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Need to Know: A big opportunity for the Redskins but are they ready for it?

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Need to Know: A big opportunity for the Redskins but are they ready for it?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 7, two days before the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Lions 16; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 23

A big opportunity for the Redskins but are they ready for it?

The Redskins have a chance to make a statement in Baltimore on Sunday. But are they ready to do it?

Make no mistake, a win over Baltimore would be a big deal, some solid evidence that things are better than they were last year. In 2015 they couldn’t get a road win until Week 14 in Chicago. A win here would mean two road wins by the time the season is a third of the way done.

After beating the Bears they won over the Bills, the first time all year they had posted consecutive victories. A win Sunday would give them a three-game winning streak.

And in 2015 they didn’t have a win over a team with a winning record all year. The Giants were 2-0 when the Redskins beat them and the Ravens are 3-1. We don’t know at this point how the Ravens or Giants will finish the season but they got have a chance to end up over .500.

In short, they would have some pelts on the wall in early October that they either never got in 2015 or struggled into December to get.

That all sounds good when laid out as a hypothetical but can the Redskins pull it off? Baltimore is hardly a juggernaut despite their 3-1 record. But they are very solid defensively, ranking first in yards allowed and in the top 10 in most other significant defensive categories. It’s going to be tough for the Redskins to move the ball.

Then, of course, there is the matter of the Washington defense, which can’t stop anybody, particularly when the opposition runs the ball (31st in the NFL at 4.9 yards per carry) and runs third-down plays (last in the NFL allowing 57 percent conversions). You get the feeling that Baltimore offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will figure out ways to exploit the Redskins D.

The Redskins’ best chance to pull off the upset (they are four-point underdogs) is what helped them win their previous two games—takeaways. The Ravens have turned the ball over seven times as Joe Flacco has throw four interceptions and they have lost three fumbles.  The Redskins have eight takeaways (four fumble recoveries, four interceptions) tied for fifth in the NFL).

Are the takeaways sustainable? Defensive coordinator Joe Barry didn’t say that they were but he refused to concede that the are strictly due to chance.

“I think it’s maybe something that we talk about and preach, like my thing that I have the guys… before they walk onto the field every day, they’ve got to punch a ball out, they’ve got to hammer a ball out, they’ve got to rake a ball out,” Barry said when asked about the sustainability of getting takeaways.. “It’s just something that we kind of get our mindset before we walk onto the field for stretch. So it’s something that we emphasize in addition to all the other things that we emphasize, phases of the game. But, I do believe, again, taking the ball away is something that it’s a skill that has to be developed.”

And, indeed the Redskins players are greeted by a pair of these as they walk down onto the practice field:

I don’t know if that will make a huge difference—I’m sure that Flacco will have a tighter grip on the ball than the Velcro strips that attach the ball to the dummy have. But with the Redskins leading the league in forced fumbles both this year and since the start of the 2015 season, I guess you have to say, hey, whatever works.

The Redskins do not have to be reliant on takeaways to win but if they are going to win without them they will need to show vast improvement in other areas, like defensive third downs. That should start to improve if only because no team has ever gone a full season allowing over 50 percent conversions on third down. But getting the third-down problem to a level where they won’t have to rely on turnovers to win a game like this one might be too tall and order for the Redskins.

I’m certainly not ruling out the possibility of a big win. It really wouldn’t be that hard. Again, the Ravens are not a powerhouse team. Just cutting down on the missed tackles and knocking down a few more third-down passes would do it. It’s not going to be easy to move the ball against Baltimore but the Redskins have the weapons to get it done.

We will see if the team is ready to take that next step.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it 

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Redskins plan to interview Rob Ryan for defensive coordinator, per report

Redskins plan to interview Rob Ryan for defensive coordinator, per report

Plenty of Redskins fans wanted the team to interview Rex Ryan for defensive coordinator.

Well, a report shows they aren't talking to Rex, but instead, his brother Rob, according to Albert Breer of MMQB

Rex Ryan's track record as a defensive coordinator is very impressive.

Rob Ryan's track record as a defensive coordinator is, uh, less impressive. 

In 12 seasons as a coordinator, first in Oakland and then with Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans, Rob Ryan has two Top 5 finishes in yards allowed. He also has finished 31st out of 32 teams in the league in yards allowed three times.

Below is a chart from Pro Football Reference showing his defensive ranks from 2004 when he became coordinator in Oakland all the way through his last job as a coordinator in New Orleans in 2015.

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The results aren't pretty.

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It should be noted that in 2016, Rob Ryan served as assistant head coach in Buffalo on his brother Rex's staff.

That team's defense finished 19th in yards allowed. 

Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine have interviewed with the Redskins for their vacant defensive coordinator opening.

Washington is also reported to have reached out to Wade Phillips, who took the same position with the Rams, and Steve Wilks, who took the same position with the Carolina Panthers. Internally, outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky also seems to be under some consideration for the position, and a report last week linked former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula with the Washington defense.

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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Award Tour: Tandler & JP name Redskins' Defensive Player of the Year

Award Tour: Tandler & JP name Redskins' Defensive Player of the Year

With the 2017 offseason about to kick into high gear, Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler are going to take one last look at 2016 in the coming days.

That’s right, it’s time to hand out awards for Coach of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year.

We’ve picked our top coaches and the Special Teams POY. Today we select the Defensive Player of the Year.

Tandler: This is tough because there were no real standouts on a mediocre unit. Ryan Kerrigan was the only defensive representitive to the Pro Bowl and had 11 sacks but his impact plays were few. You could make a case for Chris Baker, who was the only consistently effective player on the defensive line.

The pick here is Josh Norman.

He also was invisible for long stretches for good reasons. The only quarterback to throw his way more than seven times in the last half of the season was the Bears’ Matt Barkley and Norman made him pay with two interceptions. A Norman pick set up the clincher in the Browns game and he forced a fumble that put the Packers game beyond even an Aaron Rodgers miracle.

Outside of that, he set the tone during the week, staying out a minimum of 30 minutes after every practice, working on his craft.

If the defense can get two or three more players just like Norman they’ll be fine.

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Finlay: Norman is a strong pick, but since Tandler stole that selection from me, I will go with Kerrigan.

I've heard the lack of impact plays argument, and don't agree. His strip-sack to end the Eagles game, a win the reeling Redskins desperately needed, was probably a Top 5 defensive play this season. Without that sack, Philly had all the momentum and a chance to knock the 'Skins out of playoff contention. He also played through a number of injuries, starting every game for the sixth straight season.

Baker's name deserves recognition, as does Trent Murphy. The best part of Murphy's eight sack breakout campaign: Excellence is expected of Norman and Kerrigan. With Kerrigan, the expectations are so high that 11 sacks is almost dismissed by some fans and media. Murphy emerged as a viable sack threat for Washington this season, something that he can build upon next year. 

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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN 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!