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Can the Redskins ambush the Packers?

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Can the Redskins ambush the Packers?

Last year, the Redskins went into New Orleans armed with an offensive game plan that the Saints didn’t know was coming. Robert Griffin III and his offensive teammates ambushed the Saints, who had won 13 games and the NFC South the year before, and walked out with an impressive 40-32 win.

On Sunday, the Redskins go to Green Bay to meet the Packers, who won 11 games in 2012 and took the NFC North. Can they do to the Packers what they did to the Saints?

Yes, it’s the second game of the season and not the opener. And it’s the second year of playing with Griffin at quarterback and despite the issues with his surgically repaired knee, there should still be many of the Pistol formation and read option elements present.

But the Redskins almost certainly retooled their offense between the playoff loss to the Seahawks in the playoffs and the season opener against the Eagles since they need to stay a step ahead of defenses that studied all season to try to stop their attack. And, as Kyle Shanahan told us, they didn’t show much of that new offense against the Eagles.

The Redskins managed to run just 24 plays before they were down 33-7. “No, we really never got to do our game plan, to tell you the truth,” the team’s offensive coordinator said. “We had some stuff in there early, but it wasn’t just that that we didn’t get to do, we didn’t get to do about 90 percent of our game plan. It turned into a two-minute drill pretty fast.”

If the Redskins can avoid a start similar to the fumble-interception-safety fiasco they had on Monday, they should be able to utilize their offensive game plan, one that was kept under wraps against the Eagles.

It won’t be the exact same plan, of course. But both the Eagles and the Packers run 3-4 defenses so there will be elements that will be the same.

And regardless, whatever tweaks and wrinkles that Kyle and Mike Shanahan and the rest of the offense came up with over the spring and summer almost certainly remained under wraps. So the Packers haven’t seen them yet.

Football games are decided by players and no nifty X’s and O’s will help if Griffin is still working his way through adjusting to his reconstructed knee. But if Griffin can operate at close to the efficiency he did a year ago, the Redskins could surprise a Packers defense that gave up over 400 yards passing to Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers last week.

This week’s other key factors:

—Rodgers was sacked 51 times last year and twice against the 49ers last week. Brian Orakpo will be going up against left tackle David Bakhtiari for much of the day. He is a rookie who the Packers drafted in the fourth round. That could provide an opportunity for Orakpo to get after Rodgers some although Bakhtiari did do a good job pass blocking last week.

—Clay Matthews will try to get after Griffin. Trent Williams will be his primary matchup and you have to like the Redskins’ chances in that battle. Matthews may beat Williams a time or two but he shouldn’t be a constant presence in Griffin’s face. Besides Matthews there isn’t another big-time pass rushing threat. Mathews had 13 last year; next hightest total belonged to Mike Neal with 4.5.

—The Packers have won 29 of their last 31 games at Lambeau Field. The have lost three in a row to the new-generation mobile quarterbacks (four if you count Andrew Luck, who can scramble and run some). We’ll have to see if the mobile QB thing outweighs the home field thing.

This is a tall task for the Redskins. Rodgers is simply one of the best in the business and he could feast on a Redskins secondary that is still finding its way. If the Redskins can score in the mid 30’s somewhere they have a good shot. But I don’t think they will.

Packers 31, Redskins 21

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Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 26, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 46 days.

Today’s schedule: Players report to training camp for physicals and conditioning test. Jay Gruden news conference 2 p.m.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 15
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 24
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 38

Five pre-camp questions for Jay Gruden

RICHMOND—The media portion of training camp gets underway on Wednesday as Jay Gruden holds his pre-camp presser at 2 pm at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center (that’s probably the last time I’ll use the full name of the facility).

Here are some questions we will ask of Gruden as he enters his fourth season as the Redskins head coach.

Will Kirk Cousins’ contract situation be a distraction? This must be asked, even though we know that the answer will be no. Yes, Cousins handled a similar situation just fine last year. But a quarterback playing on a second franchise tag is unprecedented. Certainly, Gruden has to guard against things getting out of hand if the season starts to turn sour.

In his fourth training camp, what is he doing now that he wishes he would have done in 2014? One very visible change has been a reduction in the amount of contact that takes place on the field. Will this continue to decline or, give the issues the team had tackling last year, will it ramp up? What used to be the morning practice and afternoon walkthrough were flipped a couple of years ago. Has there been any thought to changing it back?

How has the adjustment process to having so many new coaches gone so far? The Redskins have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and several new position coaches. As happens when any group of co-workers gets added to a workplace, there is an adjustment period. In the NFL, the coaches have to get up to speed with each other in a hurry.

Will Gruden use the season-ending loss to the Giants as a motivational/learning tool or just bury it in the past? It’s a fine line between learning from past mistakes and dwelling on them. While Cousin should make sure that he doesn’t throw another late-game interception like the one he threw in that game, he can’t have it spook him to the point where he can’t pull the trigger on a pass late in a close game. How Gruden handles the 2016 finale could have a major effect on how 2017 unfolds.

After having one of the highest pass ratios in the league, will Gruden look to run the ball more often? Last year, Sean McVay called passes on 62.4 percent of the Redskins’ snaps. The Redskins drafted a fourth-round running back in Samaje Perine and they may team him with starter Rob Kelley and call to keep the ball on the ground a few more times per game.

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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In case you missed it

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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

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