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Auping: Young Redskins Hope To Close Cowboys’ Window
IRVING, Texas -Coming into the 2012 season there were talks of a closing window in Dallas. Jerry Jones was the first to put it out there. It’s no secret that the three cornerstones of the Cowboys’ franchise are on the other side of 30 years old.
That being said, one of those players (Jason Witten) is having a record breaking season and possibly the best one of his career, another (DeMarcus Ware) was just selected to his seventh straight Pro Bowl despite playing through significant injuries all year and the other (Tony Romo) still has a chance to throw for 5,000 yards this season.
Not to mention the oldest of the three players is Romo at 32 years old and Witten and Ware are both 30. Considering the success that other players are having at similar positions well into their thirties like Peyton Manning (36), Tony Gonzalez (36) and John Abraham (34), it’s probably a little premature to think that a massive drop-off in production is coming anytime soon.
So the “closing window” argument is a difficult one to assess. There are young stars on this team and the veteran players are still getting the job done, but it is probably true that even the slightest Super Bowl aspirations will only be realistic for so long.
And this season a team has come on the scene hoping to shut that window for the Cowboys and take over the NFC East. The Washington Redskins’ future is looking brighter than it has in well over a decade.
Using their number two overall pick in last year’s draft on Robert Griffin III, the Redskins were supposed to need a year or two to be considered legitimate contenders in the division. No one gave them the memo.
With just one game left on the schedule the Redskins have the best record in the NFC East and a win over the Cowboys would send them to the postseason for the first time since 2007. It would also give them their first division title since 1999.
But it’s hard to bet against them needing another 14 years to win a division title. As a rookie Griffin has provided a shot of energy and enthusiasm into the franchise and the city of Washington. Griffin’s thrown for over 3,000 yards and twenty touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. His passer rating is an incredibly efficient 104.1. And on the ground he’s run for nearly 750 yards and six touchdowns.
But if Griffin were not on the team the Redskins would still have a candidate for offensive rookie of the year. In the seventh round of the draft they selected Alfred Morris out of Florida Atlantic and he has already established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. With over 1,400 yards Morris is the fourth leading rusher in the NFL and has ten touchdowns on the season.
Griffin and Morris have combined to make the Redskins the number one rushing team in the NFL. Their 162 total rushing yards per game more than doubles the Cowboys per game rushing yards.
Behind Griffin they have the luxury of another rookie quarterback in Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State who has been able to post a passer rating of 101.6 in the two games that he has played in.
Washington’s best pass rusher, Ryan Kerrigan, is only 24 years old. Their number one receiver, Pierre Garcon, is 26 years old. They also believe they have a rising star in linebacker in 24-year old Perry Riley who has already accounted for 120 tackles.
Like any team, they have some aging veterans on their roster (at 37 London Fletcher is the heart and soul of their defense), but they certainly have enough explosive young talent to be a feared competitor for years to come.
At 22 years old, it might seem like Griffin has all the time in the world to win a Super Bowl, but ask someone like Romo and he’ll tell you that eventually those years will start to go by and championships are anything but a given in the NFL. Eventually you reach the second half of your career and desperation starts to kick in, if not for the players then certainly the fans.
The Cowboys are in that situation right now. If someone told you that the Philadelphia Eagles would self-implode and the New York Giants’ magic/luck would finally run out then you would probably think it was time for the talented, veteran-laden Dallas Cowboys to take their spot atop the division.
But the Redskins have decided to fast forward the future. And make no mistake; Washington will be a force to reckon with in the future. Which makes the present the Cowboys time to shine.
There’s no question that this year’s Redskin team deserves to be respected and perhaps even feared. But they are inexperienced. Most of their best players haven’t been through the success, failure, missed expectations, highs and lows that Romo, Witten, Ware or even Anthony Spencer, Gerald Sensabaugh and Miles Austin have gone through.
Depending on what happens Sunday night, questions about “the future” will come almost immediately, but the Cowboys can’t afford to think about anything but the present, because this may just be a moment that has been nearly ten years in the making.