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Browns won’t sneak up on Redskins

Browns won’t sneak up on Redskins

There is no question that the Washington Redskins will be ready when the Cleveland Browns come to town on Sunday. After being ambushed by the St. Louis Rams in what was supposed to be a cakewalk to a 7-1 record at midseason, the Redskins will be sure that the Browns do not sneak up on them.

The question is, will it matter?

The Browns broke out of a season-long funk on Monday as they spanked the defending champion New York Giants 35-14. At the core of their woes going into that game was quarterback Derek Anderson, who was erratic at best and almost was benched on a few occasions. It now seems that Brady Quinn will stay anchored to the bench for a while longer Anderson went 18 for 29 for 310 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants.

His favorite target was 6-3 receiver Braylon Edwards. Not coincidentally, Edwards also was struggling this year prior to Monday night. He torched the Giants for 154 yards and a touchdown on just five catches.

The Cleveland defense played well, getting three interceptions off of Eli Manning, who decided that it would be a good idea to start throwing off of his back foot. Eric Wright returned the third pick 94 yards for the clinching touchdown.

In order for the Redskins to beat the Browns, they will need more than just being in the proper mental state. They'll need to put pressure on Anderson, something the Giants failed to do. They'll need to do that while keeping a blanket on Edwards. They'll need to keep Jason Campbell's streak of interception-free play this season intact.

The Redskins can go a long ways towards achieving those goals by exploiting one of the few sore spots for the Browns on Monday. The Giants rushed for 181 yards, averaging 7.2 yards a carry. There were no long runs to puff up the average; their longest gain was 18 yards.

This wasn't a fluke poor performance by the Cleveland run defense. They are 25th in the league in that category, giving up an average of 134 yards per game.

Running the ball, of course, is right up the Redskins' alley. Clinton Portis leads the NFL with 643 rushing yards and as a team the Skins are third in the NFL, averaging 152 yards per game on the ground.

Still, the Redskins may have to throw a bit more than they might want to. Shaun Alexander isn't used to running behind this offensive line, which does a good job of creating daylight but the running back needs to know how to read the blocks and find the hole. Alexander's touches probably will be in the passing game.

Defensively, the Redskins will have to get some degree of pressure on Anderson. The Giants didn't sack him once. That means covering Edwards one on one with Shawn Springs in order to bring Chris Horton on the blitz.

Blitzing also can be an effective tool against the run. Jamal Lewis is one of those power backs who needs to build up a head of steam to be effective. If first contact comes in the backfield from a blitzing safety it becomes much easier to bring him down.

Bottom line, it's not rocket science here. Pound the rock, rattle the opposing QB, win the turnover battle and do the hip-hip-hooray thing in the locker room afterwards.

It says here that Portis goes for a buck-fifty but the defense will have a hard time getting at Anderson. There's no reason to think that they will get consistent pressure since they haven't done it all year. The Redskins will have to score three touchdowns in order to take this one and they will.

Redskins 27, Browns 21

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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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