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Five keys to Redskins-Bears--Can they trust Forbath?

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Five keys to Redskins-Bears--Can they trust Forbath?

Five game keys plus a Bears-Redskins prediction:

1. The Redskins need to be very afraid of kick returner Devin Hester but the numbers suggest that the Bears’ special teams may be slowing him down themselves. Yes, Hester is averaging over 30 yards per return but he hasn’t been impressive in the “what have you done lately” department. In the Bears’ first two games Hester returned six kickoffs and averaged 46.6 yards a pop. Since then he has 13 kickoff returns and an average of a more pedestrian 22.7 per return. The Bears have been hit hard with injuries and, as often happens in the NFL, the effects have trickled down to their special teams.

2. It was good to see Robert Griffin III running well and picking up some big chunks of yardage against the Cowboys and the Redskins hope he will keep it up on Sunday against Chicago. However, Griffin having a big day on the ground is not necessarily a key to victory. The game in Dallas marked the eighth time in his career that Griffin has rushed for 60 yards or more. The Redskins’ record in those games is 4-4.

3. The Redskins have only run up the middle 19 times this year but those runs have been productive plays. They average 9.6 yards per play when going up the gut. Coincidentally, there have been 19 rushing plays up the middle against the Bears’ defense this year. Chicago has give up an average of 5.7 yards on those plays, 28th in the NFL. Sending Alfred Morris into the middle of the line really isn’t the Redskins’ style but they might find that area to be a fertile hunting ground on Sunday. Perhaps they could give Darrel Young a few carries on quick hitters in the middle as well.

4. DeAngelo Hall was not covering Dez Bryant exclusively Sunday night just like he wasn’t on Calvin Johnson every play during the Lions game. But he was the guy who was primarily responsible for containing Johnson (7 rec., 115 yds., 1 TD) and shutting down Bryant (5/36/0). It will be the same situation with Hall on Monday when he will cover Brandon Marshall most of the time. If Hall again comes up big then the game may come down to how well Josh Wilson, David Amerson (assuming he plays) and the rest of the secondary do against wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, and running back Matt Forte.

5. It’s probably too early to really worry about Kai Forbath, especially after he set such a high standard for himself last year by making his first 17 field goal attempts. But since then, going back to the 2012 season finale, he has hit on just three of six. Perhaps it’s not fair to be too hard on him for a 49-yard miss in Dallas; that’s about a 50-50 shot. But his miss in the season opener was from 40 and he missed his last attempt of 2012 against Dallas from 37. Again, it’s not panic time over Forbath just yet. But are you going to be able to watch if he lines up for, say, a 44-yarder with the game on line?

I think that Forbath will line up for that field goal with the outcome of a back-and-forth contest on the line. Does he make it?

Redskins 31, Bears 30

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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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