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Desperate Redskins host hungry Panthers

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Desperate Redskins host hungry Panthers

What: Panthers (1-6) vs. Redskins (3-5) 

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox WTTG-5

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet noon and 4

The Redskins have arrived at the first crossroads of the Robert Griffin III era. 

On Sunday, the season can go one of two ways when they host the one-victory Panthers. With a win, they’ll enter the bye week confident, pointed in a positive direction and looking ahead to getting back some injured starters on the other side. A loss, though, and any serious discussion of making the playoffs can be shelved until 2013. It could also foreshadow another second-half collapse.

“This is where, normally, football teams are taken over by their veterans,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “It can go one direction or the other, and you expect these guys to play at a higher level. It’s either step up or shut up; it’s where you’ve got to get it done.”

Shanahan is not often so blunt when speaking publicly. But there’s no doubt that the seriousness of the situation demanded such a tone.

His Redskins are coming off their worst performance of the season, an unsightly 27-12 defeat in Pittsburgh. Receivers dropped a combined 10 passes, the defense generated virtually no pass rush and allowed a third-string running back to gain 107 yards, special teams struggled and cornerback DeAngelo Hall was ejected for losing his cool with an official.

The 15-point margin of defeat, meantime, was the largest of the season.

On paper, hosting the scuffling Panthers appears to be the break the Redskins need to bounce back. Except Washington is 1-2 at home and Carolina is not the pushover its record suggests. 

Cam Newton and his teammates have been competitive in all but one game, dropping their past four by a total of 12 points, including a 23-22 loss to the NFC North leading Bears last week. Newton has not been as dynamic as he was during his record-breaking rookie season, but the 6 foot 5, 245-pound dual threat quarterback remains a threat to break off huge chunks of yardage -- through the air or on the ground -- against a Washington defense that’s yielded 28.4 points per game as well as league-worst 2,514 passing yards and 19 passing touchdowns.

In fact, the Redskins are on pace to become the first team in NFL history to allow 5,000 yards in the air in a single season. 

Griffin, Alfred Morris and the rest of the Redskins’ offense, meantime, must find a way to get going against a menacing Panthers’ front four. Linemen Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Dwan Edwards have combined 15 sacks -- one more than the entire Redskins’ defense -- and Carolina ranks a respectable 15th in yards allowed per game (343.9). 

Johnson will likely matchup against tackle Tyler Polumbus, while Trent Williams is expected to handle Hardy.

Indeed, the Redskins cannot afford to look past the Panthers and forward to a week off. Not now, not given what’s at stake. 

“We still have all of our goals in front of us,” Williams said. “We can be a playoff team if we go on a run.” 

That run, however, must begin Sunday.

Here are some other storylines the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring:

1—Newton vs. Griffin. Although Griffin has mostly been compared to Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck because they were taken 1-2 in the draft, the better comparison is Griffin and Newton. Their teams run similar schemes, each possesses a cannon for an arm and both are as likely to keep the ball on an option as pitch it.

Newton is passing for 243 yards per game and rushing for 44.3, while Griffin is passing for 222 and rushing for 59.5. The big difference is their touchdown to interception ratio. Newton has tossed five touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Griffin has thrown eight touchdowns and three picks.

Asked what he thought of the comparison, Griffin said: “I’d rather be compared to Aaron Rodgers or a guy like that, someone who’s won Super Bowls.”

2—Aldrick Robinson reemerges. After falling out of favor following a miscue-riddled performance in St. Louis, the speedy wide receiver is expected to receive ample playing time against the Panthers.

With No. 1 receiver Pierre Garçon expected to be sidelined again, the move was made to inject some speed into the lineup and shake things up after a big drop by Leonard Hankerson last Sunday.

“Aldrick is one of the faster guys in the NFL,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “And he’s getting better at his routes and blocking.” 

3—Special teams struggles. After a mostly uneventful Weeks 5-7, the units contributed to the Redskins’ misery last week at Heinz Field. Kicker Kai Forbath kicked a PAT too low and it was blocked, and punter Sav Rocca kicked a 12-yard punt that Pittsburgh parlayed into a scoring drive.

This week, Mike Shanahan revealed that Rocca has been punting with a torn meniscus in the knee on his kicking leg. Despite his gutsy effort, he and the Redskins know the team cannot afford another shank.

“Anytime he has a punt like he did,” Shanahan said, “you know it is bothering him a little bit.”

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Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 17, 100 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL free agency starts 52
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of potential first-round draft picks for the Redskins

We’re at a nice, round 100 days until the NFL draft starts. The deadline for underclassmen to declare has passed and the first of the postseason all-star events, the East-West Shrine game, is starting up this week. It’s time to look at some possibilities for the Redskins’ first-round draft pick, which is No. 17 overall.

We’re still not sure of what defensive scheme the Redskins will run this year but it’s likely that they could fit Stanford DE Solomon Thomas into it. He’s not the classic edge rusher type but he is big (6-2, 275), violent and he can collapse the pocket.

—Michigan S Jabrill Peppers is a top-five pick according to one NFC executive but it’s a little early to put him up that high. He’s a versatile defender and he has drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, and Tyrann Mathieu. If he’s there at 17 the Redskins might find it hard to resist pulling the trigger.

There has been very early buzz about the Redskins having some interest in Michigan State DL Malik McDowell. He can play end in a 3-4 front or tackle in a 4-3 and provide disruption and pass rush from either spot. The 6-6, 276-lb. McDowell was a top-five prospect on many early boards but he stock has slipped to the point where he could be available for the Redskins.

The upgrade the Redskins are looking for at inside linebacker could be Florida ILB Jarrad Davis. He’s tough, tenacious, smart, and instinctive. The most important part of the combine for him won’t be his 40 time or bench press, it will be the medicals. He has missed some games with assorted injures including a torn meniscus in 2014.

Another flexible linebacker who could help inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3 is Vanderbilt LG Zach Cunningham. At 6-3, 230 he plays very well in space and he shows a great ability to take on blockers. He needs work on tackling and pass rushing techniques but he has the tools to be an impact defender very quickly.

Although a defender would be a popular and logical pick here, the Redskins could go off script. After the 2015 draft, it was reported that Scot McCloughan might have taken Todd Gurley if he had been able to trade back from No. 5 overall to a little later in the first round. So I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of him going with an offensive skill player such as Florida State RB Dalvin Cook if he’s on the board and McCloughan has him rated as the best available player.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Report: Redskins sign CB Tharold Simon to futures contract

Report: Redskins sign CB Tharold Simon to futures contract

Looking to add depth to their secondary, the Redskins reportedly signed former Seahawks and Cardinals cornerback Tharold Simon on Monday, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Arizona claimed Simon off waivers after the Seahawks released him following the first week of the regular season. He played in nine games for the Cardinals and was inactive for his final two with the team, which then released him in December.

A fifth-round pick for the Seahawks in 2013, Simon was signed to a future/reserve contract, allowing him to compete for a roster spot during training camp and offseason workouts.

He is the 11th player to sign a futures contract with the Redskins.

MORE REDSKINS: Washington interviewed Rob Ryan for defensive coordinator