That drastic change in performance was certainly enough to affect his negotiating leverage with the Redskins. But the team wanted one more full, 16-game body of work on which to base its offers to potential franchise quarterback — something that’s not unreasonable. The good thing about Cousins is that entering the league as a fourth-round pick and spending his first three seasons as a backup taught him plenty about patience. That quality helped bring him this far and can continue to guide him where he hopes to go next.
“It hasn’t been an easy path,” said Cousins, who was selected in the same 2012 draft that saw the Redskins select Griffin second overall. “It wasn’t mapped out and I didn’t know what the next year or game would bring — and I’m still in that position now. I heard a comment a couple years ago from a GM that said you pretty much have to draft your quarterback in the first round. Otherwise, the odds are they won’t turn into legitimate starting quarterbacks. I saw that as a challenge that I could prove him wrong. That I could go from a fourth-round pick to being somebody who was productive and leading a team to a lot of wins. That’s been the goal and always will be.”
Dallas defeated Washington 31-26 on Thursday, all but eliminating the Redskins (6-4-1) from the NFC East Division race. The Cowboys, now 10-1 after 10 consecutive wins, are getting close to putting a vice grip on homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. Dallas would have to lose twice in the final five weeks for Seattle to have any hope of catching them. That’s not likely because even near-perfect games don’t take them out.
Consider everything the Redskins did well in this game. The Redskins rolled up 505 yards on the Cowboys’ defense and only punted once the entire game. Washington dominated time of possession and out-gained the Cowboys by 152 yards. Kirk Cousins, continuing his incredible run of form lately, led the Redskins to touchdowns on his final three drives. Yet the Redskins never even got the ball with a chance to take the lead in the second half because Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys’ merry band of offensive linemen don’t allow comebacks.
While it should never be surprising to see a 13-year veteran get released this time of year while general managers try to get younger and cheaper, Jenkins looked to have a decent chance of making the roster. He could still be a heavy favorite to return once the Redskins can get him on a week-to-week deal and don’t have to guarantee his salary for the season.
If Washington doesn’t bring him back, they’ll obviously keep their eyes peeled for help along the defensive line. The team is currently relying on the likes of Ricky Jean-Francois, Kendric Golston, Chris Baker, Kendall Reyes and Ziggy Hood. Jenkins played in 14 games for the Giants last season, logging three sacks and 15 total tackles. A defensive tackle and stretch end, Jenkins could still be versatile enough to find a home in any defensive system.
Snapping out of a four-game slump, Cam Newton recorded his first 300-yard passing performance in more than two months despite aggravating his throwing shoulder injury in the first quarter. Newton attacked downfield, burning Washington’s secondary for his most yards (177) in the first half this season. The reigning MVP had plenty of help in the form of a tackle-breaking, stiff-arming Jonathan Stewart. The ageless power back rushed for a season-high 132 yards on 25 carries — leaping, shoving and dragging Redskins defenders for extra yardage throughout the evening. If Stewart closes out the season in similar inspired fashion versus the Falcons and Buccaneers, the front office might not balk at the roughly $6 million he’s scheduled to earn in his age-30 season next year.
Several reporters in the press box during the game noted Cousins missing wide-open receivers on potentially game-changing deep shots multiple times after the quarterback opted for shorter routes.
“We just never got any kind of rhythm whatsoever throughout the whole game,” Gruden said. “Part of it was that the running game was atrocious, part of it was we had no deep passing game. The other part was Carolina was very good today.”
The Timeline shows how Lombardi, putting a premium on discipline and conditioning, turned the perennial losers into a winner. Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen is among the former Redskins players who provide testimony to Lombardi’s mastery as a coach.
“Sonny was so thankful to have him for that one year,” Plaut said. “He was yearning for someone like Lombardi. He had all that talent, but never had a coach who could harness it … Lombardi was a guy who was able to get more out of players than they dreamed was possible.”