1. I hope everyone is recovering from their Labor Day hangovers. As it was said in The Big Lebowski, "Some days you eat the bar, and some days the bar eats you." I feel like the bar drank me. This week's Sixpack kind of moves between the long view and the short view as we march toward the beginning of the season. Let's face it: the beginning of this season--like so many before it--feels like it could be the beginning of so much more than just one season. We have our reasons for investing that kind of hope into this beast, with none other than McLovin' standing as the top one. I noted on a Miami-area show I was on this weekend how the switch from Robert Griffin III to Kirk Cousins had the effect of flipping a kind of "do-over" switch. All of a sudden, everything we thought was possible and the manner in which it could all play out vanished. A new reality set in, complete with an entirely new route forward.
2. At multiple points over the last three seasons, RG3 proved himself to be the top dog. When you change starting quarterbacks, a feeling of unease tends to move in and fester. It isn't that the switch to Cousins makes me comfortable--or more comfortable--but am I the only one that feels just slightly more confident with #8 at this point? Here is what I think I mean: with RG3 under center, our hopes and dreams rested on the ability of an injury-prone quarterback to stay healthy in the face of incredibly devastating hits. Our entire present and future dangled on the precipice of disaster, as we relied on the athleticism of a player with very special skills but with very dangerous tendencies. I don't know about you guys, but I felt that on almost every offensive play. When RG3 was on the field, I was as worried as I was excited. It isn't that the switch to Cousins makes me all of a sudden book Super Bowl travel plans. Instead, it is more of a calm around the idea of "what is possible." With Cousins under center, the Redskins can employ a style of offense that is tried and true in this league. A balanced attack, with a commitment to a power running game complimented by quick deliveries from the pocket is more what Cousins does than what Griffin does. That is no indictment of anyone. Jay Gruden wants to play the game a certain way, and Cousins is better-suited to it. As a result of that, I feel like the ceiling on what is possible for us is higher with Cousins.
3. Regardless of my opinion on who is the better player for our future, we have to stay on this path. By this, I mean that we have to see what Cousins can do for us with a whole season of play. We can't afford to pull him off the field after a few mistakes. If there is any chance for him to become "the guy," he has to get 16 games under his belt. It is as much about Jay Gruden's future with this team as it is about who our quarterback is or can be. In order for McLovin' to make a decision on these two guys specifically, we have to really give them a full season of ups and downs. Once you factor in the cost to the team for Griffin getting hurt during the season--a virtual mathematical certainty--it seems folly to even allow him to dress. If he is not in our future plans, as that seems rather obvious, we can't afford to risk 2016 salary cap space on him. That space simply MUST be saved to invest in key positions that still require some serious...McLovin'.
4. Speaking of players brought in by the Redskins front man, I have a guy for you all to keep your eye on the beginning of this season: Derek Carrier. The tight end we made a move to bring in from San Francisco made the final roster and will be counted on to contribute early and often. I took the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to both watch this player when he was on the field and inquire to members of the San Francisco media about him. I had to reach out to these people because when I see Derek Carrier, I see a player that can be a piece to the puzzle here in Washington. I was concerned that my blinders were set to "Tunnel-vision." At 6'4" and just under 240 lbs., Carrier has the size, but it is his athleticism that has me intrigued. He was a multi-sport star at Beloit College, a Division III school, and is the kind of guy that you would expect a savvy GM to unearth. He rewrote the receiving record books at Beloit, and also has a history on both the basketball court as well as the track. He won't unseat Jordan Reed as our top tight end, but if you are looking to see what it means to have a savvy GM in place, keep your eyes on Carrier early this season. He is a project that will get time to develop on a team sorely in need of healthy tight ends (keep it together, people). We all know what the NFL is these days, and you can't succeed in it anymore without primo tight ends (lock it up!!). Carrier is one to watch...he has many of the qualities of a player that could win over a hell of a lot of fans, but more importantly, he possesses that which is required to be an effective part of the modern NFL offense.
5. I will save my predictions for later this week, but let's pay Miami their respect. Their defensive line is--AT WORST--top three in the league. It could be a long, long day for our offense. I think that Gruden will stubbornly stick to the run, if for no other reason than to keep Kirk Cousins healthy and out of dangerous situations. We can't be afraid to put the game on our starting quarterback's shoulders, but that won't be our gameplan. If we are talking about a Redskins win next week, I feel like it won't necessarily be all about Cousins. I feel like a win would mean that Alfred Morris AND Matt Jones showed up in a major way. Is 200+ rushing yards too much to ask for this week? Probably. If we sniff that number though, you will have witnessed the recipe we need to follow all season. It says here that Jones will outrush Morris on Sunday, but I am prepared to suggest that Jones took advantage of weary defenders, thanks to the prowess of Morris early in the game.
6. I don't think this game will come down to the Redskins' offense versus the Dolphins' defense. You might give that matchup to Miami based on their defensive line, but the truth is that it is closer than it seems. Miami's secondary is beatable. If I'm Jay Gruden, I am willing to weather early failures in the running game as I wait to see how our defense fares against Ryan Tannehill and that offense. You will not see Cousins be asked to win this game for us until and unless our defense is bested by the Miami offense. If we can get stops, and more importantly, if we can get some turnovers, Gruden will pound the ball to the end, trying to steal a close game from the favorite. Our defensive line will be asked to win this game for us (by me...I will be asking them to do this). I understand what the math and the odds suggest will be the outcome of the game at FedEx this week, but if we're being honest, those odds and that math applied to an equation with a different set of variables. As The Dude once said, "New shit has come to light!!"