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Need to Know: Did Kirk Cousins over prepare for the Redskins' 2016 season?

Need to Know: Did Kirk Cousins over prepare for the Redskins' 2016 season?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 16, 41 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 29
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 55
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 86

Did Cousins over prepare for 2016?

Kirk Cousins was not as good down the stretch in 2016 as he was in 2015. The numbers don’t lie:

The difference is stark. Last year he broke most of the team’s major single-season passing records and it felt like he accomplished a lot. This year, he broke his own records but given the way he finished it feels more like he compiled empty stats.

The Redskins’ record doesn’t lie, either. They went 4-1 in their last five games on their way to the division title in 2015. Last year they stumbled, going 2-3 and missing out on the playoffs.

Perhaps we now know why Cousins seemed to hit the wall after playing very well for the first 11 games. This is what he said when asked what his focus would be during the six-week break between the end of minicamp and the July 27 start of training camp.

“My focus is to rest and recover and get my mind in a place where come Week 11, 12, 13, I’m fully energized and ready to go,” he said. “I think that’s key. I do believe that last year I remember watching film for the Steelers Week 1 and it hit me that we hadn’t played a game yet, technically. I felt like I had been going a million miles an hour since the previous end of the playoff game against the Packers. I was almost worn out, if you will, before the season started, because I had pushed so hard to be top of my game in OTA one, and training camp practice one, and preseason game one.”

It would be logical to infer that Cousins didn’t believe that he was “fully energized and ready to go” when December rolled around last year. In his first offseason where he was the starter from the very beginning of the cycle, he went at it too hard.

“I think I was treating every day like it was Monday Night Football against the Steelers,” he said. “I think if you do that 365 days a year, there’s a thing called burnout. OK, you might get it year six, you might get it year 10, but eventually, you’re going to burn out. I just realized , OK… It was like Wednesday before the Steelers game, I said literally everything I have done to this point, which I felt like was a lot, means nothing. It has no value of any kind. You know, when the season is over, I will not be measured on any of it. And, so, that hit me like, ‘Now it counts, now I’ve got to be ready, and I’m pretty exhausted.’ So, that’s all I was trying to get at.”

To remedy this, Cousins has decided to take some time off to refresh himself mentally.

“You know, just enjoying the summer, taking time to get away, spending time with family is all positive things,” he said. “Even right now, just spending time, you know, playing golf, enjoying the time off rather than going over the plays 80 times.”

We don’t see what Cousins does when he is not at Redskins Park but there was some tangible evidence of his more relaxed approach during the OTAs and minicamp that were open to the media. Last year he tended to celebrate touchdown passes and even some third-down completions as though they had taken place in the Super Bowl. This year, he let his teammates know he appreciated their efforts in a more subtle manner.

This does not mean that Cousins will completely get away from football for six weeks. He’s looking for some middle ground.

“It’s a balance. Life, you know, in the middle lies virtue,” he said. “It’s never prepare, prepare, prepare like crazy with no rest and it’s never, ‘Hey, I don’t need to prepare. I can just show up.’ Somewhere is I think the healthy medium and that is what I am always trying to find.”

We will start to find out how well his approach works starting in September. But the proof will come in December when the Redskins will need Cousins to help them win down the stretch to stay relevant in the playoff race.

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

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

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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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

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USA Today Sports

RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

Too much attention gets paid to roster construction during training camp. Projecting the 53-man roster has become its own August cottage industry, much like Bracketology flourishes in March.

The truth of the matter is regardless of projections, more than anything else, injuries dictate what players ultimately land on the Week 1 roster. 

Right now, that is apparent with the Redskins' running back position. Derrius Guice headlined the group after Washington grabbed him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. After injuring his knee in the first preseason game, however, Guice won't play in 2018. 

That means the other five guys battling for a spot now move up in the pecking order. Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson will make the team, even though Thompson is yet to play in the preseason and is still battling back from a broken leg last November. 

Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, and Kapri Bibbs played with the 'Skins last season and were locked in a tense battle for spots. Then, Perine and Marshall got hurt Thursday night. Perine is expected to miss a week, while Marshall could miss up to four weeks. 

Can both Perine and Marshall still make the Redskins 53-man roster? 

Of course. 

Is that a certainty? Definitely not. 

Bibbs gets a major opportunity now, and he has looked good so far in camp and preseason games. Additionally, for Bibbs, it often gets lost that he actually played well in Washington last season. In three games he had more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

If Marshall truly needs a month to get his lower leg injury settled, that won't be until after the deadline to trim rosters. The Redskins could move him to the injured reserve list before then, but that would mean Marshall would not be eligible to play for the Burgundy and Gold until Week 7. Also, the team only gets two moves off of IR for the season. Would they want to use one on their fourth running back?

Perine's injury situation seems less severe, and barring a setback or further injury, he will be on the roster. 

That means Thompson, Kelley, Perine, and Bibbs. Maybe Marshall too, but that will be determined by his rehab schedule. 

Martez Carter made impressive runs against the Jets, and while it seems easy to dismiss his roster candidacy, remember Rob Kelley was an undrafted free agent out of a small Louisiana school just a few years ago.

Complicating matters is the reality that Washington's front office is absolutely going to be watching what other NFL teams do at roster cut time. Other running backs could emerge, especially from teams like Detroit that already have a crowded running back room and added more players via the draft. 

Coaches like to say competition on the field is what makes roster decisions. And yes, that's a big part of it. The violent nature of the NFL, the ultimate Next Man Up league, plays a huge factor as well. 

Trimming a roster because of injuries doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. It sure looks like Washington screwed up last year by cutting QB Nate Sudfeld, even though the team felt compelled to keep extra offensive linemen. 

It might be trite, but the NFL is a long, grueling season. The Redskins know that. The team lost more players to injury than any other NFL squad last season. 

So when looking at 53-man roster projections, know there are two more preseason games left, and sad but likely, more injuries to come. 

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