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Need to Know: First look at Redskins-Vikings matchup

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins-Vikings matchup

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 5, two days before the Washington Redskins visit the Minnesota Vikings.

Nickel coverage

Five things you need to know about the Redskins-Vikings matchup:

1. Quick, who has rushed for more yards this season, Adrian Peterson or Alfred Morris? OK, trick question, it’s Peterson but not by much. The Redskins’ back that everyone thinks is having an off year due to being underutilized has gained 686 yards on 133 carries, a 5.2-yard average per carry. Peterson has 20 more carries and has 711 yards, just 25 more than Morris. That comes to a 4.6-yard average for Peterson. LeSean McCoy of the Eagles leads the NFL with 777 yards but he and the other two runners with more yards than Peterson and Morris, Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles, have not yet had their bye weeks. Peterson and Morris have.

2. The Vikings’ QB carousel has swung back to where it started the year. Christian Ponder is likely to start against the Redskins, having survived two attempts to unseat him as the starter. Matt Cassel got a couple of starts and the Vikings’ only win. After Cassel suffered an injury they gave the ball to Josh Freeman, who had been picked up just a couple of weeks before he started against the Giants. He was awful and now it’s back to Ponder. He got a less than ringing endorsement from head coach Leslie Frazier after the loss to the Cowboys. “As we speak, I don’t see why we would make a change,” Frazier said, via the Pioneer Press and Pro Football Talk. “Sometimes after ballgames you make emotional decisions, but I don’t see anything that tells me he shouldn’t start against the Redskins.”

3. The Vikings’ defense has been consistently bad. They rank 29th in yards allowed in 30th in points given up. They haven’t give up fewer than 23 points in any game and have yielded over 30 points five times. Defensive end Jared Allen is occupying just over $17 million in cap space and he has returned 4.5 sacks.

4. Neither team practiced on Monday but due to the game being just three days away they still had to file an injury report based on what the status of players would have been if they had practiced. Eight Vikings would have been held out of practice including starters DT Letroy Guion (chest/knee), OT Phil Loadholt (concussion), S Jamarca Sanford (groin), and TE Kyle Rudolph (foot). It is certain that Rudolph will not play; he suffered a fractured foot against the Cowboys and is expected to miss a month. In addition starters CB Chris Cook (hip) and CB Josh Robinson (chest) were hypothetically limited.

5. Rudolph is the Vikings’ second-leading receiver with 30, one behind Greg Jennings. Rookie Cordarelle Patterson has made a splash returning kickoffs with two touchdowns but he has yet to make much of an impact as a receiver with 16 catches for 146 yards.

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Stat of the day

—According to Pro Football Focus, the Redskins had no dropped passes against the Chargers and missed just six tackles.

Timeline

—Days until: Redskins @ Vikings 2; Redskins @ Eagles 12; Monday night 49ers @ Redskins 20

—Today’s schedule: Practice 11:05; Player availability, Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan news conferences after practice (approx. 1:15).

In case you missed it

Shanahan talks about “hectic” short week

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Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

The next time Robert Kelley plows over a helpless linebacker, he'll do it with a new number on his uniform.

The second-year running back is switching from No. 32 to No. 20, according to Redskins.com. And he's not the only returning player who'll take the field in 2017 with a new pair of digits.

Su'a Cravens will no longer be No. 36 for Washington. Instead, he'll change to No. 30. DJ Swearinger will be taking over No. 36 after coming over from the Cardinals, a number that he reportedly purchased from Cravens for $75,000

Then there's Colt McCoy. McCoy has donned No. 16 for the past three seasons, but he's throwing it back to his college days and will now rock No. 12.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ULTIMATE REDSKINS DRAFT PREVIEW

Finally, second-year corner Kendall Fuller only spent one year with No. 38. As he hopes to improve in his sophomore campaign, he'll be doing so with No. 29.

As for the free agents, Terrelle Pryor will be replacing DeSean Jackson in more ways than one when kickoff rolls around. Not only will the ex-Brown have to shine as a top receiver for Kirk Cousins like Jackson did, but he'll also be sporting Jackson's No. 11.

New linebacker Zach Brown, meanwhile, is now No. 56, linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are Nos. 92 and 97 respectively and Brian Quick will keep No. 83 from his Rams days.

For a complete list of all the changes, click here.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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