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Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 2, 68 days before the start of free agency.

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The Mike Shanahan era is over. On Tuesday we took a look at some things that went well during the last four years. Yesterday was about what went wrong. Today, the question is what’s still up in the air?

In chronological order, five moves by Shanahan of which we don’t know the results.

1. The Redskins went into the 2011 draft missing picks in the third and fourth rounds but due to some wheeling and dealing they ended up picking 12 players including at least one in every round. Eight of them are still on the roster or finished the year on injured reserve and only one, top pick Ryan Kerrigan, is set as a starter. Some others need to step up in their fourth seasons to prevent this draft from being a bust.

2. The blockbuster trade to move up to get Robert Griffin III looked like a winner a year ago. Now with Griffin coming off of a bad season with two ACL tears highlighting his medical history and the final installment of the trade ending up being the No. 2 overall pick going to the Rams, it’s not so clear. Griffin will have to be stellar for many years to justify the price. He appears to be capable of doing that but we won’t know for a while.

3. In 2012 the Redskins gave Pierre Garçon a five-year contract worth $42.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed. He proved to be valuable in 2012 when he could play and he was the offensive MVP this past year, leading the league in receptions. But that hefty price means that the team needs to get another solid season or two out of him. Out of all of the questions on this list, the confidence that Garçon will work out is the highest.

4. In 2012 Shanahan spent three draft picks on offensive linemen. But guards Josh LeRibeus (3rd round) and Adam Gettis (5th) and tackle Tom Compton (6th) have yet to play except for an emergency appearance here and there. LeRibeus was inactive for all 16 games this year. Is there any depth on the offensive line?

5. Tight end Jordan Reed looked to be a third-round steal when he started catching everything thrown near him in the first half of the season. But he missed the last six games of the season with a concussion. Reed will have to shake the injury bug if he is going to live up to that “steal” status.

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Stat of the day

—In 2013 Roy Helu was the Redskins second-leading rusher among running backs with 62 carries for 274 yards. The previous season that distinction went to Evan Royster, who had just 23 carries for 88 yards.

Timeline

—Former Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer was born on this date in 1940.

—Days until: NFL free agency 68; 2014 NFL Draft 126; 2014 Opening Sunday 249

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Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Many considered the Cardinals a Super Bowl contender this season, though the team has not performed to that level so far in 2016. One huge problem for Arizona - protecting quarterback Carson Palmer. 

In its last four games, Arizona has given up 16 sacks on Palmer, including a staggering eight sacks against the Carolina Panthers. In the last two games, Palmer has gone down six times, and both games have been losses. 

With weapons like wideout Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, Palmer has lots of options to move the ball. That's why Jay Gruden knows how important it is for his front seven to get home.

"It’s going to start with the pass rush," Gruden said. "If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and give Larry time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don’t care how big you are or how fast you are, it’s going to be hard."

In all six Cardinals losses, Palmer has been sacked at least two times, and in four of the losses, Palmer has gone down at least four times. Beyond the Panthers' eight sacks, the Bills brought down the Cards QB five times, and both the Seahawks and Vikings got to Palmer four times.

While the sack totals stand out, Washington's Preston Smith knows each week is different in the NFL.

"Every game you’re fired up because you feel like it's an opporttunity to get out there and get sacks," Smith said. "You don’t think about what another team did, they’re going to play us different."

Talking on the latest #RedskinsTalk Podcast, Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy acknowledged that the defense knows how beat up the Cardinals' offensive line is. Murphy, who has seven sacks on the season, added that he's 'drooling' for this matchup and the opportunity to take advantage of the Arizona vulnerabilities up front. (Listen to the full podcast below.)

Bruce Arians knows his team is undermanned on the line, and the Arizona offense will be creative to protect Palmer.

"You have to help them," Arians said of his O-line. "You have got to stay balanced and hopefully not get into a situation where it’s a throw, throw, throw game because then you’re putting them in harm’s way and your quarterback in harm’s way."

It doesn't help that in his 14th season, Palmer is probably one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. After matching up against Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott in their last two games, the Redskins defense knows Palmer won't move nearly as much, though that doesn't mean he's neccesarily easier to get down.

"You’re not going against a mobile quarterback but you still got to get to that spot," Smith said. "Carson’s a good quarterback."

Linebacker Mason Foster said that sacks aren't as important as consistent pressure. 

"On a great quarterback like that you want consistent pressure all day long. Make things tough on him, you don’t want a clean pocket," Foster said. "If you have pressure in his face all day and you don’t get no sacks, I think that's a success."

Even at 36, Palmer is still a dangerous quarterback. He's thrown for nearly 3,000 yards this year with a beat-up offensive line and missing one start. But numbers are numbers, and the data shows that if the 'Skins pass rushers can get Palmer to the ground, the chances of a Washington win shoot right up. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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Poll: What is your approval rating for Redskins coach Jay Gruden?

Poll: What is your approval rating for Redskins coach Jay Gruden?

As always, hit the poll and then head to the comments section here and talk about your answer, or reply on Twitter.