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Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

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Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

What:Falcons (4-0) vs. Redskins (2-2)
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live:Comcast SportsNet noon and 4.In the first four games, the biggest storyline for the Redskins has been the sublime play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his impact on the teams resurgent offense.Not this Sunday, though.The Redskins struggling defense will be the focal point against Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons, one of only two undefeated teams remaining (the Texans are also 4-0).For Washington to have any chance against an Atlanta offense thats racking up 31 points per contest and ending a seven-game home losing streak they must pressure Ryan and slow down a versatile repertoire of weapons that includes standout wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.If that sounds like a lot, well, it is.I think every weeks a statement game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. This is a great football team were playing. Theyve got the hottest quarterback in the league, a really good running back and two good receivers and theyve got maybe the greatest all-time tight end that ever played. So its a great challenge for us.Although the Redskins have been adept at stopping the run theyre 10th the units struggles against the pass and propensity for yielding big plays they might be in for a long afternoon. Consider:They rank last in passing touchdowns against (11), 31stin passing yards against (1,305) and 30thin yards per attempt (8.8). (Ryan leads the league in passer rating and ranks second in passing touchdowns with 11.)The Redskins have yielded pass receptions of 30 yards or longer nine times, including second half completions of 65 and 54 yards last week in Tampa. Both of those backbreaking miscues led to Buccaneers touchdowns and, making matters worse, came against the teams best cover corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.Defensive end Stephen Bowen acknowledged that the Redskins front-7 must help out the backend by forcing Ryan to make hurried decisions. We have to get there, Bowen said. Weve been working on a pass-rush skills this week. I know Im going to the best I can to get one sack on the board --finally.For three weeks now, the secondary has talked about playing tighter coverage and eliminating the long receptions that have plagued them.Now would be a good time for that to start happening.In addition to keeping an eye the secondarys performance, here are some other areas the crew atcsn.washington.comwill be monitoring:Ground superiorityThe troubling news for the Redskins is they have yielded 123 points. The encouraging news is they have scored 123, as well.In order to move the ball and produce points against the Falcons, the NFLs second best rushing offense (Washington is averaging 171 yards per game) needs to follow a simple formula: run the ball, then run it some more.The Falcons are allowing only 19 points per game, but their run defense has been shaky, permitting 146.3 yards per game (29th).Last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gained 86 yards on nine rushes against Atlanta. The Redskins, meantime, boast a pair of the NFLs top rushers in Griffin and Alfred Morris and, as a team, are tied for the most 10-plus yard runs (23). Its also possible Ryan Grant will make his debut for the home team.No excuses2) Kicker Billy Cundiff preserved his job last week by making a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds against the Buccaneers. But misses from 41, 31 and 57 earlier in the game means his margin for error against the Falcons is negligible.Cundiff, snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca have had another full week to work out any kinks in the field goal operation. So there will be no excuses Sunday.Strength against strengthAtlantas pass defense has been significantly stronger than its run defense. In fact, the unit is tied for the seventh fewest passing yards against per game (207).The Redskins air attack, meantime, ranks among the leagues most formidable. Griffin is tied with Ryan for the second best completion rate in the game (69.4) and has thrown only one interception.Washingtons receivers, meantime, rank second in the NFL in yards after the catch with 625, an effort led by Pierre Garon and Fred Davis.Somethings got to give.

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Former Redskins safety Dashon Goldson to work out with Falcons

Former Redskins safety Dashon Goldson to work out with Falcons

Still looking for a new team, former Redskin Dashon Goldson will work out with the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport.

A knee injury to safety Keanu Neal exposed the Falcons' thin depth at the position. With Neal expected to miss three to four weeks, Atlanta has to explore other options.

Goldson, 31, became a free agent in March when he was cut by the Redskins.

A former Pro Bowler, Goldson was traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Redskins in April of 2015. In his lone season in Washington, Goldson started in 15 games recording 69 tackles. He also caught one interception which he returned for a touchdown.

RELATED: SOME GOOD LUCK, SOME BAD FOR COUSINS VS. BILLS

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Ryan Kerrigan's early exit vs Bills shows Redskins lack of depth at edge rusher

Ryan Kerrigan's early exit vs Bills shows Redskins lack of depth at edge rusher

Ryan Kerrigan exited Friday night's preseason game against the Bills in the first quarter with a groin injury. Word Friday night was that Kerrigan's injury was minor, though the Redskins outside linebacker is slated for an MRI exam Saturday on the groin.

https://twitter.com/bmcnally14/status/769374500081246208

Even if the MRI reveals what Redskins fans hope - little to no damage and no prospect of missed regular season action - Kerrigan's exit from the Bills game reveals just how thin Washington is at outside linebacker.

Two months ago, OLB was considered a position of strength for Scot McCloughan's team. Junior Galette's Achilles injury changed that.

MORE REDSKINS: SOME GOOD, SOME BAD FROM COUSINS VS BILLS 

Now, the Redskins have two very capable pass rushers in Kerrigan and Preston Smith. In five seasons, Kerrigan has averaged nearly 10 sacks per season, and anybody that watched Smith's rookie year and his excellent 2016 training camp and preseason must be excited about the second-year man from Mississippi State. Smith oozes the kind of All-Pro potential that scouts dream about going through the draft process.

But after those two, things change quickly.

Washington converted Trent Murphy back to OLB after an offseason experiment at defensive end. Murphy's move came following the Galette injury, and was done more for depth rather than the team expecting Murphy to suddenly become a sackmaster. But at least Murphy has experience and is capable of playing the edge in the 'Skins defense.

Behind Murphy, the Redskins can look to some combination of Houston Bates*, Willie Jefferson and Lynden Trail. Bates played some in 2015, and while a useful player on special teams, lacks the top end athleticism needed to consistenly get to opposing QBs. Jefferon (6-foot-5) and Trail (6-foot-7) possess great length and speed, but it's hard to think either could be counted on immediately for help. Jefferson experienced some success in the CFL last year, and Trail has shown flashes in Richmond, but both players are quite raw.

In addition to Trail, two more undrafted rookies have given the Redskins good snaps this preseason in Ejiro Ederaine and Mike Wakefield. That said, both Ederaine and Wakefield look like long shots to survive both round of cuts, let alone see the field this fall. 

While many fans focus on running back depth, outside linebacker remains a position that the Redskins scouting staff could be considering options outside of the organization. Should an edge rusher with talent emerge over the next two weeks as NFL rosters get trimmed, Washington will be watching. 

* Random note on Houston Bates - In the Redskins newly remodeled locker room, ping pong, foosball and shuffleboard tables have been installed. Multiple players have confirmed that Bates is the best shuffleboard player in the locker room, though plenty of guys are pushing for the title. 

 

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Redskins' Cousins both lucky and unlucky vs. Bills

Redskins' Cousins both lucky and unlucky vs. Bills

After playing just seven snaps in the Redskins’ first two preseason games, Kirk Cousins played the entire first half against the Bills and, for the most part, everything went according to plan. But he did have some good luck and he had some bad luck during the 47 snaps that he played.

Some good fortune came before the opening kickoff. The Bills decided to rest five defensive starters as well as some key reserves. Playing Buffalo without the likes of cornerback Stephon Gilmore is an easier task than playing against the Bills at full strength.

The Redskins’ first possession ended with a combination of bad luck and a bad decision by Cousins. He dropped back, looked to his left and then decided to go back to Rashad Ross on the right sideline. Cousins threw late and backup cornerback Corey White made a nice interception on his back.

“If you look at the interception, it was the product of a defensive back making a good play on a tight throw, the ball bounces up in the air and it lands where it lands,” said Cousins. “I don’t know if that’s a product of anything, other than the fact that it’s the way it happened.”

Some drops also happened and those were bad luck for Cousins. When normally sure-handed pass catchers like Jordan Reed and Pierre Garçon drop passes that would have resulted in first downs it just may not be your day.

Jay Gruden mentioned the drops during his postgame press conference. He also talked about the penalties against the Redskins (13 accepted for 104 yards) making drives more difficult. But Cousins and the offense benefitted from some yellow flags at well. Two roughing the passer penalties kept drives alive and a defensive holding call negated what would have been a second Cousins interception.

The Washington offense finally got going thanks to some sloppy tackling (and good running). With the Redskins still scoreless in the second quarter, Cousins threw short passes to DeSean Jackson and Ryan Grant. They both made tacklers miss. Jackson took a pass in the flat and dodged some tackles for 39 yards into Bills territory. Two plays later Cousins threw to Ryan Grant on the left side. The defensive back missed the tackle and Grant ran in to complete the 38-yard touchdown play. On two throws that went a total of maybe 10 yards past the line of scrimmage Cousins got credited for 77 of his 188 passing yards.

The missed tackles were a theme for both teams last night. According to Pro Football Focus the two teams combined to miss a whopping 31 tackles. There were 137 snaps in the game so nearly one play in every four had a missed tackle.