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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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Five takeaways: A lot to like about the Redskins' dominant primetime win.

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Five takeaways: A lot to like about the Redskins' dominant primetime win.

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 27-10 win over the Raiders:

This was the Redskins best defensive performance since 1991. That was the last time they held an opponent to under 128 total yards. They were physical, smart, determined and they made plays. If not for two turnovers they would have had a shutout. Oakland did not cross the Washington 48 without the benefit of a gift. Just dominant. 

With a strong defense, you can do what you want to on offense. I asked Kirk Cousins how much running for a couple of yards a pop as Samaje Perine was doing early in the game helped the offense. He answered in part by saying that the offense can afford to run for a low average per carry when the defense is playing so well. That's true. A punt isn't a bad play when you are confident that you are likely to get the ball back three plays later. 

Chris Thompson just keeps getting better every week. His patience when he has the ball in his hands and his ability to burst into the opening when it's there are textbook excellent. Oh yeah, his open field speed, which he gets to show off after being patient and cutting is amazing. Even the smaller plays, like two near the end of the half, when he wove his way through the cracks in the defense and then got out of bounds after gaining everything he could, are fun to watch. He is the Redskins' offensive MVP so far. 

Doctson showed why the Redskins drafted him on one flash. Nobody is going to give Josh Doctson an MVP award but we did see his potential when he went up and took that deep pass away from David Amerson for the touchdown. Plays like that make you see why the Redskins drafted him in the first round and why they have been patient with him. He will need to develop consistency but in the meantime, splash plays like that help a lot.

It’s hard to find fault in this one. Normally in these posts, I try to find a positive in a loss and something to be critical of in a win. But it’s really hard to find much to be critical about in the immediate aftermath of this one. Jamison Crowder’s muff of a punt certainly was an issue and perhaps Samaje Perine could have made more out of the line’s blocking for him. But from the defense to Cousins to Thompson to Zach Brown to D.J. Swearinger and many more, it was as dominant a game as we’ve seen from this team in a while. Can they keep it up? Tune in next Monday from Arrowhead Stadium and we’ll find out.

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.

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With one catch, Josh Doctson proved just how dangerous he can be for the Redskins

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With one catch, Josh Doctson proved just how dangerous he can be for the Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. — It took a while, longer than likely anyone expected, but Josh Doctson's first career touchdown catch may just have been worth the wait.

In the third quarter of the Redskins' 27-10 win over the Raiders on Sunday night, Kirk Cousins lofted a deep ball from a bit beyond midfield toward Doctson, who was being boxed out by David Amerson. And as the pass made its descent, Amerson went up to go snag it.

There was just one problem for the corner: Doctson went up and got to it first.

The result? A 52-yard touchdown that made the score 21-0 in favor of the hosts but, far more importantly, opened — quite forcefully, too — everyone's eyes to the sheer talent No. 18 possesses.

MORE: WHY THE DEFENSE'S EFFORT WAS SO ENCOURAGING

"I just made the play," the second-year wideout said afterward, about as nonchalantly as he made the TD look even though it absolutely wasn't. "It was pretty simple to be honest."

Against the Eagles and Rams in Weeks 1 and 2, Doctson suited up for Washington's offense but wasn't involved at all. And in the early going vs. Oakland, it again looked like he'd walk off the field with the same statline as an inactive player, on the verge of facing more questions about why he isn't producing. 

But that all changed on one jump-ball, which is exactly what his head coach has been anxiously waiting for.

"I think it was some relief for him," Jay Gruden answered when asked about the highlight. "I think the players have seen him do that in practice quite often but nobody else has... It wasn't a perfectly thrown ball, but to give him a chance where he can go up and make a big time catch, hopefully we'll get more of that."

RELATED: REDSKINS PLAYERS SIT AND KNEEL DURING ANTHEM

Doctson's QB, who gestured toward him during the post-score celebration as if to say There's the dude you've all been hearing about for months, certainly appreciated it.

"I do like Josh's ball skills and his ability to catch the ball up in the air and I thought, 'You know what, I'm going to give him a chance, they have been asking me to give him that chance and let's give it to him," Cousins said.

As fans of the team know all too well by now, Doctson isn't someone that can be counted on yet. He's oft-injured, and the grab he made over Amerson, while spectacular, was just the third of his career. 

But that sequence provides hope that many more similar to it will follow if he continues to stay healthy and gains more of Gruden's and Cousins' trust this year. He's still far from validating his 2016 first-round selection, but it's now obvious he has the skills to distance himself from those who so badly want to label him a bust.