Saturday, December 26, 2015

Win or Lose Saturday Night, The Future is Bright in Ashburn #RedskinsTalk

By. Mike Baxter

A loss on Saturday night in the city of Brotherly Love will certainly take on the affect of a direct punch to the gut. And although the Redskins' season and playoff hopes wouldn't be officially over, the Redskins would no longer control their own destiny, would no longer have the option to rest starters against Dallas AND would have to beat Dallas in Dallas, and Redskins Nation would become huge New York Giants fans in Week 17.

And its not a far cry to envision the Redskins losing Saturday night. For starters, they're 3 point dogs according to Vegas. Not to mention, they're on the road versus a team who got absolutely humiliated last week (on National TV, no less), and they'll be trying to beat a team that they've already beat once this season, which by NFL standards, is not the easiest thing to do.

So if they do lose Saturday, and eventually miss the playoffs by either losing to Dallas and/or by Philly then beating the G-Men in Week 17, Redskins Nation is going to be devastated. But from those emotional ashes, which will be spewed all over the DMV and on sports talk radio and Twitter feeds, you'll need to pull out some perspective. Because your Washington Redskins made some huge strides in the 2015 campaign, and the future- to include next season- is looking brighter than it has in decades.

(1) So if they do happen to lose Saturday night and let's say they do go down to Dallas and beat a Kellen Moore led Dallas Cowboys team, that will bring their record to a respectable 8-8, and certainly trending much higher after a dreadful 4-12 campaign in 2014. That alone is a call for a mini-celebration.

(2) Regardless of how it's played out since the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins seem to have found their Quarterback in Kirk Cousins. Over the last month or so of the season, he's played like a Top 10 NFL Quarterback, and most of the important QB statistics will reflect as much. He's progressively gotten better with running Jay Gruden (more on him in a minute) and Sean McVay's offense, and the players around him seem to be feeding off of it. The Redskins next step with Cousins will be negotiating a contract extension, or slapping the franchise tag on him. And although the Redskins are trending up, they still have some holes to fill on both sides of the ball. And in light of both a weak 2016 college QB draft class and very limited options in Free Agency, using either option to ensure Cousins is in Ashburn next season, is a must at this point.

(3) Jay Gruden seems to be finding his groove. And although Jon's brother had a rough rookie campaign, and some of his second half adjustments have left little to be desired, there are some things he should be recognized for. For one, regardless of how much of it was his input and how much of it was Scot McCloughan's, the right guy has been under center all season. "It's Kirk's team."  Secondly, Gruden is- on the surface- a lot looser than stone faced Mike Shanahan ever was. From someone who is not at Redskins Park everyday, I just get the sense that his personality keeps the players more loose, which has translated into a more positive approach and winning ball games. Lastly, who wants to go thru a divorce every two or three years? Nobody, unless your name is Liz Taylor or Larry King. Something can be said for some stability at the head coaching position, and Jay Gruden has certainly earned a third year.

Franchise Savior?
(4) More Scot McCloughan and less Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen. The circus certainly seemed to have left town with Mr. McCloughan's arrival. There essentially has been zero in-season drama, and we haven't heard a peep from Dan Snyder or Bruce Allen all season. Also, McCloughan's first draft class has been better than average. Brandon Scherff, Matt Jones, Jamison Crowder, and Preston Smith have all either started and/or have contributed significantly in their rookie campaigns. Not to mention some of McCloughan's FA pick ups who've contributed, i.e. Will Blackmon and Mason Foster.  And although McCloughan came to town with some personal baggage, he's seemed to have brought a calm to a franchise that's been in an absolute S-storm for the good part of two decades.

(5) Kicking and special teams. Although Kicker Dustin Hopkins had a pretty big miss against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, his overall record and his ability to consistently kick off out of the opposing team's end zone is a real asset. He's made 22 of 25 FG attempts, with two of those misses being north of 50 yards, and he's only one of seven kickers who has been perfect (32/32) in extra point attempts. His kick offs have the Redskins with the 3rd lowest returned yards against average (18.6). Punter Tress Way and the punt team do have room for improvement, statistically average or below average in most categories. But short of one big blemish all the way back in Week 1, they've been adequate, especially for a franchise who it seems hasn't had an adequate kicking game in decades.

(6) Jordan Reed joins DeSean Jackson as the first Redskins' offensive threats in years, who create legitimate match up problems for opposing defenses from week to week. Although both players were hampered with injuries early on, they've become monsters over the second half of the season. If Jordan Reed can work on his blocking and eliminate some of the penalties, he will become the best Tight End in the league, overtaking Gronk. And as far as DeSean Jackson goes, I've been in his corner for two seasons now. As far as I'm concerned, he's been an angel in light of the horror stories we heard from those fine folks up in Philly. And athletically, he joins Bryce Harper as the only legitimate home run hitter in DC. If the Redskins don't resign him, I think they're absolutely crazy.

(7) The Redskins should enter the off season with "substantial salary cap space", according to CSN's Rich Tandler. This will give McCloughan more money to work with, bringing in (hopefully) more productive talent like Blackmon and Foster to fill some much needed holes.

(8) The NFC East could see quite the turnover in coaches. In fact, Jay Gruden might be the only NFC East coach who survives the off season coaching carousel. There have been whispers in all of the other 3 teams' camps, that their respective head coach could be unemployed after this season. Not to mention the uncertainty of the Quarterback situation in Philadelphia, a sometimes inconsistent Quarterback in East Rutherford, and an oft injured Quarterback in Dallas. In fact, don't look now Cowboy fan, but Tony Romo will be on the wrong side of 35 by next summer, he's essentially a china doll at this point in his career, and the dude probably has $50m in the bank. Or in other words, he's a short timer. So this division could be ripe for the picking over the next few years.

Bottom-line, don't kill yourself if the Redskins lose Saturday night and eventually miss the playoffs. Going into this very same week just a year ago- against Philly, no less- the Redskins were 3-11 and going nowhere fast. And now, as they say in Vegas, the Redskins are a team on the come.There are a lot of important parts in place, both on and off the field. Maintain course, maintain patience, and good things will come for the Burgundy and Gold and their fans.















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