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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 29, the day the Washington Redskins host the New York Giants.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

—Giants left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg have been ruled out of today’s game, meaning that both teams will be without the left guard and center they started the season with. The Giants will shuffle the interior of their line, flipping right guard Geoff Schwartz from right guard to left, putting John Jerry at right guard, and plugging Dallas Reynolds in a center. I’ve been asked if the Redskins will try to blitz Eli Manning up the middle to try to take advantage of Jerry and Reynolds. I think they will try but Manning gets rid of the ball so quickly that it may be a futile effort. It’s probably better to keep defenders back in coverage.

—The more defenders you have on Odell Beckham Jr. the better. Manning to Beckham is the big edge the visitors will have today. Eventually Scot McCloughan would like to get the types of big, physical cornerbacks who can handle a receiver like Beckham. But today they don’t have anyone. Bashaud Breeland will try to break a string of three straight 100-yard games for the second-year receiver.

—Then again, Kirk Cousins should be able to pick out a target and make some hay all day against a Giants pass defense that is the worst in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. Part of their problem is that they don’t get much of a pass rush; they are tied for last in the NFL with 12 sacks.

—A good possibility for the player to be Cousins’ favorite target today is tight end Jordan Reed. He’s usually the QB’s preferred target anyway but the Giants have seen allowed the second-most fantasy points in the league to tight ends this year. In Week 3 in the Meadowlands this year Reed had his best day of the season in terms of yards gained, with six catches for 96 yards. On a side note, to the surprise of many, Reed was not on the injury report this week after leaving the Panthers game for a while with a knee injury. Perhaps he is learning to take care of himself, a good sign for his longevity in the NFL.

—The Giants are favored by 2.5 points. There is a perception out there that they are really a much better team than their 5-5 record indicates because they led at the two-minute warning in four of their five losses. But in terms of points they have scored 273 and given up 253. When your point differential is roughly equal at this point in the season that means that you are about a .500 team. Their record is no fluke. Giving up late leads also means that their defense isn’t very good. Cousins, Reed, DeSean Jackson, Matt Jones, and the rest should be able to move the ball against them. I’ve been saying the Giants will win all week but the call this morning is to take the Redskins plus the 2.5 with the expectation that they get the outright win in a shootout.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Giants, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears 14; Bills @ Redskins 21

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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