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Need to Know: Do the Redskins need a big day from Cousins to win?

Need to Know: Do the Redskins need a big day from Cousins to win?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 6, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 14; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 19; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 26

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion)
Postgame injury report

Last look at Redskins vs. Cardinals

Turning point: I have feeling that Sunday was a pivotal point in the season. When it’s all over the Cardinals game will either be looked at as the beginning of the end of their playoff run or as the low point that preceded a streak that got them into the playoffs.

A one-man show? One question raised on Sunday is whether the Redskins can win without a stellar performance from Kirk Cousins. His completion percentage of 56.8 on Sunday was his worst in any game this season. He made some nice passes but all in all he was not the guy who has carried the team for the past six weeks. If they are going to make the playoffs and perhaps do something when they get there the defense and running game are going to need to pitch in.

Pass happy play calling: The Redskins’ first four plays were passes. Then Rob Kelley went up the middle for 13 yards. The next five plays were passes. It was foreshadowing; during a game they never trailed by more than one score the Redskins called 39 passes and 17 runs. Kelley got 63 yards of 14 carries and Chris Thompson got 24 yards on two. Doing the math, the running backs averaged 5.4 yards per carry. I’m not one to nitpick the play calling but perhaps a few more handoffs would have helped move the ball more effectively.

Snap count spot check: Vernon Davis played every offensive snap but one. On defense, Duke Ihenacho played 64 snaps, his second-highest total of the season. They were in nickel a lot—Kendall Fuller played 55 snaps—but Su’a Cravens played only 37 snaps, about half.

Potpourri: If Dustin Hopkins was in a slump it looks like he’s out of it after booming a 53-yard field goal and pounding all six of his kickoffs for touchbacks . . . Although Davis did catch five passes for 47 yards with Jordan Reed out, he is missed as a second option when Reed can’t play . . . With Tyrann Mathieu, who usually covers the slot receiver, out Cousins tried to go to Jamison Crowder but he caught just three of the eight passes targeted to him . . . Like many games, we could stop all analysis of this game after seeing that the Redskins turned the ball over twice and didn’t manage to take it away.  

In case you missed it

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Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Where you see a lack of proven threats at wide receiver for the Redskins, Santana Moss actually sees an opportunity for the team to really surprise at that position.

During an appearance on 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes vs. The World this week, the Burgundy and Gold legend explained that he thinks Washington's free agency approach means they're far more confident in their wideouts than anyone else is.

"They have something going on, something brewing with some of those receivers, that they're gonna do something a little differently," Moss said. "I don't know. I'm just saying that's what I'm thinking, because I see how people play chess sometimes."

Moss should know when the Redskins are up to something, considering his past. 

In 2012, Mike Shanahan and the franchise gave no real indication that they'd be running a read-option and pistol-based offense during training camp and the preseason. Then, Week 1 came around and Robert Griffin III lit up the Saints and many other opponents after that with a scheme that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Moss was a part of that roster, meaning he has a true grasp of what it's like to be among a group that has "something brewing." And he's getting those same vibes when it comes to the 2020 Redskins. 

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"I'm just looking forward to whatever they might do," he said.

Rivera and Scott Turner certainly have a lot of options to choose from. Terry McLaurin should be the star again, but after him, there's the intriguing Steven Sims, the physical Kelvin Harmon, the raw yet well-regarded Antonio Gandy-Golden (whom Moss especially likes) and then the versatile Antonio Gibson, who could get involved in many ways.

In fact, Moss believes that crew is talented enough to make up for what's maybe the weakest spot on the entire depth chart.

"I think they have something planned for the guys that they have that's going to allow them to not have to lean so much on a tight end," he told 106.7 The Fan.

Would this entire situation be better if the organization was able to land Amari Cooper? Duhhhhhhhhhh. Everything at receiver would be more definite considering how successful Cooper's been as a pro, instead of all the potential-based discussions that are happening with the current collection of pass catchers.

Cooper remains a Cowboy, though, and the Redskins will proceed with their young corps. In Moss' mind, that's completely fine. In a few months, everyone else will get to find out whether it really is.

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Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

The Redskins drafted Chase Young with the second overall pick and reality dictates that the rookie will take snaps away from veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan.

That could actually be good news for Kerrigan.

For the first nine years of his NFL career, Kerrigan never missed a game. That’s incredible. In 2019, his streak of 139 straight starts ended as a concussion and a heel injury forced him to miss four games.

Expected back fully healthy this fall, the question now becomes what will Kerrigan’s role be in a crowded group of pass rushers that includes Young as well as 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat.

"You're fired up for having all of these guys, but then they can't all go on the field at the same time," Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said about his glut of pass rushers. "So that is part of it, like being able to deal with that aspect of it, having guys understand, 'Hey, you're not going to play all the time.' Or, 'You're not the starter.' Those are things to me, that always get settled best with competition and once guys earn what they've earned I think everybody in the room pretty much understands that."

Here’s the thing - even at 31 Kerrigan keeps himself in elite physical shape. He’s two years removed from a 13-sack season and in three of the previous four seasons he registered at least 11 sacks.

Even though he logged just 5.5 sacks last year, the four-time Pro Bowler can still play, and in the new defensive scheme Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera intend to deploy, Kerrigan can play to his strengths too.

"We're going to ask our guys to be more penetrating and disruptive," Del Rio said. 

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For the first time in his career Kerrigan likely won’t be the focal point of the Redskins defensive front. In fact, with Young, Sweat, Ryan Anderson and a gang of talent rushing from the interior like Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, Kerrigan might be a bit of an afterthought.

That’s a great place for him to be.

Focused just on rushing the passer and without being asked to chase running backs and tight ends downfield in pass coverage, Kerrigan can play to his strengths. And strength is his strength.

"The other part about coaching is kind of keep guys out of positions that they're not good at," Del Rio said. "Accentuate the positives and try and keep your guys out of situations that they are not good in and put them in more of the situations that they are good at."

If offensive tackles are constantly dealing with the speed and athleticism of Sweat and Young, then Kerrigan comes in for clear passing situations with his patented bull rush and rip move, the results could be formidable.

Of course 2020 has also become a contract year for Kerrigan. The previous regime might have already worked toward an extension, but Rivera has been clear since his arrival in January that things will be run differently.

It’s possible with consecutive first-round picks spent on pass rushers that Rivera does not consider Kerrigan part of his long-term rebuild. The opposite is also possible, that Rivera will want Kerrigan around for the long haul as a third-down pass rusher and veteran leader for the team. Kerrigan doesn’t say much but he works extremely hard on the practice field and in the weight room. That has a lot of value.

Questions for 2021 aren’t important yet. Kerrigan can go out and prove Washington needs him next year with solid play this year.

There will be fewer snaps, that’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be production.

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