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Need to Know: Last look at Redskins vs. Eagles

Need to Know: Last look at Redskins vs. Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 12, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Rams in Los Angeles

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Sunday night Raiders @ Redskins (9/24) 12
—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 20
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 47

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Eagles will finish at 8-8 or better. I say that because I think Carson Wentz is going to be a very good quarterback. Not elite, but good enough to win with that Philly defense, which focused on put resources up front giving them a winning combination of a good pass rush and ability to stop the run.  

—Speaking of defensive fronts, the Redskins played well against the run. The Eagles ran 24 times for 58 yards, an average of 2.4 yards per carrying. Last year on first down they allowed a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry. Philly averaged just 2.7 yards on 14 first-down runs. LeGarrette Blount, a 1000-yard rusher with the Patriots last year, carried 14 times for 46 yards, an average of 3.3 yards. Blount was able to power for some yards but a quality Eagles offensive line was unable to open many holes for him. The Redskins also had two sacks and they had their hands on Wentz four other times and a Junior Galette sack was nullified due to an offside penalty that had nothing to do with the outcome of the play.

—If you want to find a positive in the generally poor play of Kirk Cousins, look at his third-quarter completion to Brian Quick. On third and 10 at the Eagles 39, an unblocked Chris Long bolted to the quarterback, screaming in from Cousins’ left. He slipped away from Long, moved several steps laterally to the left, stopped, set, and fired to Brian Quick for 11 yards and the first down. One of the areas where Cousins has needed to show improvement over his two years as a starter is his ability improvise plays when things break down. The Redskins hope he can execute a couple of plays like that per game, turning a potentially negative play into a first down or more.

—Jonathan Allen had a solid debut for the Redskins. He started and played 42 snaps, the most of any defensive lineman by nine (Matt Ioannidis played 33). The first-round pick had four tackles plus a quarterback hit and two hurries. Allen wasn’t dominant but he made his presence felt and that made for an encouraging start.

—When the offensive line had issues during the preseason, it was just the preseason. Now, the unit had issues against the Eagles there is some genuine cause for concern. How much concern? “They [the Eagles] have a good front,” said Jay Gruden yesterday. “That is well-documented. We have a good front also. We should block better than we did.” Philly has one of the best four or five defensive fronts the Redskins will face all year. Did the Washington O-line line struggle because the Eagles are very good or because they have some fatal flaws? That will be one of the major storylines over the next few weeks.  

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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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

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