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Ron Rivera: 'It might be refreshing' to play in Dallas, Philly without fans

Ron Rivera: 'It might be refreshing' to play in Dallas, Philly without fans

The 2020 NFL season is set to begin in early September, and the league has yet to announce anything that would change that. But if the season does start on time, there's a chance that fans won't be allowed to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Redskins head coach Ron Rivera was asked about the possibility of playing in an empty stadium, and the 58-year-old found a silver lining to the idea of it.

"If you're the home team, you kind of wish you had your folks in the stands," Rivera told WUSA9's Darren Haynes. "When you have to go someplace like Dallas or Philadelphia, it might be refreshing that you don't have their fans in the stands. That's for darn sure."

Dallas and Philadelphia have two of the toughest stadiums to play in. The Eagles pack Lincoln Financial Field for every home game and have one of the most raucous fan bases in the entire league. The Cowboys have the NFL's largest stadium, as over 100,000 people attend every Dallas home game.

The Redskins travel to Dallas in Week 12 for a Thanksgiving clash with the Cowboys. Washington heads to Philadelphia in Week 17 to close out the season.

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Both venues have not been kind to the Redskins as of late.

Washington has not won in Dallas since Week 17 of the 2015 season when the Cowboys started backup Kellen Moore in the season finale. Dallas has won seven of the last eight games between the two clubs and nine of the past 11.

Things have not gone much better in Philadelphia, where the Redskins have not won since December of 2016. The Eagles have currently won six straight matchups against Washington, the longest winning streak in the rivalry since Philadelphia won seven in a row from 2001-2004.

While it might initially feel "refreshing" to play a road game without fans in the stands for Rivera, he certainly hopes that is not the reality. The head coach understands how important fans are and how much they can influence a team.

Since taking over as head coach of the Redskins, Rivera has preached building a new culture -- a winning culture -- in Washington. One thing that he's stayed consistent with is emphasizing the need for the Redskins fan base to rally behind the team.

"We also need to have the fans get behind us," Rivera told local media in early April. "It’s one of the things that I was very fortunate to happen for us when we were in Carolina. Our first two years we showed promise. We gave fans a reason to come out and cheer for us."

Now with Washington, Rivera hopes to do the exact same. Over the past few years, fans of the opposing team have taken over FedEx Field; it was not a pretty sight for the Redskins or their fans. So, when fans are allowed back into the stadium, the head coach wants to make sure FedEx Field looks nothing like it did in years prior.

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Are Carson Wentz and the Eagles facing a 'Kirk Cousins' scenario?

Are Carson Wentz and the Eagles facing a 'Kirk Cousins' scenario?

Kirk Cousins provided the Redskins with a consistent option at quarterback during his career in Washington, especially his three seasons as the starter from 2015 to 2017.

The Redskins hovered around .500 throughout his tenure, won the NFC East and reached the playoffs once and Cousins provided them with some big-time moments (see: "You like that!?"). His play showed that he was a solid option as a starter in the league. Plenty of teams would have loved a quarterback of his caliber.

But Cousins was polarizing. A big faction of the fanbase grew frustrated with him. To them, he was a quarterback who couldn't get above .500, never won in the playoffs and often faltered under the bright lights. He had a ceiling and wasn't a top-10 quarterback.

It seemed like every single game was a referendum on Cousins. One good moment made him "the guy" and one slip up had everyone ready to see him depart. The constant drama around his one-year franchise tags, and the uncertainty that brought to the position, only made things worse until Cousins finally played out the string and left for Minnesota as a free agent in 2018. 

Similar criticisms have followed Cousins to Minnesota - though in 2019 he had 26 touchdown passes to just six interceptions and led the Vikings to a playoff win. But in the NFC East, there is another quarterback going through similar circumstances. Carson Wentz looked to be the savior for the Eagles in 2017 before injuries and subpar seasons changed that perception. Now, the debate rages as to whether or not Wentz is what Philadelphia needs. Sound familiar? 

Joining the Redskins Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro gave his take on whether or not Wentz and the Eagles are experiencing a similar circumstance. To him, he does see similarities.

"It has been strange, and I think it has become polarizing," Zangaro said of the situation.

Much like Cousins, Zangaro believes there is no general consensus in Philadelphia as to who Wentz is. He's an upper-tier quarterback, but one many have questions about. The reasoning for that stems from two factors in his career, according to Zangaro.

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The first is his bad luck with injuries, something that wasn't a major concern for Cousins. Problems with his ribs in his rookie year, a torn ACL in 2017, back issues in 2018 and a concussion in 2019 have plagued Wentz. Though some of those can be viewed as unfortunate injuries that happened by chance, that isn't enough to shake the "injury-prone" label. It has left some in Philadelphia skeptical about his future.

“He’s never going to be that MVP-type player because he can’t stay on the field," Zangaro said of the argument made by some Eagles fans and by some reporters who watch him consistently. "And I can’t argue with that right now because he hasn’t done it...He’s just not going to get that monkey off his back until he plays a full season from start to finish."

But doubt surrounding Wentz is also due to his lack of playoff success. Cousins can relate. Even the Eagles quarterback's playoff experiences are unfortunate. His only appearance last season was ended early by a concussion, and Philadelphia would go on to lose. He was lost to that ACL tear late in that Super Bowl season. Who knows what would have happened if Wentz had played. But Nick Foles was the hero. 

Zangaro explained the end of that 2017 season in detail. Through 13 weeks of the season, Wentz was everything the Eagles needed and more. He threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns and had Philadelphia at an 11-2 record. Then he tore his ACL and missed out on the playoff run that would end in the Super Bowl. His contribution became overshadowed.

"I think that a big reason and an obvious reason was that he wasn't the guy on the field when they won the Super Bowl," Zangaro said in reference to the polarization surrounding Wentz. “I always feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for that season. They were really good. I mean he got them off to a great start, they won the division in the game he got hurt. He was the MVP after 13 weeks of the season, in my opinion.”

But Foles is who was on the field when the confetti came down, and he's why Wentz's season was overshadowed and why the quarterback still deals with skepticism. Despite no longer being in Philadelphia - or Jacksonville for that matter - Foles' contributions during that magical run left many wondering if he should be the future under center.

“It’s funny because Nick Foles has been gone now for a whole year and there’s still this shadow over Carson Wentz. In one playoff run Nick Foles became a folk hero in Philadelphia," Zangaro said. "There was a lot of people who thought the organization, at that moment, should have made a split and gone with Nick Foles instead of Carson Wentz.”

That isn't what the Eagles ended up doing, and they have made it clear that Wentz is their guy. However, that hasn't stopped the dissection of every pass he makes. Some believe in Wentz, others don't. That is a mirror of what went on with Kirk Cousins for a few years in Washington.

The two are not the same quarterback, and as Zangaro puts it, Wentz does have the larger skillset and higher ceiling. It's been proven by their best moments on the field. Yet, that hasn't stopped them from landing in similar situations.

“It’s funny that we’re comparing Carson Wentz to Kirk Cousins because, no disrespect to Kirk Cousins who’s been an okay quarterback, but talent-wise Carson Wentz is an elatedly talented quarterback," Zangaro said. "He was a guy who came damn near close to winning the MVP.”

“The fact that we’re even including those guys in the same conversation is crazy to me. But it’s a fair comparison for sure.” 

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Drafting Jalen Hurts was a 'stupid pick' by the Eagles, Philly beat reporter Dave Zangaro says

Drafting Jalen Hurts was a 'stupid pick' by the Eagles, Philly beat reporter Dave Zangaro says

One of the most surprising moves of the 2020 NFL Draft was when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick.

Where Hurts was selected -- the middle of the second round -- was not shocking, as the passer was expected to come off the board around that time. Rather, it was the fact that Philly was the team to draft Hurts, especially with Carson Wentz just 27 years old and under contract for five more seasons.

In a recent interview with the Redskins Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro expressed his opinion on the Eagles' selection, and it wasn't a fond one.

"The Jalen Hurts thing was strange," he said. "To get my opinion out there, I think it was a stupid pick."

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The thinking behind the selection is simple: the Eagles wanted an upgrade at backup quarterback. Whether it's fair or not, Wentz has developed the reputation of being an injury-prone player, even though he's missed just eight regular-season games over his four-year career.

Wentz played all 16 games for the Eagles in 2019, just the second time he's played a full season. During Philadelphia's Wild Card matchup with the Seahawks, Wentz was forced to leave early with a concussion and would not return. Additionally, both his 2017 and 2018 seasons ended with trips to the Injured Reserve list, too.

Despite the Eagles' injury concerns with Wentz, using a mid-second round pick on a player that in the best-case scenario likely won't even see the field didn't make sense to Zangaro.

"They had the chance with the 53rd pick in the draft to go out and get a guy to help them win a Super Bowl, which is what they should be trying to do right now with a 27-year-old franchise quarterback," he said. "Instead, they went with an insurance policy.

"I understand the idea of wanting insurance," Zangaro continued. "But there was a very poignant question asked to [Eagles GM] Howie Roseman after the pick, and it was 'What's the best-case scenario with Jalen Hurts?' If you ever need him to play, it's because your franchise quarterback got hurt."

Roseman's response was that the Eagles plan to build a "quarterback factory," and if Hurts becomes a solid prospect, the Eagles could eventually flip him in a trade.

To Zangaro, that thinking doesn't add up. If the Eagles wanted to trade current backup QB Nate Sudfeld, they'd get a late-round pick in return at best. Philly's fifth-round pick from a year ago, Clayton Thorson, didn't even make the roster last season.

Also, if the Eagles were to trade Hurts in the future, it's worth wondering if the value in return for the passer would even come close to the value of the second-round pick they used to draft the quarterback in the first place.

"Say Hurts becomes a good prospect and they have an asset they want to trade, were they ever going to get more than the 53rd pick for him?" Zangaro asked. "No way."

Drafting Hurts shows the organization doesn't believe that their current franchise quarterback can stay healthy, according to Zangaro. Sure, that thinking may be fair, but Zangaro believes if that's the rationale behind the selection, they should come out and say it, rather than making other excuses for the pick.

"They tried to explain it, and they're putting a lot of stock into that position," he said. "That's their go-to line. But to me, it kind of shows a lack of confidence that their quarterback can stay healthy. Which is fair, but come out and say it."

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