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Misunderestimating

Misunderestimating

Misunderestimating

This just in: Many members of the media are lazy. They establish a template based on what has happened in the past. Everything that fits into the template is embraced and “reported”. Whatever doesn’t fit is rejected and goes untold. This takes the place of having to take the time to actually watch the teams they are “covering”.

The template for the Redskins was established in 2004. Actually, it goes back a bit further than that with the “Dan Snyder is a meddling, clueless owner” element. That started in 2000 when he was a meddling, clueless owner. But even though he has handed the keys over to Joe Gibbs, everything the Redskins do has Snyder’s fingerprints on it, according to the template.

The rest of it consists of the game having passed Gibbs by, Mark Brunell being totally washed up, Clinton Portis being unable to handle the load as back in a Gibbs offense, the offensive line being weak and, as a corollary to that last one, they can’t pick up the blitz. There are other elements thrown in here and there, most of them negative, but those are the main ones.

A quick point-by-point refutation here. If the game ever did pass Gibbs by, he made up for lost time by working about 27 hours a day during the offseason to get back up to speed. Brunell is not threat to Peyton Manning as the NFL’s premiere QB, but he has shown that whatever ailed him last year is healed. Nobody at all paid any attention to the Portis’ press conference after Sunday’s game. He said that he and Ladell Betts will share the load at running back. Portis will not get worn down. Last year, the offensive line was mediocre at best. Nobody noticed the Jon Jansen was back and that Casey Rabach replaces the weakest link the line.

But apparently it’s too much work for those who write for ESPN, for CBS Sportsline, for papers around the country and the like to actually observe what’s going on with the team and shape their stories accordingly. The Redskins aren’t among the NFL’s elite, they’re not even among the league’s very good. But they’re better than the template has them make out to be.

The members of the mass media pack have taken the opportunity, however, to reshape the Dallas Cowboy template. All that they had to know is that Jerry and Bill dropped some $50 million in signing bonuses to upgrade their team, particularly defensively. Of course, when Snyder and the Redskins did something like this it was called folly (and rightfully so, for the most part). According to the “experts”, throwing money after their problem (16th-ranked defense in 2004, same 6-10 record as the Skins) has made them into a reincarnation of the ’85 Bears. Their front seven is fierce and impenetrable and that “fact” makes up for some minor shortcomings in their secondary, like safeties that can’t cover.

And then there’s Julius Jones. The guy is out half the season injured, gains a shade over 800 and now all of a sudden he’s Jim Brown.

Of course, in predicting the outcome of the game, it’s that monster defense that’s going to lay waste to that girly O-line of the Redskins and destroy to that shell of his former self Brunell, stuff the overworked Portis and Dallas will cruise to an easy win. Dallas will win in a walk.

In reality, the game is a tossup. The Cowboys have the edge in that it’s a home game, but that’s about it. Both teams are in the middle of the NFL pack, a large bunch that includes about 20 teams. Also among them are the Chargers, Dallas’ “quality” opponent last week who fell to 0-2 with a loss to a Broncos team that was routed by Miami last week. And the Redskins’ 9-7 win over Chicago became more impressive after the Bears hung 38 on Detroit on Sunday.

So we will see what happens on Monday night. On the record here is a prediction of a close Redskins win. But Dallas could well win and the “experts” would be right, but, more than likely, it will be for all the wrong reasons.



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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 a league-worse 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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