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Instant Analysis: Cousins, Redskins defense closes the door on near-loss to winless 49ers

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Instant Analysis: Cousins, Redskins defense closes the door on near-loss to winless 49ers

The Redskins didn't make it easy on themselves in Week 6 against the 49ers.

After taking a commanding 17-0 lead in the second quarter, the 49ers made a quarterback change, swapping in C.J. beathard for Brian Hoyer.

The 49ers proceeded to score at the end of the first half, and then again off a bizarre Vernon Davis fumble. But new dad Kirk Cousins wouldn't let his team falter in his first game as a proud papa.

Here are my observations made during the Redskins’ tense 26-24 win over the 49ers:

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First quarter

— The Redskins rolled to a touchdown on their opening drive as Jay Gruden opened up the playbook a bit. A jet sweep by Jamison Crowder started things off and the Redskins got good chunks of yardage on screens to Chris Thompson, who started at running back, and Samaje Perine. The score came on a 16-yard strike over the middle from Kirk Cousins to Josh Doctson. Even that play was something of a departure from the norm as Doctson had only been targeted six times coming into the game.

— The Redskins played solid defense on the Niners’ first series. San Francisco got a first down on a penalty but they went three and out after that.

— A three and out on the 49ers second possession ended with Preston Smith and Matt Ioannidis splitting a sack of Brian Hoyer. At this point the 49ers have run eight plays and they have six net yards. Smith now has at least half a sack in every game this season.

Second quarter

— Redskins had a golden opportunity starting from their 36 near the end of the first quarter. They lost nine yards on a first-down play from the San Francisco 40. But Jordan Reed made his first two receptions of the game, good for 10 and 14 yards and a first down. The past couple of years, being that far behind the sticks would be a near-automatic punt.

— That drive got down to third and one at the three. Cousins faked a handoff to Perine and then as the defense ignored him, tossed to the back on a swing route. Perine lunged the last yard and a half into the end zone. The drive had three runs and seven passes.

— The insertion of rookie C.J. Beathard (Bobby’s grandson) at QB seemed to spark the 49ers offense as they picked up two quick first downs on a pass and on a run. But a dropped third-down pass stopped the momentum. The Redskins were a little lucky there.

— I’m not sure if the Redskins are ever going to be able to go easy on using Chris Thompson. On second and 25 after a penalty, he took a screen pass and picked his way into the open and bolted for 39 yards. The offense stalled and they settled for a 48-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to make it 17-0.

— Beathard again got the offense rolling. Passes gaining 20, 20, and 12 yards got the 49ers into the red zone. Carlos Hyde ran it in on fourth down at the one and it looks like a new ballgame at 17-7.

Third quarter

— The Redskins’ pass rush has slowed down considerably and Beathard is marching the 49ers down the field. A Kerrigan sack for a loss of 11 yard blunted the momentum but the 49ers did muster a 52-yard field goal to make it one-score game. Kyle Shanahan is calling quick passes to protect Beathard so it will be important to keep them on third and long.

— The Redskins offense continued to sputter on their first possession of the second half and a 39-yard punt return set up the 49ers at midfield midway through the quarter. That resulted in a missed field goal.

—On the first play after the miss, however, Vernon Davis fumbled and the ball was returned to the Redskins one. Carlos Hyde ran it in on the next play and Washington’s 17-0 lead was gone. After looking like the new Redskins early on, they now looked like the team that always plays down to the level of the competition.

Fourth quarter

— The Redskins got a sense of urgency on offense after the 49ers tied the game. Cousins scrambled up the middle for 18 yards and threw to Ryan Grant for 18 more. A pass to Thompson converted a third and long. Cousins to Grant, who did some nice footwork down the sideline, got them into the red zone. On third and goal at the three, But after getting first and goal at the four they went no further and Hopkins booted a go-head three-pointer.

— Vernon Davis does it again. He takes a pass in the seam from Cousins and cuts across the field, rolling all the way down to the 22 yard line for a gain of 51. The man is 33 and plays like he’s 23. Cousins got the score from seven yards out on a read option that sent him untouched into the end zone. The PAT was missed but the Redskins had a two-score lead with 3:28 left.

— The 49ers were not done. Beathard launched a 45-yard touchdown pass to former Redskin Aldrick Robinson and they were within a field goal of taking the lead at the two-minute warning. Their TD drive consumed just 1:36.

—Fabian Moreau recovered the onside kick. But three Perine runs gained only six yards and the 49ers had a chance to drive for the winning field goal. Why not a bootleg option by Cousins? It had a better chance of success than a Perine run.

—A Garçon catch while he landed on his knee just inbounds got the 49ers a first down at the 40 with 28 seconds left. An offensive pass interference on Garçon took away 10. On fourth and 20 at midfield with nine second left, Fuller picked off Beathard’s pass near the sideline to end the sweaty victory.

RELATED: Must See Photos: NFL Week 6, Redskins 26 San Francisco 2

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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 22, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview: Offense

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the offense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. 

Alex Smith

The subheadline here doesn’t need any elaboration. The Redskins gave up a top-100 draft pick, a promising player, and $71 million in guaranteed money to get him. When asked about the timetable for Smith picking up the offense, Jay Gruden said, “He has got to get it down by the first game.”

That first game is seven weeks from today. Of course, the process has already started as Smith appeared to have a solid grasp of things in the offseason practices. There is every reason to think that he will look good in Richmond. 

The question is, how much will the coaches push him? Will they focus on him having success on shorter, easier throws to build his confidence? Or will they call plays that test his ability to throw deep? Last year in Kansas City his ability to hit on long passes helped transform him from being an above-average quarterback to an MVP candidate. The Redskins need him to be effective deep starting Week 1 and training camp needs to be the starting point. 

The running back rotation

This is primarily about Derrius Guice, who is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards last year and they bring back the same offensive line (although hoping for better health) and three of the same running backs. They are counting on Guice to be the difference maker. 

But Guice can’t do it by himself. Gruden will be wary of overworking his rookie, who has an aggressive running style and who was banged up for a lot of his last year at LSU. He also may give Guice a light load if he struggles in pass protection early on. Chris Thompson’s role is set. Where do Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine line up? Does one or the other take most of the first-team reps when Guice is getting a rest? 

The difference between being the third back and the fourth is big. The fourth back on the depth chart is unlikely to be active most game days. The active back could get five to 10 carries per game.

Who’s at left guard?

Is Shawn Lauvao going to be the left guard? It doesn’t seem logical that they would put all their eggs in Lauvao’s injury-prone and frequently ineffective basket. Will Ty Nsekhe line up there? Do they think that Tyler Catalina or Kyle Kalis can push for the starting job? Is a trade in the offing? 

Jordan Reed’s health

This does not need much explanation if you’ve been paying attention the last several years. It would be both a good sign and a major surprise if he starts camp healthy and doesn’t miss any time due to injuries. If he’s out there, there is no question that he and Smith will quickly develop chemistry. 

Wide receiver depth chart

The stakes at wide receiver are similar to those at running back. The top backup behind the three starters, who could be any of Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick or Try Quinn, will have a regular role in the offense line Ryan Grant had last year. The fifth guy will rarely play, the player who has the sixth spot will rarely play, and the seventh won’t have a job. 

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Apparently, some teams are worried that their players are playing too much of the video game Fortnite. No, seriously.

Timeline 

Happy birthday to Redskins running back Quinton Dunbar, who was born on this date in 1992.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 4
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 18
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 41

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 49 days. 

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