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The Tuesday Take: Lucky or Good?

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The Tuesday Take: Lucky or Good?

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It has been widely said that the Redskins were lucky to beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, that they won on a fluke that wouldn’t happen again in a million years. That fluke, they say, came after a series of other breaks that went the Redskins’ way. While the Redskins did have some good fortune in the course of the sixty minutes plus one snap of play, it’s not like they were all playing with four-leaf clovers in their shoes. A look at some of the plays and situations that were considered to be the equivalent of blind hogs finding acorns:

  • The safety and Parcells’ failure to challenge it—It’s pretty apparent that Julius Jones was able to get the ball out of the end zone before he was down and the officials erred in calling it a safety. Parcells kept the red flag in his pocket. Good break for the Redskins, right? Maybe, maybe not. If the play is called correctly or if Parcells had successfully challenged, it would have been second and ten at the one-foot line. We don’t know what would have happened after that. I don’t have the Elias bureau’s numbers at my disposal, but I’m confident is saying that in that down, distance and field position situation that the team that is on defense will score more than two points more often than not due to the field position that will result after either a turnover or a punt from the end zone. The two points may have been a gift but it was one that came with an opportunity cost of the probability of even more points. On top of all that, we don’t know how the rest of the game would have unfolded had the play been called correctly.
  • Parcells’ strategic error in going for two after Dallas’ first touchdown—This wasn’t a case of Parcells getting brain lock and making a mistake. He stated after the game and again on Monday that he goes by the chart from the beginning of the game to the end and the chart said if a TD puts you up by one, go for two. What’s lucky about that? In addition, the Redskins had to make a play to stop the conversion from being successful. That’s not an east feat against a team with a mobile quarterback, a talented running back, a Pro Bowl tight end and a big possession receiver. If they don’t, it’s 8-5 and Parcells is a brilliant tactician. And, again, we don’t know how that one point or those two points would have affected the dynamic of the rest of the game. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks that Joe Gibbs would have been panned as a doddering old fool who has lost it if he had been the one who failed to challenge the safety and made the iffy decision to go for two so early in the game?)
  • Terrell Owens’ drop—True, the Redskins were nothing but spectators as Tony Romo’s pass dropped into Owens’ outstretched hands when a completion would likely would have given Dallas a two-touchdown lead. That was a break, but it also was a case of luck evening out. With the score 5-0 the Redskins had the ball at their own 34. Mark Brunell went over the middle to Chris Cooley some 15 yards downfield. The tight end was wide open and had built up a full head of steam. He wasn’t headed for a sure score as was Owens, but the play would have gone deep into Dallas territory. Cooley juggled and then dropped the ball. If the Redskins go on to score a touchdown there it’s 12-0 and Dallas faces a much tougher road. This just in—receivers drop passes. It’s part of the game.
  • The final facemask penalty—Prior to the 15 yards being marked off, the Redskins first had to block Mike Vanderjagt’s kick cleanly and then they had to recover the ball. No luck there, just veteran Troy Vincent using his 15 yards of experience to make a play. Sean Taylor had to have the aggressive mentality to try to make something out of it, running away from the goal line to try to set up a good return. Meanwhile Kyle Kosier, who a second or two before had expected to be walking off the field celebrating at that moment, was in a desperate fight to get Taylor down. He grabbed and turned Taylor’s facemask in the process. I’m not listening to any of this garbage that says that it should have been just a five-yard, incidental variety of penalty. Here’s the picture that was run here yesterday:

    When you see both the jersey number and the helmet emblem of the ball carrier facing right at you, it’s a personal foul and 15 yards every single time. Even after that, Taylor still had to pick up some nice blocking by guys who just seconds earlier were expecting to be walking off the field stunned after a close loss. But Kedric Golston, Andre Carter and Marcus Washington, among others, made their blocks and Taylor was able to get just far enough to make the penalty matter. Instead of getting a shot in overtime, the Redskins get another opportunity to let their inexperienced kicker boot the longest field goal of his career to win it.

Don’t get me wrong here. It would not have been an injustice had the Redskins lost. They played the Cowboys even for 60 minutes and made one more play when the absolutely had to than did Dallas. But to say that the Redskins were lucky even to be in the game and luckier still to win it is not giving the Redskins enough credit.

In the hunt

Don’t look now, but if the Redskins are close to being in the thick of the playoff hunt. Actually, they are on the fringes of it right now at 3-5. They are a game out of being tied for the second Wild Card spot and they play most of the teams that are directly in front of them at 4-4. They get the Eagles home and away, Carolina at home and St. Louis on the road. They also host the Falcons, who are two games up on them at 5-3.

At this point, the Redskins have to be considered pretenders rather than contenders. They haven’t shown that they can put a string of good performances together. But if they can go into Philadelphia and beat an Eagle team coming off of their bye, they will have to get some consideration.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

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 rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

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

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Various sources

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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