With tight end Jordan Reed aligned in a tight slot position to the right and running back Chris Thompson split further outside, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins pounced on a defensive move. When safety DeAngelo Hall walked up to the line of scrimmage across from Reed, Cousins called an audible.
It turned into a touchdown pass, though if there had been officials it might have been a pick play (can’t rewind practice tape to check it if you don’t have it). But once Hall crept to the line, the Redskins changed to what amounted to a screen by Thompson. That freed Reed to run to the corner and catch Cousins’ pass.
As the story said, it was an example of how quickly the offense can adjust to a move by the defense. And the story said it's not just Cousins, but the entire offense. Something to keep in mind is Cousins, Reed and Thompson are in their third year in this offense, so they quickly were able to change their assignments.
"It's his overall command of the offense," Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said.
"Kirk has done a nice job of handling it," McVay said. "You start to see him understand where the progression takes him based on that coverage and understanding situationally how aggressive I can be on certain window-type throws and how whether second or third down alters my approach and how I attack a play."
For now, the signs of growth are evident to them and Cousins himself.
"A better understanding of the nuances," Cousins said. "The basic design of plays I've always understood from Day 1. But there are so many nuances and unique situations that only experienced players and quarterbacks are able to navigate properly. So just continuing to get put in those situations and react and make quick decisions and the right ones is where I'm continuing to grow."
Cousins was the #17 QB through the first seven weeks of the season, but really started to produce after his Week 8 bye, averaging 20.9 PPG in his final nine games. That was the 4th-highest per game average during that stretch. He averaged 9.28 YPA in that span and threw at a 4318-yard, 36-TD pace. The team added Josh Doctson to an already talented receiving corps, so Cousins could offer top 10 numbers again in 2016.
The focus has been on what Josh Norman has done, or hasn't done. But the mailbag deals with the guy on the other end: receiver DeSean Jackson -- and what sort of camp he's having.
Brian Prongay @Hcane28
@john_keim Forget the negativity to Norman...is this best D Jax has looked as a skin? #Jkredskins
9:14 AM - 5 Aug 2016
John Keim: Yes, DeSean Jackson is having a good camp and part of the reason, coaches and teammates say, is because of Josh Norman’s presence. That’s what good competition does for a player, or should do. It brings out their best and the prevailing notion with the Redskins is that’s exactly what Norman has done for Jackson.
The story pointed out another reason, too - Jackson is healthy. The last two summers he’s dealt with minor injuries that took a bit longer to return from; you can take from that what you want. This is probably the longest Jackson has practiced in training camp with Washington since signing in 2014.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 7:42pm
In his first time speaking out since officially being franchise tagged on July 15, Kirk Cousins confirmed what most who followed his negotiations thought to be true: He and the Redskins weren't exactly on the same page.
"I don't think we really did," the quarterback said on 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny show Wednesday when asked if the two sides ever got close to a deal. As he talked more about his contract situation, however, he made it clear that he's harboring no hard feelings against his team despite the fact he didn't receive a new extension.
That relaxed outlook is something the 27-year-old has maintained all offseason. He pointed out that a few other players around the league were tagged as well, and thinks it's something that can easily be handled in the future.
Cousins finished as the #9 fantasy quarterback in his first full season as the starter. If the team places the franchise tag on him, he'll be Washington's starter again in 2016. If they use the transition tag, then they'll have the right to match any offer that he gets in free agency.
It’s a new experience for the entire organization. Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden has had several days to figure out his approach for Sunday’s regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, and he is planning to use his healthy players with a home playoff game on the horizon. It’s unknown at this point, however, how long some of the Redskins’ key starters will play with the team locked into the NFC’s No. 4 seed.
“I have a good feel for it, so we just have to make that determination,” Gruden said. “Number one, it’s the health of our football team with these injured guys who are legitimately injured and can’t play. Then, from there, we’ll have to figure out the able bodies that we have — personnel groupings will be adjusted — and then throughout the course of the game, we’ll make adjustments depending on the situation.”
“It’s important for us to be healthy come playoff time, but it is also to have some kind of momentum also going in,” Gruden said. “I’d like to end on a four-game winning streak, win three games in a row on the road, finish the fourth quarter [of the season] 4-0 [and] finish 9-7. I think it’s a hell of a step in the right direction. The guys that are able to play are planning on playing and competing.”
Friday, December 18, 2015, 6:32pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (knee, probable) took limited practice reps again Friday and is probable for Week 15. It looks like Jackson will play and he’s a low-end WR3 given the injury. His presence is a boost for Kirk Cousins, who tends to play a lot better at home than he does on the road.
“My fundamentals are much better [and] I feel like I’m a more polished quarterback, a more polished player, a more mature player,” he said. “That is in all phases—whether it’s fundamentals, decision making, recognition of defenses. That comes with time.”
“And that’s no surprise," he added. "I mean, if you start and play long enough in this league, you expect that to happen.”
Cousins will make the 19th start of his four-year career. But, more importantly, it’ll mark his 10th consecutive start of 2015. Prior to this season, the 27-year-old had never made more than five starts in a row. Cousins continues to improve. He's thrown one INT over his last three games after eight in his first six contests.
The Redskins’ biggest play against the Saints came on a very short pass. In the second quarter, Kirk Cousins dumped a screen pass to running back Matt Jones, who picked up blocks from his linemen and receivers, and rolled 78 yards for a touchdown that gave the Redskins a lead they never relinquished.
It was the longest pass play to a Redskins running back since Larry Brown went 89 yards with a screen pass in a game against the Jets in 1972. It seems to Redskins fans that it has been that long since a screen pass worked for the team. That may be an exaggeration but the play that is a staple of Football 101 rarely seems to work for the Redskins.
Jay Gruden would like to see that change.
“They’re important, especially if you’re playing some of these pass rush teams that like to get up the field and rush,” he said. “It slows them down a little bit. We have some linemen that are very athletic and can get out in space. Last week was really our first time we had a lot of success with those screen passes and I expect us to have more as the season goes on.”
The story pointed out it's not as easy as it might look to execute a screen pass, and last week the Saints were a much friendlier matchup compared to what the Panthers will be this week. But, it sounds like the Skins would like to make it part of their offense. They certainly have the weapons as Jones proved last week. The team also has Chris Thompson as their third RB. Jones' fantasy value could really get a boost if he becomes more involved in the passing game.
Friday, November 6, 2015, 6:19pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 9. Jackson said he’ll return for Week 9, though the questionable tag leaves us wondering. He’s been out a while, but is generally a top 20 option in standard formats when healthy. He has averaged 2.6 catches for 67 yards and 0.43 TD in seven games with Kirk Cousins under center over the past two seasons. Washington is likely to be pass-heavy in this one. The Redskins play early on Sunday.
Thursday, November 5, 2015, 6:20pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring) took limited practice reps again Thursday. Jackson said he’ll return for Week 9. He’s been out a while, but is generally a top 20 option in standard formats when healthy. He has averaged 2.6 catches for 67 yards and 0.43 TD in seven games with Kirk Cousins under center over the past two seasons. Washington is likely to be pass-heavy in this one. The Redskins play early on Sunday.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 6:02pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Jackson said he’ll return for Week 9. He’s been out a while, but is generally a top 20 option in standard formats when healthy. He has averaged 2.6 catches for 67 yards and 0.43 TD in seven games with Kirk Cousins under center over the past two seasons. Washington is likely to be pass-heavy in this one.
Monday, October 19, 2015, 12:21pm
When asked if Cousins, who threw two interceptions and averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt on 43 passes, would remain the team’s quarterback, Jay Gruden gave what seemed to be a lukewarm endorsement.
“Yeah, that’s the intent,” he said when asked.
Cousins was coming off a game where he through a pick-six to the Falcons in overtime that resulted in a loss.
To get Alfred Morris going, it will take a couple things. It starts with the blocking; there have been too many backside blocks missed, especially on the right side. And the tight ends haven’t helped consistently, either. Against the Rams they were good; against the Falcons they were not. What would help Morris, I think, is more balance on early downs with the play calling. The Redskins’ play-action game works best when he’s in the lineup: Kirk Cousins has completed 15-of-20 play-action passes when Morris is on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
By the way, that leads me to another topic for a minute. The Redskins are not using as much play-action as I anticipated (and they said). Maybe they would have done more with Robert Griffin III, but the early plan was to use more play-action. Cousins has attempted play-action passes only 16.7 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The story said the Skins are trying to save Morris, but pointed out he rarely gets run down. The team seems to like to utilize Matt Jones and Chris Thompson so it's created a three-headed backfield where none of the backs are all that safe of fantasy plays. Right now, Jones is probably the best bet because it seems like he's getting the red zone carries which have led to some TDs.
The short answers are that nobody can take DeSean Jackson’s place and the offense will have to figure out how to move the chains the same way the vast majority of the teams in the league do. Very few NFL teams have a receiver with Jackson’s sheer speed and ability to run under almost anything a quarterback throws up there.
The Redskins didn’t have one in 2013. Jackson was an Eagle that year. The Redskins relied on Pierre Garçon to move the football through the air. Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins targeted Garçon a league leading 181 times. They attempted a combined 611 passes so nearly one in every three throws was in Garçon’s direction.
And the receiver came through with 113 receptions, a total that both led the league and set a team record for catches in a single season. The Redskins did not have a top-notch offense doing things this way but they did rank ninth in total yards and the Garçon-centric passing attack kept defenses honest enough to for the team to rank fifth in rushing yards. It was a miserable 3-13 seasons but a shaky defense, awful special teams, and general team dysfunction contributed more to the mess than the offense did.
The piece went on to say there is no reason why this plan can’t work again during Jackson’s temporary absence. With Jackson missing all but a few snaps of the Dolphins game, Garçon was targeted eight times, catching six. Four catches were good for first downs and a fifth reception that should have resulted in a first down was nullified by a highly questionable offensive pass interference penalty.
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