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Flashback Friday: Past training camp battles

Flashback Friday: Past training camp battles

There are few battles for starting jobs with the Redskins this year. Just in case you’re yearning for a good, old fashioned August battle for a starting spot, here’s a look back at a few of the more memorable ones from the Redskins’ past:

1972: Billy Kilmer vs. Sonny Jurgensen -- This was the very height of the Sonny vs. Billy debate. Jurgensen, a future Hall of Famer, had suffered a shoulder injury in a preseason game the previous year. In came Kilmer, a veteran journeyman who was acquired in George Allen’s first trade with the team. All he did was lead Washington to postseason play for the first time in 25 years.

As they came to camp in Carlisle in 1972, Allen let the two battle it out. “George tried to create a rivalry at every position,” Kilmer said. Especially, it seemed, at signal caller.

The rivalry was a friendly one. “Sonny and I hit it off right away,” said Kilmer. “We understood that we had a good chance to be on a winning team so instead of being petty about things we decided to help each other.”

Not surprisingly in a city that loves a good leadership controversy, the fans took sides in the issue. Bumper stickers proclaiming that the car’s occupant liked Sonny or Billy were hot items. Unofficial counts around town showed a slim but certain margin in favor of Jurgensen. “I wasn’t surprised that the fans took sides,” said Kilmer. “Sonny is the guy and always will be.”

Both quarterbacks played well during the preseason, so Allen was forced to make his decision based on other factors. The week before the season opener in Minnesota, the coach announced that Kilmer would be the starter as a reward for his performance the previous season. Jurgensen would take over four games into the season and win all three of his starts before his year ended when he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Kilmer came back in and earned Pro Bowl honors as he led the Redskins to Super Bowl VII.

1996: Gus Frerotte vs. Heath Shuler--While Sonny vs. Billy was a Clash of the Titans, Gus vs. Heath had a more mortal feel to it. Coach Norv Turner had declared that the two 1994 draftees would fight it out for the job in Frostburg, Maryland after Shuler, the man Turner handpicked to be his quarterback and the third overall pick, displayed a tendency to be both injury prone and erratic. While Frerotte, a seventh-round pick, didn’t possess Shuler’s upside, he appeared to be quite competent and more dependable.

While the two rivals weren’t enemies, they weren’t quite good buddies either. Frerotte said, "It's competition. On the field, you can't be buddy-buddy.”

Both played well in the early preseason games, but just when it came time for Turner to make his decision, they both stunk up RFK Stadium in a 28-7 loss to Cincinnati. Turner announced that the job was Frerotte’s, based on consistency. The decision essentially ended Shuler’s Redskins career as he got on the field for just one play in 1996 and was cut after the season ended.

1999: Skip Hicks vs. Stephen Davis--When the Redskins decided to release Terry Allen, who had led the team in rushing in each of his four season with the team, the heir apparent was second-year back Skip Hicks. The third-round pick out of UCLA was second to Allen in rushing in 1998 with 433 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Also allowed to compete for the job was Stephen Davis, a fourth-round pick in 1996 who had filled in as a fullback in 1998.

Rarely is the favorite to win the job knocked out of the competition in the early going, but that’s what happened here. After just a few days of practice, Turner was impressed with Davis rare combination of speed and power. Davis started the preseason opener and, essentially, the job was his right then and there. He rushed for 1,405 yards in leading the Redskins to the division title.

Join me for a live blog of Saturday's preseason game. Go here for details.

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Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

The Redskins moved the ball well against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but continued red zone woes again sent Washington home with a loss. While the late November schedule proved brutal for the 'Skins, playing two games in five days, now the Redskins come to Arizona for an early December game with fresh legs and ample rest. Played indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium, weather will not be a factor for the 4 p.m. EST kick, but all the action starts on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at 3 p.m. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Keep it moving - Kirk Cousins showed he likes to get hot in the second half of the season during 2015. The quarterback's play late last year won the 'Skins the NFC East, and while a division title is out of reach with the Cowboys already at 11 wins, Cousins again looks to be on a heater. In three games since the bye, Cousins has thrown for more than 1,000 yards to go with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The No. 1 story for the 'Skins is Cousins, and if he keeps his hot streak going, Washington should find itself in position to win in Arizona.
  2. Missing in action - This will be the final game of a four-game suspension for left tackle Trent Williams, and the Washington offensive line has performed admirably in his absence. Arguably more important this week will be the absence of tight end Jordan Reed, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in Dallas. What's wild about Reed - he came back to play in the second half against the Cowboys - and score two touchdowns - while playing with a separated shoulder. Reed did not practice this week, and Jay Gruden said his range of motion in the shoulder is just too limited to go against the Cardinals. 
  3. Consider the source - The Redskins offense might be the most potent group in this game, but Washington would be foolish to sleep on the Cardinals. Arizona was widely considered a Super Bowl contender coming into the season, and though they are in the midst of a disappointing year at 4-6-1, a win against the Skins could get the Cards back on the playoff track. Arizona running back David Johnson is the 3rd leading rusher in the NFL with 921 yards on the ground, not to mention an additional 613 yards receiving. Gruden on Johnson, "He is probably the best all-around back there is in the National Football League right now as far as being able to move outside, be a great route runner but also run between the tackles and run outside with his speed. So it’s going to be a matchup problem." Defensively, the Redskins ranks 25th in the NFL at stopping the run. Watch out for David Johnson.
  4. Problems don't just go away - Look at just about any metric on the Redskins offense, and the results are impressive: No. 2 in yards-per-game, No. 2 in yards-per-play, No. 2 in pass yards-per-game. But for all the yards, the 'Skins don't score at a corresponding clip as they rank 9th in the NFL in points. The culprit? Red zone troubles. "There are so many good things we’re doing on offense to put a damper on what they’re doing offensively with the red zone. It’s hard to do, but it’s something that is a glaring weakness of this football team right now," Gruden said of his team. The best road to wins for the Redskins is by scoring, ideally at least 30 points, and that will require some success inside the 20s.
  5. The harder they fall - If the Arizona offense has an Achilles heel, it's their offensive line. Carson Palmer has been sacked 16 times in the Cards last four games, and the 'Skins need to focus on bringing Palmer down. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy - who will be playing in his hometown - have been the leaders at getting sacks for Joe Barry's defense, and Preston Smith could be in line for another big game. Getting to Carson Palmer should be among the defense's top priorities, as that can slow Larry Fitzgerald and the Cards pass game.

Numbers & Notes:

  • DeSean Jackson's 67-yard reception in Dallas was a season long and his longest since a 77-yard touchdown vs. Buffalo in Week 15 of the 2015 season.
  • Kirk Cousins' 3,540 passing yards in 2016 now rank 10th-most in a single season in team history, and he still has five games left to play.
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFL in percentage of fewest 3-and-out drives at 9.5 percent.
  • If Pierre Garçon can gain 137 receiving yards on Sunday, he will pass Michael Westbrook for 10th-most career receiving yards in team history.
  • With nine sacks, Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from becoming the fifth member of the Redskins (Dexter Manley, 4; Charles Mann, 4; Andre Carter, 2; Brian Orakpo, 2) to post multiple 10-sack seasons since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982.

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

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances