These aren't simply five takeaways from the Washington Redskins 23-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. Rather, five aspects we already knew, but now we now a bit better.
Jay Gruden's playbook works -- Lost in all the post-Week 3 conversation about the supposed disaster that is/was Kirk Cousins is that the Redskins had many open receivers against the Giants. Most focused on the negative - poor throws - instead of noting the potential or that Cousins did make quality throws at other times. Against the Eagles, he didn't miss those opportunities. Most notably, finding Jamison Crowder among a trio of defenders for a long first down gain on 3-and-18 and of course the final pass to Pierre Garcon for the game-winning four-yard touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. There was also the well-designed and executed screen/swing pass to Chris Thompson in the first quarter. On the snap of one third down play, Washington brought Crowder from right to left behind the offensive line. The movement helped create space and Cousins fed him the ball for the needed yardage. There were several other play designs worthy of further review. Meanwhile, the injured DeSean Jackson (hamstring) could be back on the field next week. Let's see what Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay dial up with a proven deep threat.
Shawn Lauvao's injury grounded the running game -- Perhaps there is an argument that the run defenses faced in Week's 1 (Miami) and 2 (St. Louis) were overrated while the next two opponents (Giants, Eagles) were simply good. However, another point simply notes Washington's recent struggles on the ground coincided with Lauvao's season-ending ankle injury. The Redskins rushed for a whopping 342 yards in their first two games with Lauvao. In the next two without the left guard - he suffered the injury in the first quarter last week against New York - they gained 215. That included 127 against the Eagles. However, take away Thompson's 42-yard scamper on third-and-long and Washington only rushed for 85 yards on 31 attempts (2.7). The Redskins did move the ball on the ground during the final 18-play, 90-yard scoring drive. Nearly half that yardage came on five runs, four by Morris.
The receiving kids need snaps -- Andre Roberts is a viable NFL receiver, but even if you take away the drops, the veteran isn't providing the Redskin with any special dimension. That's not the case with the kids who were behind him on the depth chart with the key emphasis on were. The Redskins deactivated Roberts Sunday, which meant more work for the shifty Crowder, the precise Ryan Grant and the speedy Rashad Ross. All three had moments in the win. Speaking of three, look for Crowder -- 13 receptions over last two games -- to remain on the field even when DeSean Jackson returns. At that point, best of luck to opposing defensive backs tasked with defending the playmaking rookie in true one-on-one sets. We might end up saying best of luck to the Redskins if tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) misses time. At that point even more responsibility gets heaped on Garcon and the young receivers. Based on how they stepped up against the Eagles, let's see what happens.
The secondary cannot lose anyone else -- Go back to the projected roster entering Week 1. The Redskins are now without safety Duke Ihenacho and cornerback Justin Rogers for the season due to injuries, and CB DeAngelo Hall for another 2-3 weeks if not longer. They also waived underachieving 2013 second-round pick David Amerson. All of that put the Redskins in position to keep Chris Culliver (knee) on the field Sunday even though their top corner was clearly not close to 100 percent. Considering the backup options included a wide receiver-turned-corner (Quinton Dunbar) and an undrafted rookie (Deshazor Everett), they really didn't have much choice. Eagles QB Sam Bradford completed 62 and 39-yard TD passes over Culliver as Philadelphia went from trailing 13-0 to leading 20-16 in the fourth quarter. Next up for the Redskins, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons. Everybody better get their treatments and rest because the degree of difficult goes up a notch,
Kirk Cousins can play -- It's quite possible the Redskins go back on the road and stink up the joint as they did in the Week 3 loss against the New York Giants. If that includes Cousins, he wouldn't be the first QB who plays better at home than on the road. The reality is we still don't know if the fourth-year player enters Year 5 as the starting QB or if Washington must continue its search for a long-term solution. Some say there is no shot. Those people are rather muted the day after Cousins engineered a dramatic 18-play, 90-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes.
Garcon made a gutsy grab in traffic for the game-winning score. Not every of his 31 completions were picture perfect, though none of his 46 attempts were picked off. In his last two homes games -- both wins -- Cousins finished 54 of 73, 493 yards, two touchdown passes, one TD run and zero interceptions.
The naysayers will dismiss the stats and say prove it on the road. That's fair, but only to a point. In this societal era of no patience, everyone wants every QB great immediately and at all times. Look around the league, At most only about half the starting quarterbacks in the league are truly reliable no matter the scenario or venue. My list in no particular order: Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers. Probably Andrew Luck, maybe Andy Dalton.
We cannot count Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr and other kids just yet. Based on the trend or body of work, we cannot count on Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick and many others at all. Heartbreakers. None of this means Redskins nation should be grateful for Cousins or give him a pass if he under throws open receivers in Atlanta. It just means keep reality somewhere in your thoughts. There are 32 NFL teams and not nearly enough proven starting quarterbacks to go around, It just means note Cousins owns the tools needed for success. It just means remember Sunday's thrilling rally and note entering Monday he ranks top 10 in passing yards and completion percentage. It just means the only QB on the roster who could make that game-winning throw was the one who actually made the throw.
Also, remember this: Factor in all the variables including talent, financial and team chemistry, and Kirk Cousins remains Washington's best option to win games in 2015 AND start the Week 1 opener in 2016. The outlook for this team is dramatically changed if the Redskins enter next season without QB uncertainty. Seems like that's worth showing some patience, especially when the guy shows he can already make winning plays.
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