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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' playoff chances

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' playoff chances

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 26, three days before the Redskins host the New York Giants.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Five thoughts on the Redskins and the playoffs

—The Redskins are not a playoff team but that doesn’t mean they can’t make the playoffs. They are flawed in many ways but so are the other teams in the NFC East and per NFL rules one of the teams has to represent the division in the playoffs. It may not be ideal to be a mediocre playoff team but it’s better than being a mediocre non-playoff team. The experience of participating in a playoff game would be invaluable for younger players.

—A playoff trip can be a springboard to future success. The Panthers made the postseason going 7-8-1 last year. They won their first-round game and you see where they are now. The Seahawks took the NFC West in 2010 with a 7-9 record and upset the Saints in the first round. Two years later they were on their way to being a powerhouse. That may or may not happen but nothing bad can result from playing an extra game or two.

— "If we have any desire to play 17, 18 or 19 games, we’ve got to win Sunday," Jay Gruden said on Wednesday. That’s not mathematically true but being two games back with the Giants having the head-to-head tiebreaker in hand would be a very steep mountain to climb.

—Although this is a big game, the team’s approach shouldn’t really change. “If our attitude or preparation suddenly changes this week, I would be scratching my head wondering what guys were doing previous week,” said Kirk Cousins. “I feel like all of the games are important.”

—Like most, I think the odds are against the Redskins winning the division. It is hard for me to see them getting past the Giants; it’s just a bad matchup for them. But just like I can say that the Giants have the Redskins’ number, you can say Washington is due for a win over New York. If the home team can pull it off and get into a first-place tie with an edge in the division record tiebreaker I will start to take the playoff scenarios a lot more seriously.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 10:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 12:30

Days until: Giants @ Redskins 3; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 121; Redskins @ Bears 17

In case you missed it

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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.