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Bold Predictions Part 2--Survive and Advance

Bold Predictions Part 2--Survive and Advance

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Let’s get some facts straight here.

First, it’s a fact that Mike Alstott did not get over the goal line before he was down by contact on the Bucs’ two-point conversion attempt that won the Week 10 meeting between the Redskins and the Bucs. You can review the indisputable visual evidence presented here at the time, but everybody knows that the referees erred both in the original call and in their failure to reverse it after reviewing it on replay.

It is not a fact, however, that the Redskins would have won the division and gained a first-round bye had the play been called correctly. We know how the rest of that game would have unfolded—the Redskins recover the onside kick and kneel down a couple of times to take the game.

Had the Redskins received the “W” that they earned in that game, however, we don’t know how that would have affected the dynamic of the rest of the season. Had they moved to 6-3, the sense of determined desperation that has marked the last five games likely would have been absent. Maybe they would have lost their focus and dropped that game to the Cardinals in the desert or perhaps they wouldn’t have come out quite as fired up for the Giants game. They may have wound up 11-5, but they also could have wound up 10-6 or 9-7 or something else. And even if they had finished at 11-5, the Bears would likely have put more effort into their season finale against the Vikings and Chicago would have taken the #2 seed anyway. While it’s possible that the Tampa loss cost the Redskins a home game or even a bye, it’s not a fact.

Regardless of all that, it’s a fact that the Redskins are where they are and that’s at Tampa Bay again on Saturday. As the sixth seed, the Redskins are supposed to have the toughest draw in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they could not have handpicked a better opponent.

Chris Simms had the day of his brief NFL career the first time the teams played. He threw for 3 touchdowns and no interceptions with a gaudy QB rating of 119.8. He wasn’t sacked; for that matter, he barely even hit.

It will be different this time around.

First of all, the Redskins defense was without Cornelius Griffin and Sean Taylor the last time the two teams met. The absence of the former had a lot to do with the zero sacks, while Taylor certainly would have helped in coverage. Yes, Shawn Springs is likely to miss the game but Carlos Rogers is back and a starting cornerback tandem of Rogers and Walt Harris is decent enough to get the job done.

The Redskins have something that might be just as valuable as the two players who are back—film. That Week 10 contest was just Simms’ third NFL career start. The Redskins didn’t have much to go on when it came to breaking down his tendencies and finding his weaknesses.

Washington now not only has film to work with, they have film of him being successful against the very defense that he’ll be facing on Saturday. From Simms’ point of view, there is no reason to change a thing. A quarterback making his first playoff start certainly is going to have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. He will be very fortunate if his rating is half of what it was the first time.

Cadillac Williams won’t beat them either. Tiki and LT ran against the Redskins this year and Tatum Bell popped a couple of long ones. Nobody else, not Alexander, not Jones (Thomas or Julius), not Jordan, not Westbrook, not Tiki the second time around, ran on the Skins. Cadillac won’t either, and that will worsen Simms’ problems.

On the other side of the ball, the Redskins will face the league’s #1 defense and this is where the game will be decided. Certainly, the same theory that applies to the Redskins defense having film on Simms applies to Tampa Bay having a good bead on what the Redskins will do as they put up 35 points last game. The Redskins will have to beat them physically and that is a very tall order.

It’s a tall order, but not an impossible feat. It took the Redskins a half to find out that the way to deal with Simeon Rice is to run right at him and they’ll employ that tactic from the beginning this time around. The tried and true formula of the run setting up the pass will let Santana Moss get open. That won’t happen often, mind you, but it will happen just enough. With the defense doing its part against Simms and company, it won’t take much.

It won’t be pretty and it won’t be for the faint of heart, but the Redskins will survive and advance.

Washington 17, Tampa Bay 13

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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

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