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Bold Predictions Redskins vs. Eagles

Bold Predictions Redskins vs. Eagles

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

Redskins 24, Eagles 21

I just wanted to get that out of the way so that you know the direction that my ensuing ramblings are headed in.

In the kitchen, my wife is wrapping Christmas gifts while playing seasonal tunes on the CD player. The holiday hustle and bustle is on the verge of turning into the mad last-minute rush. Speaking of that, I haven’t yet picked out, much less bought, any of the half dozen presents I have to buy. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

There’s even more reason to think it’s wonderful if you’re a Redskins fan. It’s December and Joe Gibbs is coaching the Washington Redskins. Gibbs’ teams, with the exception of the ’91 unit that started 11-1, were never fast starters. They won a “mere” 60% of games played in September.

Once the leaves had turned and fallen and the frost on the pumpkin had turned into a hard freeze, however, Gibbs’ teams get on a roll. After last Sunday’s game, Gibbs’ December regular-season record moved up to 33-11, an even 75%. Some of those teams were on a run to the playoffs, other were building momentum for the next year.

It’s safe to say, however, that Gibbs’ Redskins never faced a team that it was trailing by seven games in the standings. And, without looking it up, I’ll say that they were never a nine-point underdog at home.

So, as Gibbs himself likes to say, the past gets you nothing. They’re facing a very good team that’s on a roll. What logical reasons are there to think that the Redskins could beat the Eagles?

  • Patrick Ramsey is playing better and better in Gibbs’ offense every week. His stats won’t be as good as they were last Sunday, but he’ll complete at least half of his passes for better than 7.5 yards per attempt. He might throw an interception, but he’ll throw for a pair of TD’s.
  • Gibbs will open up the offense more. Last time, in Ramsey’s first start, the game plan was so tight, if you’d stuck a lump of coal in it during the week, you would have had a diamond by game time. (If Ramsey had thrown one more of those quick outs or wide receiver screens or whatever those were, the only reason that it wouldn’t have been intercepted would have been that all 11 Eagle defenders were fighting over the ball.) Gibbs won’t be doing any flea-flickers or triple reverses or anything; look for something like what was run against the Giants with perhaps a couple of longer passes thrown in there.
  • Portis will run the ball until his tongue hangs out. Ramsey will hand him the ball thirty times, give or take. How many yards he gets will go a long way towards determining the result of the game. If he gets closer to 60 or 75 yards, that means a lot of three and outs and lots of chances for the Philly offense to do its thing, which is to put points on the board. Production in the 125-yard range will mean that there were some time-consuming drives for the home team. His production will be somewhere in the middle of those two; put him down for a buck or so.
  • The Redskins defense is one of the top half dozen in the league. Cornelius Griffin, who missed the game in Philadelphia with a hip injury, is back and that should make it even more difficult for Brian Westbrook to find running room. And, certainly, they’ll be keying on what really killed them last time, Westbrook catching passes out of the backfield. The Eagle running back could get right around the 105 combined yards he got last time, but he won’t score two TD’s.

The problem is that all of this might not do any good. The Redskins could get a highly efficient performance by Ramsey in the course of executing an aggressive, highly imaginative game plan created by Gibbs and Company, an explosive performance by Portis, and a solid effort defensively and still lose. Just like the last time they played, you think you’re hanging in the game and, boom, a McNabb to Owens quick strike, a three and out, a McNabb scramble for a long completion, another one for a touchdown and, all of a sudden, it’s over.

A lot of the Redskins’ hopes are pinned on the momentum they started to build last week. Yes, there’s some momentum there, but it’s like a bicycle that just started moving forward when compared to the Big Mo the Eagles have. With four straight wins by three touchdowns or more, they’re the proverbial freight train steaming downhill towards Jacksonville, the site it the Super Bowl.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the Eagles are due for a flat performance and that opens the door a crack for the home team. Philly hasn’t played in a close game this year and if the Redskins can hang close in this one they can win it. Yeah, I know, that’s not necessarily very logical, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut feeling (and perhaps just a small dose of wishful thinking).

Redskins 24, Eagles 21

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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