The Redskins’ third preseason game is in the books, and it’s the last time we’ll see the starters and many key backups until the Sept. 10 regular season opener.
Thursday’s preseason finale at Tampa will serve as one final audition for roster hopefuls. Then team officials must cut the roster from 90 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday, and then settle on the 10 practice squad candidates.
In the meantime, we’ll try to address the most pressing questions still surrounding this team as they enter the 2017 season.
Thanks, as always, for taking part, and keep those questions coming. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next Tuesday.
But first, the best of this week’s submissions.
Then this story breaks: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions agree to historic five-year deal. This hurts Snyder’s chances to sign Cousin long term, right?
If he hasn’t been willing to offer him the $25 million (Derek Carr) to $27 million (Stafford) type of money before, why do it now? And the franchise tag for next season (if that scenario even plays out) is over $30 [million], right? I don’t see how you can get away from this story this season if you’re a Redskins fan.
What’s your take, Mike?
— Leo Campos
It’s definitely not a good situation for the Redskins, but hardly surprising. You, me, and my 10-year-old knew that the longer the Redskins drew this out, the more it would cost them. As former NFL executive Joe Banner and former agent Joel Corry explained back in February, before they even used the second franchise tag on Cousins, the Redskins botched this situation a long time ago.
They had a chance in 2016 to sign Cousins to a deal that would’ve averaged $19 million per year, while featuring $45 million in guaranteed money. But they didn’t. And former general manager Scot McCloughan even has admitted that the team “kind of messed up” by not getting the deal done then.
Then this offseason, the Redskins made a halfhearted attempt to lock up Cousins to a long-term deal, offering him just $53 million in guaranteed money (this year’s $24 million, and next year’s $29 million, which is only a million more than the transition tag figure for 2018). So Cousins had virtually no incentive to sign, because he and his agent knew that the market would increase, and now it has as Stafford has agreed to a deal that averages $27 million per year and features a record $92 million in guaranteed salary. So, Cousins wins here, and the Redskins lose, again.
But, you have to wonder if maybe they’re okay with that. If we all saw this coming, then the Redskins did as well, but they were stubborn. Team president Bruce Allen can say they want Cousins as their quarterback all he wants, but like you said, if they didn’t get it done at a more affordable rate before, they’re definitely not going to want to pay upward of $28 million to $30 million a year, which is what it will take. Perhaps Redskins officials were privately betting on Cousins regressing slightly this year so they could sign him for a little cheaper next offseason. But most likely, the team will place the transition tag on Cousins (assuming he plays well) and will let someone else set the price tag and then decide whether to match. But it’ll be pretty easy for a team to simply offer Cousins a deal that will prove too rich for Washington’s taste, and he’ll be gone.
In my view the preseason is a precursor of what to expect. With that being said I am not buying reporter and coach speak that everything is vanilla. Is player effort vanilla with risk of injury at any time? Offensively this team looks bad. I think folks, you included, will see the value Garcon and Jackson had on this team and the trust Cousins had in them will be sorely missed. … Cousins looks very tentative and unsure of himself and his new teammates in the pocket. And when will somebody state the obvious: either technique, scheme, coaching, or choosing the right players on the offensive line is a major issue and has been since Gruden’s tenure. Again, coach and reporter speak that the tight ends or receivers are not helping in the running game when the issue is the interior linemen, and for that matter Moses, are getting pushed backed into the pocket consistently.
— Steve Weaver
There ya go! Get that frustration out! Hope you feel better now. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. There are a lot of people now scratching their heads as to why things still look so disjointed. I was willing to attribute the struggles in the first week to a lack of game-planning, but as I wrote leading up to this game, that excuse would be thrown out against the Bengals, because the coaches and players approached that game like a regular season contest: with game planning and a more expanded playbook. There are indeed cohesion and execution issues with the offensive line, which I covered Sunday. And it’s not just coach speak that the tight ends have to be in sync with the line. All five linemen and the tight end have to hit their assignments, and many times, they haven’t done so at the same time. But this past Sunday, we saw improvement in this area, and that’s why Rob Kelley averaged better than five yards per carry.
I went into some of Cousins’s struggles in my postgame takeaways Sunday night, and then my follow-up observations yesterday. He is indeed out of sorts without Garcon and Jackson. The Redskins may have underestimated their worth. There will be growing pains for Terrelle Pryor Sr., Ryan Grant, and Josh Doctson. Coaches have to figure out how to best use Pryor, because they aren’t really sure right now. And they have to figure out whether Doctson can ever stay healthy. Gruden said he probably would have played if Sunday was a regular season game, but I’m not so sure the young receiver would’ve actually battled through that hamstring and groin tightness. This is going to take some time to sort out. Fortunately for the Redskins, Jordan Reed, Crowder and Vernon Davis remain. And the defense should be improved, and help ease a little pressure on this offense. But this had better be an intense next two weeks of practice, because the Redskins need to address a lot if they expect drastic improvements against the Eagles on Sept. 10.
I never get the sense, despite cross-training, that the starting five offensive linemen are really our best five. Do you feel this way and who are, assuming all are healthy, the best five?
— Trevor Walters
Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m pretty sure this starting line is indeed the best five. They might not look like it right now, but Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Bandon Scherff and Morgan Moses do rank above the rest. I personally don’t think there’s a lot of separation between Moses and Ty Nsekhe. I know Lauvao struggles at times, but the Redskins have yet to find a young player capable of overtaking him. Arie Kouanjdio and Isaiah Williams seemed to offer some promise, but they have lacked the consistency needed. Undrafted rookie Kyle Kalis seemingly has overtaken both in the quest for that eighth offensive lineman spot. Something is indeed amiss with this line, but I think Scherff — who more than anyone has not looked like himself — will round back into form, and as a whole, improvement will come. The improved execution in the run game on Sunday provided reasons for encouragement.
Outside of Jamison Crowder (who is proven/healthy), the wide receiver corps shows strong potential but their preseason also depicts a group that’s a work in progress and/or prone to injuries. For this reason, I would retain five TEs (six DL, five OLB, four ILB, six CB, five safeties, two QB, three RB, six WR, five TE, eight OL and three ST). Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Niles Paul are locks because of their solid play but as we know from last season, TE is a position that is hard to keep healthy too. Derek Carrier has played well (i.e., better than most WRs) and Jeremy Sprinkle shows strong upside as an all-around TE and could likely get picked up by another team if the Redskins tried to place him on the practice squad.
— Tim Foisie, Westport, Conn.
I don’t see any way they carry five tight ends. Four is the number. I’m thinking Reed, Davis, Paul and Sprinkle. Carrier has indeed contributed this preseason. But I think they value Sprinkle’s size and upside more. Like you, I’m not entirely convinced they need to carry three quarterbacks. But I’d use that extra player on a fourth running back, or maybe an extra cornerback.
Will the Redskins search for a new nose tackle outside of the organization? If so, who are a possibilities? If not, who will slide into Phil Taylor’s spot?
— Matt Fazekas
The Redskins will probably scour the waiver wires on Saturday, but it’s too early to say who will be available. The in-house options are Ziggy Hood, who has the most experience along the line, and A.J. Francis and Joey Mbu. Both Francis and Mbu were on the practice squad last year and have shown promise this offseason. But both have some inconsistencies as well. Both have a good opportunity to show they are capable of either challenging for this job or at least serving as a rotational guy. The Redskins also have Stacy McGee on the roster, and although he has spent most of this preseason working at defensive end, he did play nose tackle in Oakland. So, that’s another versatile option as well.
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