Has the Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins iteration of the Redskins shown enough this season so that both will return in their posts in 2016?
Rowsey: Yes. Jay is currently in the second year of a five-year deal that pays him a guaranteed $20M. Dan Snyder has shown that he's not necessarily afraid of firing a HC while still owing him a lot of money, but I'm not seeing it with Jay right now. The Redskins were 3-13 in Mike Shanahan's last year as HC here. Jay came in as a rookie HC and went 4-12. This year (his second ever as a HC) we're 6-7. That's solid improvement. As a team that's building, and also one that's committed a lot of money and time to our HC, I don't think it'd make sense to bring in someone new, have to install a whole new offense, and basically start over when we're steadily improving as is.
Kirk's situation is a little bit more complicated because he's a FA at season's end. I think most everyone would like to see him back next year, but where fans get hung up is on the price. Some fans look at his resume to this point and say the guy hasn't really proven himself and it would be a mistake to sign him for more than a year or two or to pay him $10M+/yr. Others are ready to lock him up for 3-5 years and pay him what, in my opinion, will be his fair-market value of $12-17M/yr. Others still just love our GM Scot McCloughan and are on board with whatever he decides to do regardless. Personally, I believe he's definitely shown enough to remain the guy next year and I believe they'll find a way to get something done so he never even hits the open market. He's shown growth and improvement throughout the season and the alternatives are far worse.
Which of the Redskins' three running backs - Morris, Jones, or Thompson - should Bills fans be most concerned about on Sunday?
Rowsey: This is a great, tough question. My heart says Alfred Morris. My head says Matt Jones. Chris Thompson is the wild card, but I'm pretty confident in saying he's not the one you need to worry about the most. Alfred Morris is technically still the "starter" at RB. And yes, he'll actually start the game. He's had more carries and rushing yards this season than any other Redskin, but his ypc is identical to Matt Jones'. Jones leads in the rushing TD department three to one.
However, especially lately, Jones has been receiving the bulk of the work and it kind of feels like the coaching staff prefers him. On the surface, it seems kind of crazy since Morris is a 2x Pro Bowler in his prime and Jones is a third-round rookie, but Jones is undoubtedly bigger, stronger, and faster while being the better receiver and blocker in pass protection. Jones has more receptions than Morris and far more receiving yards. He's probably more the "complete" back, but his big drawback has been fumbles. He's got like four or five on the season and just last week and gave the ball up before even being touched down and was fortunate to have the ball bounce right back into his lap so it wasn't a turnover. He's a rookie. He makes rookie mistakes sometimes.
So for this week, I'm going to say Jones is the one to worry about the most. He's been getting the bulk of the work lately and he's definitely the bigger factor in the passing game.
DeSean Jackson is going to play, yes? And if he does, will he have an effect on the offense, even as a decoy in an injury-riddled down year for him?
Rowsey: Jackson is probably going to play, yes. And yes, he'll have an effect on the offense. In fact, Jackson might have the biggest effect on this offense of all the players on the team. If he's out there, it won't be as a decoy. He's missed time this year, but when he's in there, he's been electric and effective. It's crazy to say this and it be true, but when he's healthy and in the game, you can almost take at least one 40+ yard reception to the bank. Kirk's passing yards per attempt are significantly higher when he plays. Jordan Reed's stats are significantly better when Jackson plays, too. He just creates so much space for everyone else because the defense simply must respect his speed. There's really no way around it. In theory, he helps our running game to by making it more difficult to stack the box. So yeah, he's been banged up, but I'm pretty sure he's going to play and he'll be close to 100%. He's a difference maker every single game he plays and our offense is significantly different with him out there. He's probably the best deep threat in the NFL.
Ryan Kerrigan has been an impressive player essentially since he came into the league, and is having another solid campaign in 2015. Do Redskins fans feel that he gets the credit he deserves?
Rowsey: I don't hear a lot of fans talking about Kerrigan receiving too little or too much credit for his play. He's a great OLB who borders on being elite. I'd say he gets recognized as such. He's been steady every year, but this year has been different for Kerrigan. See, Kerrigan has always had Brian Orakpo on the other side of the defense as the primary pass rusher. This has allowed for less attention on Kerrigan and helped him have an easier go of getting to the QB. This is the first year where Kerrigan didn't have Orakpo and has really been the clear #1 pass rusher who offense's focus on the most. People wondered how he'd respond and after a slow start to the year, he's gotten hot lately and proven he can handle it. Kerrigan has struggled with injuries this year and it's affected his play. He had a knee procedure in the off-season that slowed him at the start of the year and then he had a hand injury a few weeks ago that's affected him, too. Still, he's the guy you have to worry about every play. His motor is relentless and he really embodies what the Redskins team wants to be. He's a good guy, a great player, and someone who truly works his ass off to be what he is.
If you had to design a game plan to beat the Redskins, what would you do on offense and defense?
Rowsey: For the Bills offensively, establish LeSean McCoy. He's a great RB who's had a lot of experience against the Redskins. The 'Skins have struggled to stop the run a lot this year and if McCoy can have a big day, that obviously helps Tyrod Taylor a ton. So I'd really force the issue on the ground and then let Tyrod throw a couple of those beautiful deep passes of his every once in a while.
On defense, obviously the Bills need to hold the Redskins to less than 23 points. A lot of Bills fans probably already know this, but the Bills are undefeated this year (I think 6-0) when their opponent scores less than 23. That means they're like 1-6 when their opponent scores more than 23. The Redskins always make an attempt to establish their running game right off the bat. Focus on stopping that. If you can shutdown the Redskins running game, you've got a great chance to win the game. Make Kirk Cousins win the game. He's prone to a costly throw or two when the weight is all on his shoulders. Additionally, the one player you must focus on stopping above everyone else is Jordan Reed. He's been the offense lately and he's incredibly difficult to defend. I'm really not sure how you do it, but that's where the focus should be in preparation this week.