruises as the weak-armed Brad Johnson takes over for the injured Tony Romo at quarterback. Neither of Owens' strengths, the deep out and the long bomb, are throws that Johnson can execute well.

--The Giants are the best in the business? Coming to a conclusion like that based largely on their performance in their last three games against opponents that are a combined 2-14 is dangerous. All it took was Eli Manning deciding that it was a good idea to throw off of his back foot a few times and New York gets spanked in Cleveland.

--Philly is out of it after two division losses? All it takes is the Niners and J. T. O'Sullivan to blow a fourth-quarter lead (go figure) and the Eagles are back in the thick of it.

Back to the main topic of discussion here, the Redskins, I wasn't buying the talk of 7-1 being a lock. Certainly, I didn't think that they would stumble against the Rams but I figured that there would be a loss, a tough win, and an easy win during that three-game "automatic win" stretch.

It remains to be seen if the Rams game becomes one that alters that line of thinking, or, for that matter, alters the season.

I don't believe that it will. As one commenter here said, the Redskins will lose every game during which an offensive lineman catches a first-down pass in the Red Zone, starts to run with it, fumbles, and sees the miscue returned for a touchdown. The loss wasn't a complete fluke and the Skins didn't play particularly well but if that one play you've never seen before and probably never will see again doesn't happen the Redskins probably win.

The most encouraging aspect of the game was that Jim Zorn did not abandon the run despite the fact that the Skins did not take a second-half snap with the lead. At halftime, they had 17 rushing attempts. Two of them were Jason
Campbell scrambles, so 15 running plays were called. In the second half, Zorn called 14 runs. After the Rams booted a field goal to go up by nine late in the third quarter, five out of the next six plays were runs. Six of their nine plays in the drive that put them into the lead were running plays.

That's establishing an identity and sticking with the game plan. An offensive line that opens holes despite the fact that it doesn't often blow the other team back and an MVP candidate in Clinton Portis at running back makes it relatively easy to do that. Still, Redskins coaches past and many other play callers around the league would have been pitchin' 'n' catchin' virtually the whole second half.

And Zorn and the Redskins might send out a signal today that they intend to keep intact this team's identity as a running team that can burn you through the air when necessary. With Ladell Betts out for at least one game, maybe more, Washington is bringing Shaun Alexander in for a look. Actually, it's probably more than a look as all indications are that Alexander will sign if he passes a physical. Since he passed an exit physical right before Seattle released him in April, there's no reason to believe that he won't come on board.

Zorn views the six or seven carries a game that Betts has been getting as critical. They want to keep Portis in the mid-twenties in terms of carries so if they want to rush the ball 35 times a game someone has to be productive in those other carries. It doesn't look like Zorn wants Rock Cartwright to handle those carries so he's bringing in someone with whom he is well familiar from Seattle.

The most likely candidate to get his walking papers should Alexander get added to the roster is Justin Hamilton, a reserve safety who has been inactive the last three games or ever since Kareem Moore has been healthy. Rookie defensive end Rob Jackson also could get cut and demoted to the practice squad given that he's one of 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster.

It's times like this when Jim Zorn's "stay medium" philosophy pays off. Things are topsy-turvy all around the NFC East. If the Redskins can stay calm in the midst of all of this, they have a good shot at coming out on top in the end.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

There's still time to vote on this one:

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. The offense is up today, the defense later this week.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory. If you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.   

Offense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Brandon Scherff (29), Morgan Moses (30)
Changes from last prediction: Moses added, removed Trent Williams (33), Jordan Reed (31)

Scherff and Moses both are two young players who should get better with more experience. The right side of the line will be in good hands assuming the Redskins will be able to re-sign Scherff, who will be a free agent following the 2019 season.

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Williams will be 33 in 2021. He can play at a very high level at that age but I think he will be just below the perennial Pro Bowl status he enjoys now. Although I think that the Redskins can still get some good play out of Reed in the next couple of years, it’s hard to imagine him staying productive into his 30’s. He is under contract through 2021 but it’s hard to see him playing in Washington past 2020.

Solid starters: Jamison Crowder (28), Josh Doctson (27), Chris Thompson (30), Williams
Changes: Doctson, Thompson, Williams added, Kirk Cousins (33), Terrelle Pryor (32), Moses removed.

I’m probably higher on Doctson than most. I don’t see him attaining All-Pro status or catching 100 passes in a season but his physical talent is so good that he will be a solid, productive receiver for the next several years. The Redskins will need to find a third receiver but they will have two good ones in Crowder and Doctson.

Third-down back isn’t technically a starting position but Thompson should still be contributing as much to the offense as many starters.

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I think that Cousins will be a solid starter somewhere in 2021 but it is not looking like it will be in Washington. Pryor obviously did not work out and he is very likely to be playing elsewhere next year.

Potential starters: Spencer Long (30), Rob Kelley (28), Samaje Perine (25), Chase Roullier (28)
Changes: Added Roullier, moved Doctson up

Long could be a fixture on the O-line in 2021 or he could be signed by a different team in March. I don’t think that Kelley or Perine will be workhorse backs but either or both could be a part of a tandem. Roullier could move up to the “solid starters” category if he can repeat what he did in a small sample size (7 starts) in 2017.

There are other players who could end up on these lists a year from now. But we haven’t seen enough of 2017 draft picks TE Jeremy Sprinkle or WR Robert Davis to offer an intelligent assessment of where their careers are headed. It’s the same with undrafted linemen Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis. They might not make the team in 2018 or they could be competing for starting jobs in 2019.

There also are reserves like Ryan Grant (30) and Ty Nsekhe (35) who still could be on the roster but who would only be spot starters.

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.