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Quarterback Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance

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Quarterback Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance

Topher Wagner, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Nearing the end of last summer, Washington Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden called a press conference that would change the trajectory of the upcoming season. After an uninspiring 4-12 record during the prior season, compounded with even further regressions from former first round pick, quarterback Robert Griffin III, Gruden knew that he needed a change. Following the last preseason game, Gruden announced that fourth year backup, Kirk Cousins, would start at quarterback for the 2015-2016 season. After continuing to waver on the quarterback position during the previous season, Gruden put his money where his mouth was, and in doing so changed the season as a whole.

Starting the season with his job already in danger, Gruden’s risky move paid off when Cousins rattled off four consecutive wins to end the season at 9-7 and capture the National Football Conference East Division crown. Ever since a loss to the Dallas Cowboys to drop their record to 5-7, the Redskins offense exploded, lead by Cousins’ arm and the emergence of tight end Jordan Reed.

“A large athletic tight end [Reed] that can act like a wide receiver really helped them win games,” said junior Lacey Morrison.

With the help of Cousins and Reed, the Redskins’ passing attack became one of the league’s best, with Cousins’ even setting the franchise record for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season. In the Wild Card Round versus the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins started off hot with an 11-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. However, long passing and running plays given up by the defense and the offense’s inability to score in the second half allowed the Packers to take a commanding lead, and win, 35-18. Critical mistakes also thwarted their second half chances as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confused and befuddled the defense especially while running a no huddle offense.

“The Skins didn’t get off the field quickly enough and got caught with 12 men on the field multiple times,” said freshman fan Colin Meek.

Although the season ended at the hands of the Packers, the loss should not take anything away from the record breaking season. Not only did the offense improve immensely, but their defense, which used to be a detriment, became a strength down the stretch.

“On the defensive side of the ball, Terrance Knighton and Bashaud Breeland became their  best players,” said Morrison.

Offseason pickups of veterans like Knighton and defensive backs Chris Culliver and Dashon Goldson drastically improved the defense. Also, rookies like linebacker Preston Smith and cornerback Quinton Dunbar can be built around. Smith ranked second in sacks among rookies with eight, while Dunbar played a large role in strengthening the cornerback position at the end of the season when injuries ravaged the secondary.

However, with the offseason imminent and Griffin and Cousins poised to hit free agency, management has many decisions to make. The team believes Cousins is the quarterback of the future and seems prepared to offer him a long term deal. This would have been shocking to hear in 2012 when Griffin III was seen as a star; however, it now seems inevitable that they will not resign Griffin and will move on with Cousins instead.

“The Redskins need to sign Cousins long term. He is a growing talent with a lot of potential. He broke passing records for the Redskins this season. He ended with the highest completion percentage in the NFL. He was second among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns,” said junior Anton Hessler.

For the next several weeks, many Redskins fans will be bitter after being eliminated from their first playoff game since 2012. However, the future is bright, perhaps  the brightest it’s been for a long time. For the first time in the Dan Snyder ownership era, fans feel a sense of stability in the organization.

“My expectations are high. With the new GM Scot McCloughan at the helm, anything seems possible he will keep adding key pieces that were missing and the Redskins will continue to improve,” said Hessler.

In the unpredictable NFL, the sky’s the limit for this young team, and eventual Super Bowl aspirations don’t seem so unattainable anymore. In response to the rallying cry that led this team all season long: “Yes, Kirk, we do like that.”

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We Like That: The Future of The Skins