Redskins-Bills Recaps: 5 takeaways from Washington's win
5) The debate is over
The debate is over, as far as I’m concerned. Kirk Cousins is Washington's quarterback of the present and future, and it’s now time for the extension talk to move from the tire-kicking phase to the formal negotiation phase—if it hasn’t already commenced. Is Cousins going to singlehandedly carry an offense the way Cam Newton does? No. But he’s shown in recent weeks that he’s prepared and more than capable of putting the offense in advantageous situations. Cousins is also starting to trust himself and the playmakers around him and is limiting the crippling mistakes (only three interceptions in the past eight games). Sunday’s 35-25 victory over the Bills—Cousins tossed four touchdowns and rushed for the other—underscored all of that
4) The buzz surrounding DeSean Jackson
There’s been some buzz recently—in the media and among some fans—about DeSean Jackson’s future in Washington. Specifically, whether the star wide receiver should be back in 2016. My take: the Redskins would be crazy not to bring him back for a third season. There are a just a handful game-breaking players in the NFL and Jackson is, without a doubt, one of them. Of course, you do have to take the good with the bad. He’s going to miss some voluntary OTA practices. He’s also a bit fragile. Buuuuuut…the positives (example: four touchdowns in the past five games) outweigh the negatives. By a lot, in my opinion. Just don't let him return any more punts, please.
3) Strides being made
In recent weeks, the rebuilding Redskins have made strides in a number of important areas. Players and coaches will tell you they’ve learned how to prepare with intensity and focus. Their record shows they’ve figured out how to win on the road and, just as important, how to bounce back from a victory ... then earn another one the following week. On Sunday, I was impressed with something: how they put their foot on the throat of a vulnerable opponent. The Redskins took a 14-0 lead for the second week in a row. This time, though, they turned up the intensity and put the game out of the Bills’ reach. The defense forced a three-and-out. The offense needed only five plays and 1:46 to cover 56 yards and open a 21-0 lead. Then the defense forced another three-and-out. Thanks for coming, Buffalo.
2) Something else
Something else I liked? The mood in the locker room after the game was less celebratory and more businesslike. Winning back-to-back games for the first time in more than a year was big. Matching the win total from 2013 and 2014—combined—was huge, too. But veteran leaders like Ricky Jean-Francois were quick to set the postgame tone. This, he said, is no time for back-patting, not with a season-defining game in Philadelphia looming. “We’ve got to make sure we stay responsible,” Francois said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing our thing. At no given chance can we fall off beat. If we fall off beat and get complacent, we’re going to be back in the same predicament that the Redskins [have] always been in each year.” Veteran leadership matters—a lot.
1) Peaking at the right time?
And finally—and this might be looking too far ahead—but is it possible that the Redskins are peaking at the right time? They beat the Giants. They were in position to beat the Cowboys (and might have if not for that… oh, never mind). They ended a nine-game road losing streak in Chicago. And they took care of business at home against a Bills team that, a few weeks ago, was 5-4 and thinking playoffs. “As a coach,” Jay Gruden said Sunday, “the whole idea of your team is you want to get stronger as the season goes on. I feel like we had a lot of injuries early on and we’re getting some guys back. Guys are playing more together. We’re learning and starting to feel better about the system on both sides of the ball and special teams. I feel like we are getting stronger.” Indeed, it certainly appears that way.