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The Morning After: Redskins Win Again Behind Cousins and McCoy

The Redskins beat the Ravens to move to 3-0 in the preseason. That means absolutely nothing. However, how they won is significant and leaves major unanswered questions moving forward.

The question of who starts at quarterback against Miami in week one will apparently stay unanswered until Robert Griffin III is healthy according to Jay Gruden. The Redskins head coach was adamant that there has been no starter named yet, despite a report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini earlier in the day that Cousins is at the very least going to start against Miami.

That report would seem accurate for many reasons. One, Russini’s really good at her job. Two, the team is giving Griffin 1-2 weeks to get healthy and that timeline would seem to not give him ample time to prepare for the Dolphins. Three, this is apparently truly Gruden’s decision.

LISTEN: Gruden and Cousins talk about QB battle

“I’ve always been told I have the final say on who plays quarterback, and I don’t think that’s changed,” Gruden said. GM Scot McCloughan “and I will have a long discussion, and obviously he’s part of our organization, as is Bruce Allen, as is Dan Snyder. And we’ll all talk about it.

Jay Gruden has to decide between Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.  (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Jay Gruden has to decide between Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Unlike when he may have said this previously, the general consensus is that this is in fact the case. Assuming it is, Cousins did exactly what he needed to Saturday night. He showed an ability to process information in the pocket that Griffin hasn’t and the results were two touchdown drives, including a flawless 2 minute drill, and zero sacks.

I’ve been impressed with the way Cousins thinks the game since I first talked to him. He spoke last week about making plays from a dirty pocket and how that’s the difference between great QB’s and guys who are out of the league. That preparation came into play Saturday night.

Cousins is a clear student of the game and has put in immense work to prepare himself. Some guys say they stay ready. He truly does.

Colt McCoy was also terrific, consistently connecting with preseason superhero Rashad Ross, but it’s completely different than what Cousins did. Cousins was playing against starters.

That’s ultimately the struggle of the timeline of how this quarterback mess played out. It’s off by a week. If this had all happened in week 2, and Cousins and McCoy were given a real shot at the starter’s job, they would have been able to get snaps in week 3 with first teamers and against first teamers.

Instead, they’ll rely more on what they’ve seen so far against backups and what they’ve seen in practice and all indications are that, along with his potential long-term upside, gives Cousins a comfortable lead.

Of course we’ll see how it plays out this week at Redskins Park. One question not asked postgame, amidst trying to find out what the heck happened with Griffin’s overturned concussion, is what the practice plan is this week. Griffin can still fully practice as he’s only not cleared for contact. Does he get reps with the first team? Is it Cousins exclusively? Do they split? Does McCoy work in as well? We’ll find out Monday.

In the end, the best case for everyone is Cousins starting. It means Gruden can run his offense. It means Scot McCloughan can evaluate both Gruden and McCoy. It means that Griffin can’t get hurt and trigger his $16 million option for next year. It means the franchise, with or without Cousins and/or Gruden, can be what McCloughan wants it to be moving into next year with no stone un-turned.

Notes:

  • As dominant as the Redskins felt, don’t forget how you felt early in that game as Joe Flacco destroyed the Redskins defense. The tackling was atrocious and needs to be cleaned up if this team wants to be good. Tackling in the NFL has gotten progressively worse as teams practice it less and less, but the Skins need to figure out how to get better quickly in that department or the biggest connection on game day will be your palm to your forehead.
  • ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who I respect as much as anyone talking about football on television, tweeted during the gamew that Matt Jones is better than Alfred Morris. It’s hard to argue based on last night, although Morris clearly has a lot more of a resume than Jones. If the coaches start to think the same thing, we’ll likely see a lot more even of a split than any of us had anticipated. That becomes really interesting in the off-season when Morris is a free agent. If the Skins have the luxury of not paying him, they can name their price and stick to it no matter how much they like Morris as a guy around Ashburn. That’s the business.
  • Part of the reasons they might have that luxury is because it doesn’t seem like they have a bad running back on their roster. Chris Thompson and Trey Williams continue to impress. I have no idea who they’re going to cut. Special Teams likely becomes the tie breaker.
  • The same is true at wide receiver. Rashad Ross’s speed is special and the quarterbacks love throwing to him. Evan Spencer has size no other receiver on the roster has, but he’s not done much on offense to justify being kept around. That said, special teams again becomes the barrier. I would find a way to keep Ross though. He just makes plays.
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