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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 16, four days before the Washington Redskins host the St. Louis Rams.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

—I’m not about to break out the “must win” label here but this is an important game for the Redskins. A loss puts them at 0-2 at home with a quick turnaround to play the Giants in New Jersey on Thursday. Then after a 10-day break the Eagles, who looked like the team most thought they were in the second half on Monday night, come to town. You have to think that the possibility of an 0-4 nightmare start with seven of the final 12 on the road is very real if they drop this one.

—Wide receiver Tavon Austin has not yet justified his status as the No. 8 pick in the 2013 draft. He had 658 receiving yards in his first two seasons combined and he had two catches for minus-2 yards against the Seahawks last Sunday. But he can return punts, as the Redskins learned last year when he took one against them 78 yards to the house. The Seahawks know it, too, as he returned on 75 yards against them. Tress Way had better not outkick his coverage. Better yet, he should angle kicks out of bounds and make Austin try to beat them as a receiver.

—Brandon Scherff did a good job against Ndamukong Suh last week. His reward is Aaron Donald who doesn’t have Suh’s paycheck but he is every bit as tough to handle. He went wild against Seattle, posting two sacks of Russell Wilson and recording a total of nine tackles. In all, the Rams recorded six sacks with Robert Quinn, who will line up against Trent Williams, also had two. And you know that left end Chris Long (vs. Morgan Moses) and right tackle Michael Brockers (Shawn Lauvao) want to catch up with their line mates in the sack department. Kirk Cousins’ ability to avoid taking sacks will be tested.

—The Cousins-Nick Foles duel in Philadelphia last year was entertaining, with the Redskins QB throwing for 427 yards and three touchdowns and Foles going for 325 and matching those three TDs. The Eagles prevailed 37-34; it will be a surprise if the game on Sunday is that high scoring. It should be remembered that the Rams thumped the Redskins at FedEx last year 24-0 with Shaun Hill at quarterback. I’m not as sold on Foles as some are but he’s certainly a significant upgrade over Hill.

—The chatter around town hasn’t started yet but the theme is going to be that the Rams beat the Seahawks so the Redskins have no chance against them. The Redskins may well lose but everyone should keep two things in mind. First, Rams-Seahawks was a division home game and strange things happen in such matchups. St. Louis has beaten Seattle at home three of the last four years under Jeff Fisher but they still don’t have a winning season on the books with him as the coach. Second, the NFL is a week to week league. You only have to go back to last year to remember the talk of how invincible the Cowboys were when the Redskins went there on Monday night. They were 6-1 and coming off of wins in Seattle and over the Giants. But the Redskins won. Again, the Rams could well win but any talk of the Redskins having no chance is silly.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 9; Eagles @ Redskins 19

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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

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!

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

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<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