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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles—Not a must win but close

Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles—Not a must win but close

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 16, seven days before the Washington Redskins travel to Detroit to play the Lions.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Redskins @ Lions 7; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 14; Vikings @ Redskins 28

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—This isn’t a “must win” game for the Redskins but it is very, very important. For one thing, they have a chance to finish the first half of their NFC East schedule with a winning record. They lost to the Cowboys and won at the Giants and holding home field against the Eagles would be a big boost. The game also marks the end of the first half of the Redskins’ home season. Their remaining home games are against the Giants and three teams that made the playoffs last year, the Vikings, Packers, and Panthers. It’s hard to make a playoff run without having a winning record at home. That’s going to be a big ask in any case but it will be almost impossible if they go into that Week 10 Vikings game 1-3 at home.

—Jordan Reed’s absence from the lineup with a concussion is not at all surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. He wasn’t even cleared to practice even with no contact all week and it would have been nearly impossible for him to get through the concussion protocol in time to play. His situation, with this being his fifth diagnosed concussion, certainly bears watching. Su’a Cravens also was downgraded to out with a concussion. That’s a surprise from the perspective of midweek. There was a lot of optimism on Wednesday and Thursday when he was on the field participating in individual drills. But when Friday rolled around and he still wasn’t cleared it began to look more like he’d sit again. He didn’t have a setback, he just never progressed to the point where he could play.

—The last time these teams met with at least four games gone in the season with both of them sporting a winning record was back in November of 2000. Washington, 7-4, hosted the game against the 8-4 Eagles. Of course the game was loaded with playoff implications. Philly won 23-20 as an Eddie Murray field goal try missed in the last two minutes. It was Norv Turner’s next to last game as Redskins coach; he was fired after losing to the Giants the following week. This game has nothing to do with Turner or Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb (well, unless it ends up in a tie) but it does point out that it’s infrequent to see both of these teams doing well in the same season.

Related: Crowder letting instincts take over on punt returns

—Before the Ravens game over half of the Redskins’ offensive possession had ended in a score. That stat took a hit in Baltimore but they are still at a respectable 43.4 percent, sixth in the league. The Eagles are now second in the league, scoring on 51.2 percent of their drives, second to the Falcons (via Pro Football Reference). One reason why is that they have the shortest field to work with. On average, their drives start at their own 33.7 yard line, the best in the league by a comfortable margin.

—I’d actually feel much better about the Redskins’ chances of winning this game if it was in Philadelphia. I think they have that road warrior mentality now, with five straight wins away from FedEx Field. But it’s in Washington so I find myself more dubious of their chances. But I’m still going with the Redskins. I don’t think that the Eagles are quite as good as their record (although they are a quality team) and the Redskins are playing well despite dealing with some injury issues. Get ready for another close one, Redskins fans.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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In case you missed it

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After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

It's never been a talent issue for D.J. Swearinger. In college he made big plays and earned all conference honors playing in the SEC at South Carolina. He was drafted high by Houston, second round in 2013, and started 10 games his rookie season. 

In his first two seasons with the Texans, Swearinger started 22 games and proved to be a playmaker. He logged three interceptions and more than 100 tackles. He looked like a possible long-term answer at safety, until he was uncermoniously cut after his second year.

Reports showed Swearinger bucked at playing special teams. And over time, a reputation as a big - sometimes dirty - hitter emerged. 

None of it helped Swearinger, who was signed by Tampa in 2015. He played seven games for the Bucs but was cut mid-season. Arizona signed him late in the 2015 season, and kept him for 2016.

Last year, playing on a defense with strong leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, Swearinger excelled. He played all over the Cardinals secondary, starting 12 games and making plays like he did early in his career in Houston.

He finished the 2016 season with three interceptions, two sacks and eight passes defensed. He made more than 50 tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger with a +15.3 grade, by far the highest of his career and good for the 8th best rating of any safety in the NFL.

The Redskins haven't had solid safety play in years. In 2016, the team tried to address the position on the cheap, converting cornerbacks to safeties and signing low tier free agents. It didn't work.

So, finally, in 2017 the Redskins front office addressed the safety position by signing Swearinger to a three-year deal. And it sounds like the 25-year-old has grown up a lot after four years of bouncing around the league.

"I've been on a lot of teams. I want to make this home," Swearinger said (full video above). "I feel like I’m experienced enough to know what to do as a pro, know what to do to stay on top of things and be a pro. As long as I be a pro every day and make the plays I’m capable of, I’ll be a Redskin."

Swearinger's deal will keep him with the Redskins through the 2019 season, but already, head coach Jay Gruden seems excited about the new safety. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said watching film of Swearinger revealed a player hitting the highest levels of safety play in the NFL. In OTAs, seeing Swearinger in person, Gruden was impressed.

"Watching him the first two days really excites me. He just looks like a safety back there," Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but I just think D.J. is to a level in his career right now where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent."

There was some question if Swearinger can play the free safety role in Washington. More to the point, if he has the speed to play a true center field, with second-year man Su'a Cravens moving from linebacker to strong safety. Swearinger has zero concerns.

"I'm a free safety, I think that fits my body well," he said. "As a free safety you got to have the confidence in yourself that you can run with those guys and make plays on those guys."

Swearinger doesn't lack for confidence, and he shouldn't. Combined with Cravens, along with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback, the Redskins secondary could be a strength in 2017.

"We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out, I think this group can be one of the best," Swearinger said. "We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit."

It's normal for players to be excited in May. There supposed to be. 

Coaches, however, tend to be more hesitant with praise. Not optimism, but actual praise, though when it comes to Swearinger, Gruden isn't shy about his expectations.

"We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league," the coach said of his new free safety.

It's been a long journey for Swearinger. From four teams in four years to five teams in five years. He's hoping this one sticks. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

With Memorial Day weekend between now and the Redskins next batch of OTAs, let's look at the three best quotes from the first organized team session. For Redskins fans, the biggest looming issue remains the contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the organization, but there are plenty of other spots worth watching. 

1) Bad recruiting - A long-term deal might not get done, but that doesn't mean the talks aren't moving along. Cousins sounded almost optimistic but also knows that football is never a sure thing. To explain, he told a story from his high school days:

I’ve just kind of learned from previous experiences and if you know my story going back to high school, I played my senior year of high school with no scholarship offers, in fact there was a coach here from Northwestern today who was my recruiting coach at Northwestern, he’s still the running backs coach 10 years later at Northwestern and I was getting recruited by Northwestern, wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me, and it was just a reminder that you never know what’s going to happen. 

2) Sky's the limit - Despite the high-cost addition of Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary in 2016 was hardly a strength. Much of that came from poor safety play, where the team had few experienced options and spent little. This offseason, Washington invested in the position, bringing in D.J. Swearinger from the Arizona Cardinals. The new safety thinks the secondary can become a strength, quickly.

We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out I think this group can be one of the best. We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit.

3) Does it even matter - The NFL gives out a lot of awards, but at least publicly, there is no hardware for the funniest head coach. If there was a trophy, Jay Gruden should win it. Earlier this week the league announced a number of rule changes, most noticeably a change to stodgy TD celebration penalties. Another rule change: Overtime will shrink from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Gruden wasn't impressed when asked about it. 

Who cares?

Bonus - Who you calling fat? Gruden is too funny to only make the list once. Asked about second-year running back Robert Kelley, the coach made sure people know the difference between a nickname and reality.

That was just a nickname, he wasn’t actually fat. I think when you’re a 22-year-old kid, 21-year-old guy out of Tulane and you understand the wear and tear that the NFL is going to give you, you better get yourself into shape if you want to maintain a career in the NFL as a running back.

Always something on social 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back