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Ballhawks wanted at Redskins Park

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Ballhawks wanted at Redskins Park

Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.

Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.

Yesterday we looked at fumble recoveries. Today we’ll look at interceptions by the defense, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later we’ll look the giveaway side of the equation.

The Redskins intercepted 11 passes in 2015, tied for 21st in the NFL. Three players, Bashaud Breeland, Will Blackmon, and Perry Riley, tied for the team lead with two picks apiece. Is that good? Well, 47 other players had more interceptions than anyone on the Redskins did so you can figure that out for yourself.

How much did the interceptions help the Redskins? Here is their record broken down by the number of interceptions they had in the game:

So as we saw with fumble recoveries yesterday, they were able to get along fine in games where they did not get an interception. Only when they got multiple picks did the results show on the scoreboard.

Perhaps one of the reasons that interceptions were not much of a factor for the Redskins is that they didn’t do much with them when they got them. They went through 15 regular season games without getting an interception and then driving for a touchdown. They finally did it in the meaningless season finale in Dallas.

In all, they scored one touchdown and two field goals on drives following interceptions plus Dashon Goldson had a pick-six against the Saints. Add it up and that’s 20 points generated off of interceptions.

Compare that to the best team in the league in maximizing interceptions, the Chiefs. They were second in the league with 22 picks. They returned four of them for touchdowns, drove for eight more TD’s and four field goals on possessions that stated with INT’s. I’ll do the math for you; they scored exactly 100 points off of interceptions. If you want to know why they were able to rank ninth in scoring while ranking 27th in yards gained, there’s your answer.

It should be noted that the Redskins did have a critical interception. At FedEx Field the Giants were threatening to get back into a game the Redskins led 17-0 as they drove into Washington territory. But on third down at the four, Quinton Dunbar picked off Eli Manning’s pass in the end zone to kill the drive.

As noted yesterday, the Redskins are likely to recover fewer opponents’ fumbles than they did last year due to the element of luck that is involved in fumble recoveries. If they are going to stay around the top 10 in takeaways, something that would help them in their effort to stay competitive while Scot McCloughan rebuilds the roster, they probably will need more interceptions.

One thing McCloughan could do is add a ball hawk or two the secondary. Of the secondary members likely to return in 2016, Bashaud Breeland has four interceptions in two seasons, Dashon Goldson has 2 in the last three years and DeAngelo Hall has not picked off a pass since 2013. Maybe Breeland can snag a few more (he did drop some that were in his hands last year) and Hall can regain the form that saw him pick off a total of eight passes in 2012 and 2013. Still, finding a draft pick or free agent with a knack for making interceptions would be great.

There are two other things that could help in the interception department. One is an improved pass rush. Of the top five teams in interceptions last year, four were in the top 12 in sacks. And scoring more points and playing with a lead forces quarterbacks to throw more and to take more chances.

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Need to Know: Redskins look for fifth straight win over Eagles

Need to Know: Redskins look for fifth straight win over Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 5, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:05; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice approx. 3:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 12; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 17; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 25

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion)
Long's concussion could force roster move

First look at Redskins vs. Eagles

The last time: The Redskins won 27-20 at FedEx Field in Week 6 in a game that was not really as close as the score indicated. The Redskins outgained the Eagles 493 yards to 239 and had the ball for 10 more minutes. Philly scored on a kickoff return and an interception return in a three-minute span in the second quarter and that was about all they had. The Redskins have now beaten the Eagles four straight times. 

The Eagles leaders: Quarterback Carson Wentz got off to a hot start, posting three passer ratings of over 100 in his first four games. In eight games since his passer rating is 70.1 and his high in a game is 91.4. Leading rusher Ryan Mathews had his first 100-yard game in Week 10; he shares the load with Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Jordan Matthews (57 receptions, 686 yards) is expected back after missing last week with an ankle injury. Sacks leader Brandon Graham (5.0) has only one sack in the last six games.

Be on the lookout: The Eagles have been getting it done on special teams for years. This year they have two kickoff return touchdowns and Darren Sproles averages 13.7 yards per punt return including a 66-yarder.

Hodgepodge: A Washington win would put them 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles with three to play. Barring a Philly win out/Redskins lose out scenario the Redskins would be out of last place in the NFC East in consecutive years for the first time since 2002-2003 . . . The Redskins already are ensured of avoiding double-digit losses in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-2002 . . . The Eagles have allowed over 400 yards of offense in two of their last three games.

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When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

The Redskins best pass cacther did not play in a loss to the Cardinals, and it appears there is still no clear timeline for Jordan Reed's return to the field. 

"Jordan will be day-to-day," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "You know, we just have to wait and see."

Gruden issued the same statement on Reed last week, and the tight end proceeded to miss all Redskins practices for the week and was announced out for the Arizona game on Friday. Reed's injury came on Thanksgiving in Dallas when he separated his shoulder diving in the end zone for a Kirk Cousins' pass during the first half.

Incredibly, Reed returned in the second half and caught two touchdowns while playing in immense pain. Gruden and Cousins used words like 'stunned' and 'surprised' talking about Reed's return in the Dallas game, but looking forward to Philadelphia, it's hard to know what to expect from the tight end's shoulder.

"Everybody is different with these types of injuries and hopefully he is a fast healer but we’ll take him day-to-day, get him his treatment and go from there," the coach said. "I can’t predict it."

For the season, Reed has 59 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games. Reed missed two games earlier this year after sustaining a concussion against the Ravens.

Without Reed in the lineup against the Cardinals, the Redskins offense dipped in production. Cousins threw for less than 300 yards for the first time in three games, though backup tight end Vernon Davis had five catches for 47 yards. 

If Reed practices Wednesday, even in a limited role, would be a good sign for the 'Skins tight end. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!