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Instant analysis: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

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Instant analysis: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

If there was any doubt about Robert Griffin III’s health, the Redskins’ rookie put those concerns to rest Sunday at FedEx Field.

Griffin, who suffered a concussion last week, returned to the lineup and engineered a 38-26 victory over the Vikings that snapped Washington’s NFL worst eight-game losing streak in Landover, a drought that stretched back more 13 months.

The quarterback also recorded the top highlight of his young career late in the fourth quarter of a game that had suddenly drawn close. With the Redskins’ 19-point second half lead whittled to 31-26, Griffin took a quarterback draw 76 yards for touchdown, his second of the day. The scintillating score not only brought fans out of their seats, it put the game out of the visitors’ reach.
 
More important than the electrifying run, though, Griffin appears to have returned to the Redskins’ lineup a more mature player.

Griffin elicited smart-alecky cheers in the first quarter when he scooted out of bounds on a scramble. Seven days ago, he might have attempted to turn up the field and, perhaps, left himself open to the type of big hit that knocked him from last week’s loss to the Falcons.

In the second quarter, Griffin tossed the ball away as he scrambled toward the sideline. He took a shot from Minnesota linebacker Erin Henderson anyway, then complained to a nearby official. A second later, the official threw a flag.

Lesson learned? Time will tell, but Griffin certainly exhibited a new wrinkle in his game: concern for his own well being without appearing overly cautious.

Griffin finished the game 17 of 22 for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a career-high 139 yards and a pair of scores. The two rushing touchdowns were his fifth and sixth, which gives him the most in a single season by Redskins’ quarterback – just six games into the campaign.

Early on, it appeared that they might be in for a long afternoon after yielding Vikings’ field goals on the visitors’ first three possessions of the game.

But they closed the first half on 17-0 run thanks to Griffin and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who recovered a Christian Ponder fumble at the Minnesota 6-yard line with 2:14 left in the second quarter. One play later, Griffin connected with fullback Darrel Young for a touchdown.
 
Griffin stretched the lead to 24-9 on the first drive of the third quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run. Then, early in the fourth quarter, safety Madieu Williams returned an interception 24 yards for a score that put the Redskins ahead 31-12. Williams’ touchdown was the fourth of the season for the Redskins, the unit’s most since 1999. The team also has 49 points on turnovers through six games – six more points than they accumulated all last season.

The Redskins’ new kicker, Kai Forbath, also got off to a promising start, booting a 50-yard field goal. It was the first of the 25-year-old’s career.

The victory was the Redskins’ first at FedEx Field since a 22-21 victory over the Cardinals on Sept. 18, 2011.

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Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins dead cap situation

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USA TODAY Sports

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins dead cap situation

Cut bait. Sunk cost. Under water. 

Whatever the term might be, all industries deploy a certain phrase for wasted money. In the NFL, that term is dead cap, or the salary cap space a team must allocate for a particular player that has been cut or traded. 

In the specific case of the Redskins, the team carries more than $5.2 millon in dead cap space. Where did it come from? Who's to blame? Let's take a look.

Terrell McClain ($3.75M) - The Redskins signed McClain away from the Cowboys early in the 2017 free agency period. The move wasn't quite a disaster, but it wasn't very good. Washington gave McClain a four-year deal worth $21 million, and paid out nearly $7.5 million for the 2017 season. McClain never played well for the Redskins, started just two games and this offseason he agreed to give up a significant chunk of guaranteed money. Without that move from McClain, this cap hit would have been much worse. 

Su'a Cravens ($711k) - The money isn't as big of a loss as the talent. The Redskins selected Cravens in the second round of the 2016 Draft and he showed promise as a rookie while also dealing with injuries. In 2017, however, things fell apart as Cravens dealt with a training camp injury, discussed retiring from football and eventually found himself on the reserved/left squad list for the season. Prior to the 2018 Draft, the Redskins worked a deal to send Cravens to Denver for an additional fifth round pick as well as swapping picks. 

Kendall Fuller ($360k) - A promising young cornerback, the Redskins traded Fuller to Kansas City this offseason as part of a package to acquire QB Alex Smith. Losing Fullers stings — even head coach Jay Gruden admitted that — but Washington had to find a quarterback after the long-discussed Kirk Cousins saga veered toward, and eventually ended in, separation. 

Matt Jones ($150k) - One of the worst Redskins draft picks in the last five years, Washington reached for Jones in the third-round in 2015. As a rookie, Jones looked like a solid contributor, but in the 2016 season he developed a bad fumbling habit and found his way to the bench. From there, things got worse, as Jones ended the season on the inactive list after a squabble about playing special teams. In 2017, Jones was cut. He signed with the Colts, where he played in just five games and was cut earlier this year. This offseason, Jones signed with the Eagles.

Arie Kouandjio ($130K) - This is a weird one. Kouandjio was selected by the Redskins in 2015, and cut by the team in 2017. The dead money comes from that rookie deal. When Washington brought Kouandjio back late in the 2017 season off the Ravens' practice squad, the dead money from the rookie deal remained. Now, Kouandjio is injured and a candidate to start the 2018 season on the PUP list or maybe even the IR. 

Robert Davis ($103k) - Drafted as a sixth-rounder in 2017, Davis did not make the team leaving training camp. Even though he got signed to the practice squad, the dead money tolls from the rookie deal. 

Nate Sudfeld ($69k) - A late-round developmental prospect from the 2016 draft, Sudfeld made the team as a rookie but couldn't survive cuts in 2017. Quickly signed by the Eagles, Sudfeld ended up as the backup quarterback in Philadelphia's improbable Super Bowl run earlier this year. Dead money on the Redskins cap, but a Super Bowl ring in Philly. Strange. 

Tyler Catalina and Kevin Bowen account for about $12,000 in dead cap space as well. 

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Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 8 and 14 vs. Giants

Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 8 and 14 vs. Giants

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the two games against the Giants. 

Week 8 October 28, MetLife Stadium

Week 14 December 9, FedEx Field

2017 Giants: 3-13, fourth in NFC East 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 6.5

Early line: Week 8 Redskins +3.5, Week 14 Redskins -1.5

Key additions: RB Saquon Barkley, LT Nate Solder, RB Jonathan Stewart, LB Alec Ogletree

Key losses: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, G Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg

Notable: Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. returns after missing 12 games with a fractured ankle last year.

Biggest questions: 

  • Will Eli Manning reward the organization for bypassing the quarterback position with the No. 2 pick in the draft? Or will he continue his downhill slide?
  • Will Barkley have sufficient impact to justify his status as the No. 2 overall pick?
  • The last three years, the Giants defense has gone from being ranked 31stto 10thand back to 31st. Where is their true level?

Series history

Giants lead all-time series 92-65-3; after the Giants won five in a row from 2013-2015 the Redskins have taken three of the last five. 

Series notables

The first time: September 16, 1937, Griffith Stadium—This was the beginning of two eras: The Redskins first game in Washington and the start of Sammy Baugh’s NFL career. The game, however, belonged to Riley Smith as the Washington back scored all of his team’s points with a pair of field goals, his dazzling, 60-yard interception return in the fourth quarter and the extra point following that game-clinching touchdown in the home team’s 13-3 win. 

The last time: December 31, 2017, Met Life Stadium—It was 16 degrees at kickoff, the Redskins had only four offensive players from their Week 1 starters in the lineup and all the Redskins had to play for was a non-losing season. These were just some of the reasons for Washington to be disinterested and it seems like they dragged down the Redskins. The apathy increased when a guy named Orleans Darkwa bolted 75 yards for a touchdown just 1:17 into the game. The Redskins never competed in the 18-10 loss.

The best time: November 27, 1966, D.C. Stadium—The Redskins scored on offense, on defense, on special teams, on the ground, and through the air in racking up the highest single-game scoring total ever in a regular season NFL game with 72 points. In a losing effort, the Giants scored 41, making the combined total of 113 points, another league record. 

Backup running back A. D. Whitfield had a career day, scoring three touchdowns, one on a five-yard pass from Sonny Jurgensen, the other two on runs of one and 63 yards. All of those points came in the first half as the Redskins went into intermission with a 34-14 lead.

Charley Taylor jumped into the scoring extravaganza with a pair of third-quarter TD receptions from Jurgensen, one of 34 yards, the other covering 72. Brig Owens was the point scorer on the defensive side things, getting touchdowns on returns of a fumble and an interception.

In all, they scored a touchdown almost every way you can: four running, three passing and one each on a punt, fumble, and interception return. They also got nine extra points and a field goal. 

More than 12,000 NFL games have been played since this one and, despite rule changes designed to favor the offense and increase scoring, both the Redskins’ 72 points and the combined 113 still stand as NFL records. Only once has a team put up as many as 70 points and the combined score has the next-highest total beaten by a touchdown.

The worst time: January 1, 2017, FedEx Field—The Redskins have had many costly losses to the Giants over the years but the sting from this one is still fresh. The home team would get a wild-card playoff spot with a win while New York, with its playoff seeding clinched, had nothing to play for. But it was the Redskins who had nothing. They were able to fight back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to tie it up in the fourth quarter. But after a Giants field goal, Kirk Cousins threw an unforgivable interception that sealed New York’s 19-10 win and the Redskins went home. 

Redskins schedule series

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.