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Fourth down decisions haunt Redskins

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Fourth down decisions haunt Redskins

On Wednesday night, the Redskins-Bengals game was one of the matchups featured on NBC Sports Networks fine show Turning Point. The segment on the Redskins ran about 10 minutes and it was interesting even though there not much new that was uncovered.However, there was one comment that was pulled from one of the audio of one of the broadcast feeds that caught my ear. I cant quite identify who said itit may have been Solomon Wilcots, a former Bengal who was doing the color commentary for CBS or perhaps a member of the Cincinnati radio broadcast team, or maybe someone elsebut the words are very blunt.I like what Cincinnatis doing. You show no guts and dont go for it on fourth and one, you deserve it.Harsh, but you really cant argue with it. In each of the last two games, the Redskins have faced crucial fourth-down situations in the fourth quarter. Each time, Mike Shanahan has elected to kick. In St. Louis, it was a virtually impossible 62-yard field goal and against the Bengals it was a punt that ended up netting 24 yards. The Redskins lost both games due in no small part to the failure of the fourth-down calls.It is always easy to criticize a decision with hindsight when it doesnt work out. But going for it on fourth and one against the Bengals should have been an easy call. They were running the ball well. The Cincinnati defense had no idea what was coming at them next. They gave up a boatload of high draft picks to get their playmaking quarterback. The Redskins defense had made a couple of stops but looking at the game through the first three quarters the faith Shanahan placed in them was not warranted.The odd thing is that the Redskins had gone for it on fourth and one twice against the Saints in the opener and got a first down both times. In all, the Redskins are six for eight on fourth and one since Shanahan arrived in 2010.And it also should have been easy to decide to go for it on fourth and 16 against the Rams. Even though the odds of converting for a first down were slim, they were much better than the chances of Billy Cundiff (career long field goal of 56 yards in 2005) hitting a 62-yard field goal.In both cases, Shanahan went with his gut feeling and its hard to argue with the instincts of a coach with his track record. But given that they have been successful when being aggressive and that the whole discretion being the better part of valor thing hasnt worked out too well, he should perhaps take the path of being bold the next time a key fourth-down situation comes up.

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RB Chris Thompson unlikely to play in Bills game, says Jay Gruden

RB Chris Thompson unlikely to play in Bills game, says Jay Gruden

Redskins fans know that Presumed starting running back Matt Jones will not play Friday night against the Bills.

But on Wednesday, Jay Gruden said that Chris Thompson is also unlikely to play. 

Gruden said that Thompson is nursing a sore knee and shoulder and that the team would rather not "have him get banged around."

The coach pointed out it also lets rookies Keith Marshall and Robert Kelley get more snaps as the 'Skins try to determine what they have in the young runners. 

In his fourth season out of Florida State, Thompson is a known quantity for Washington.

A skilled receiver out of the backfield, Thompson emerged as a quality third down back for Gruden last year and a trustworthy target for Kirk Cousins out of the backfield. 

Gruden also announced that Chris Baker might sit out Friday's game against buffalo. The defensive tackle is batting soreness in his quad. 

RELATED: PROJECTING THE 53-MAN ROSTER

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Redskins' Blackmon, Hall learning to communicate as they convert to safety

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USA Today

Redskins' Blackmon, Hall learning to communicate as they convert to safety

Over the past decade the Redskins have tried some different things in their futile efforts to bolster the safety position. They have tried young players, older players, and everything in between while trying to stabilize the back end of their defense.

But they have never tried converting two veteran cornerbacks to safety. Until this year, that is.

DeAngelo Hall has made three Pro Bowls as a cornerback in his 12 years in the NFL. Will Blackmon has played in 81 games at cornerback in his nine NFL seasons. Both are being asked to set aside a lot of the knowledge accumulated over the thousands of snaps that they have played on the edge and move to the middle of the field.

Blackmon said this spring that he never played safety during any of his previous three NFL stops with the Packers, Giants, and Jaguars. Hall lined up at safety towards the end of last year but given the on-the-fly nature of the position switch defensive coordinator Joe Barry and the other coaches tried to make it easier for him.

“We kind of spoon-fed him along last year and had a specific package with specific calls for him,” said Barry. “This offseason, obviously we unleashed the whole playbook at him. I think in the long run, it actually worked out great for him because we didn’t overload him last year, as I said. We kept it pretty simple on him and he was able to make that transition a lot smoother.”

As Barry indicated, Hall will be going from taking a Playing Safety 101 course to being expected to perform at a graduate level. On one level it’s still football and he and Blackmon will be covering and tackling and trying to knock passes down. But unlike the cornerback out on an island a safety is responsible for communicating changes in the defense to the rest of the secondary.

“The way secondary play works is that most communication is from the inside out,” said Barry. “As a corner, you’re usually told what to do; you’re communicated to by your safeties. That was the biggest thing I know for D-Hall, especially a year ago when we moved him because he was like, ‘Wow, I have got to tell everyone what to do instead of receiving information and being told what to do.’ And Will echoed the same thing.”

Certainly they are taking a gamble by having Hall and Blackmon as two of the four safeties they are likely to carry on the roster. But they did give themselves time to properly prepare for their transitions.

“But the good thing is that we made the move,” said Barry. “It wasn’t like we made the move halfway through training camp. We made this decision in the offseason, so they got a full entire offseason, they got a full entire training camp, they are going to have four preseason games under their belt because every day is, ‘Ooh, I learned something new today. Ooh, I saw something new today.’ But I couldn’t be happier with where they’re at right now.”

Well, Hall isn’t going to have four preseason games to get ready. In the two the Redskins have played so far he has played a total of 18 snaps. He won’t play in the fourth preseason game so if he plays a half against the Bills on Friday he will have about 50 snaps under his belt. That’s not even one full game’s worth.

Blackmon has played a total of 58 snaps in the preseason and he could play in the fourth game so he will have more preparation than Hall from that standpoint. It will be interesting to see if Blackmon spells Hall early in the season as the latter player gets his feet under him.

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Another missed practice for Redskins Jamison Crowder

Another missed practice for Redskins Jamison Crowder

Things are trending the wrong way for Jamison Crowder's ability to play Friday night against the Bills. The slot receiver missed Tuesday's practice and was spotted again on Wednesday working off to the side with other injured players Matt Jones and Josh Doctson.

Both Doctson and Jones have been ruled out for the Bills game, and with Crowder again not practicing with the first-team offense, it's hard to see him playing either. That could mean a big night for Ryan Grant, who looked adept in the slot earlier in the preseason. 

On Tuesday, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Crowder is rehabbing from a knee injury sustained last week against the Jets. The coach was not sure if the second-year wideout would play Friday. Expect an official announcement on Crowder's availability when Gruden addresses the media following practice. 

Crowder proved to be a valuable weapon for the Redskins in his rookie season. Lined up almost exclusively as a slot receiver, he had 59 catches for 604 yards and two touchdowns. Crowder also served as the team's primary punt returner, a role most expect him to keep this season. 

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