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Zorn’s strategic error costs Skins

Zorn’s strategic error costs Skins

There really isn't a whole lot to break down about today's game. The teams traded hot streaks for 55 minutes and then they exchanged scores at the end.

It's the Niners' last score, the game-winning field goal, that is the focus here. San Francisco never should have had a chance to try it, or at least it should have been a much greater challenge for them. They got the chance, however, because Jim Zorn made a rookie mistake.

Go back to the end of the Redskins' tying drive. At the 2:00 warning, the Redskins have a second and goal at the nine. Clinton Portis runs for two yards to the seven and the clock keeps ticking. On third and goal at the seven, the ball is snapped with 1:28 left and Campbell completes a pass to Chris Cooley for five yards down to the two. It's fourth and goal at the two and the clock is running. With 1:15 left, Zorn calls timeout.

That was his big mistake.

Why stop the clock then?

Sure you want to talk about the fourth-down play. After all, it's your last shot. If you score, you can put it into overtime. If you don't, you lose.

But why call timeout with well over a minute left with the clock running? It became a one-play game. Zorn needed to let the clock run down as far as he could, as though they were trying a game-winning or tying field goal, because you want to leave the other team as little time as possible to answer your score.

Cooley went down with about 1:21 left. The 40-second play clock started at about that time. Had Zorn chosen to burn off the maximum time before going for it on fourth, there would have been about 42 seconds left for the fourth-down play.

After Campbell scores, the Niners would have had about 35 seconds left to try to score. It wouldn't have been impossible, but certainly the extra 30 seconds they had thanks to the early timeout helped them dramatically.

I can think of a couple of reasons why Zorn might have wanted to preserve some time, but neither really holds water. He may have wanted to have some time with which to work had the Redskins failed to score but a penalty had given them a first down. But they still had two timeouts left. They would have been able to take four shots at the end zone in 35 or 40 seconds easily and they would have been able to run or pass.

Zorn might also have been thinking that he wanted to save time should his team not reach the end zone. But if Campbell's run fails, the 49ers get the ball with about 1:09 to go and the Redskins have two timeouts. Two kneel downs followed by the Skins' two remaining timeouts and there's about a minute left. Another knee on third down and the Skins can't stop the clock. At about 20 seconds, San Francisco has to run a fourth-down play.

The safe-aggressive call in that situation is to have your punter run around in the end zone and take an intentional safety. You then have a free kick from the 20 with 15 seconds left. It then takes a miracle.

If I'm missing something here, let me know.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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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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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