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Looking for meaning

Looking for meaning

Looking for meaning
During a TV interview following the Redskins’ win over the Giants, Gregg Williams was informed that the Cowboys had come back to win their game against Carolina. That meant that the Redskins wouldn’t be able to have a playoff spot wrapped up until next week.

“I like the fact that we have to win next week,” said Williams. “I think that’s good for this football team. I don’t think we’ve accomplished nearly enough to be able to think that we can take a week off.”

You have to like that point of view and it makes perfect sense. Coaches are always looking for the extra edge to motivate their players and certainly the opportunity to keep playing and keep those paychecks coming in is as good and as practical as any incentive. If the Redskins had clinched this week, there is a chance that they would lose focus and intensity.

Next weekend’s schedule sets up perfectly from the perspective of Williams and, presumably, the rest of the coaching staff. There is no way that the game on Sunday at 4:15 will be rendered meaningless for the Redskins. While a Dallas loss would clinch a playoff spot for the Redskins regardless of the outcome of the game in Philadelphia, that game doesn’t kick off until 8:30 PM on Sunday. If that doesn’t keep the team focused on winning their game, nothing will.

The playoff seed possibilities are narrowing down for the Redskins. If they go 10-6 and win the NFC East, they will be the four seed. Seattle and Chicago have locked up #1 and #2 respectively. The winner of the NFC South will either have 11 wins or it will be Tampa Bay at 10-6 and the Bucs would get the higher seed due to their win over the Redskins.

If the Redskins win on Sunday to earn their playoff spot, they will be the five seed if Carolina loses at Atlanta and they will be the six seed if the Panthers win. If they manage to back in despite a loss on Sunday, they will be the six seed.

If Washington wins the division it will host either the Giants, Panthers, or Bucs. A Wild Card berth will earn a trip to one of those three teams.

Finishing up in style

In his first tenure here, Joe Gibbs’ teams were an impressive 8-3 in the 16th game of the season. On top of that, they never suffered a loss in the final game of the regular season that cost them a playoff spot. In 1991 they had wrapped up home field throughout the playoffs, so their loss to the Eagles was merely an exhibition. In 1987 the Redskins had been eliminated the previous week, so all their overtime loss to Cincinnati didn’t matter.

Only in 1992 did a final-game loss have playoff implications. Facing a win and in, lose and need help scenario going into a Saturday afternoon game against the Raiders, the Redskins came up short, losing 21-20. Fortunately, they got the help they needed the next day as the Packers lost and the Redskins were able to back in.

Big Blew

The New York writers didn’t take out the long knives on the Giants after the game nearly as bad as the press in Texas went after the Cowboys after their loss in Washington. Still, they don’t take losing lightly in the Big Apple. Here are a few tidbits from a column by Steve Serby in the New York Post.

This was the day the Giants should have made a loud statement - to the Redskins, to the 90,000 fans that shouted them down and cursed them, to all the other NFC teams with Super Bowl dreams. They were as quiet as church mice, and just as big, instead.

Little Blue shrunk to the occasion.

Big players play big in big games, and Big Blue was nowhere to be found.

Blue Christmas.Better yet,

Blew Christmas.

. . .

In the old days, you could always count on pride and toughness from the Giants defense. LT steaming around the corner against Joe Jacoby, with Leonard Marshall creating his own havoc on the opposite side. Harry Carson and John Riggins smashing mouths. Jim Burt nose-to-nose with the Hogs.

Little Blue yesterday.

"They just basically threw the ball up and had some fun with it," Michael Strahan said.They threw a roadblock in front of sackless Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

So many fingers of blame to point, so little time:

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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