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

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

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 22, the day the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

CHAROLOTTE—A final look at today’s game as the Redskins try to knock the Panthers from the ranks of the undefeated.

—The Redskins started out great when it comes to starting out great. In their first six games the opposing team was shut out on its initial possession—the drives resulted in four punts, a fumble, and an interception. But in the last three games that pattern has changed. The Bucs, Patriots, and Saints all scored touchdowns the first time they had the ball. The visiting team needs to get off to a better start today.

—Like many games, this seems like the kind of game that will come down to turnovers. The Redskins had a turnover-free game last Sunday against the Saints after having given the ball away at least once in their previous 20 games. They will need to keep that up. The Redskins are 4-0 when Kirk Cousins doesn’t throw any interceptions and 0-5 when he throws at least one. Cam Newton had a three-pick game against the Eagles and was intercepted twice against the Seahawks. Passes will be in the air for the taking.

—You’ve heard about Cam and TE Greg Olsen all week. The other two offensive weapons to watch are RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Ted Ginn. Stewart is on pace to gain about 1,200 yards rushing and he will chew up yards and clock if the Redskins haven’t fixed their problems with rushing defense. Ginn is having a career renaissance at the age of 30. He’s the Panthers’ second-leading receiver with 25 catches and he’s averaging over 16 yards per reception. It’s possible that the Redskins hold down production from Olsen and Newton but get beaten by Ginn and Stewart.

—Somebody, anybody on the Redskins’ linebacker corps needs to step up. The group has been one of the stronger units on the team the past few years but not in 2015. Ryan Kerrigan wasn’t generating much consistent pass rush even before he suffered a broken hand. On the other side, Trent Murphy is good against the run but generating little pass rush and Preston Smith can’t develop the consistency he needs to take the starting job away from him. On the inside, Keenan Robinson has had lots of issues with missed tackles and Perry Riley looks lost at times. Will Compton has been competent filling in and now as the starter but he needs to find his next level. If they are going to contain Cam and Olsen one or more will have to have a big game.

—If the Redskins had shown an ability to win on the road any time in the last calendar year, I’d probably pick them to win this game. The Panthers are unbeaten but they have shown they are not unbeatable. I think the Redskins will be able to move the ball on the ground. With all of their defensive backs now healthy they will be able to mix and match coverage on Olsen. They should keep it close and have some chances to pull out a win. But eight straight losses is a trend that just can’t be ignored. I suppose you could say that the Redskins are due for a win away from home. Until they show me, however, I just can’t pick them to win. Panthers take a close one.

Timeline

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

Days until: Giants @ Redskins 7; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 15; Redskins @ Bears 21

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Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins coaches appreciate Niles Paul. Not just for the immense physical skills, a 6-foot-1, 225 lb. college receiver turned NFL tight end and fullback. He works hard every day at practice, and demands the same from his teammates. 

Last season, Paul landed on the injured reserve after an injury in London during a Week 8 tie against the Bengals. Because of that, some speculation emerged that Paul could be the odd man out in the Redskins tight end group, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and fighting with 2017 draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle, not to mention veteran Derek Carrier. 

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS MAKE RUN AT NICK MANGOLD?

After two preseason games, it's clear Paul is ready to fight for that spot. Against Green Bay on Saturday night, Paul logged a touchdown catch and a fumble recovery on special teams, showing the versatility that makes him so valuable to Washington. 

For Paul, he's just happy to be back on the field. 

"I got my season cut in half last year. I just want to be back on the field by any means necessary. I've just been missing it. I've been missing football in my life," Paul said after the game (full video above).

Paul's acrobatic TD grab showed that he still has the explosiveness to help the offense, but his special teams play is what will keep him on the roster. It also helps that head coach Jay Gruden complimented Paul for an outstanding camp and work ethic. 

"His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions," Gruden said of Paul. 

The Redskins offense hasn't hit full cylinder yet, but Paul thinks the return of Jordan Reed will help. 

"We're missing a major piece and that's Jordan Reed," he said. "We got some fine tuning to do."

Considering Reed's injury history, and backup tight end Vernon Davis starting the season at 33, a healthy Paul is a luxury for the Redskins. He stands to make nearly $2.5 million this season, but he also brings versatility. Paul is happy to play fullback, a role that seems to be growing, as well as all over the field on special teams. 

Washington will absolutely keep Reed and Davis. With his play this preseason, Paul seems a sure thing too. And if the squad wants to keep their draft pick in Sprinkle, who has tremendous size and has shown promise, four tight ends on the 53-man roster looks like the future. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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!

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With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

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USA Today Sports

With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

News broke late Monday night that Redskins' center Spencer Long underwent a minor knee scope and is expected to miss two weeks. That timetable spells good news for Washington, as that would bring Long back to the team before the first regular season game against the Eagles on September 10th. 

In the meantime, expect rookie Chase Roullier to take over at center for the Redskins. A 6th round draft pick, Bruce Allen and the Washington brass moved up to select Roullier, and the young player out of Wyoming had a strong training camp. 

RELATED: NILES PAUL FORCING HIS WAY TO A ROSTER SPOT?

"He’s done a great job, he really has. For a rookie to come in here and handle all the things he has to handle, it’s been very impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Roullier in early August. 

Still, Jay Gruden has been very clear about the need for a backup center on the roster. Last season the team brought in veteran John Sullivan during the year to provide depth at the position after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury.  Sullivan ended up starting one game for Washington, and is now playing with the Rams. 

With Long on the mend, the only other center on the Redskins roster is Roullier. Ronald Patrick is listed with the more generic OL designation though he has played center too.

It seems likely the team will move quickly to add another center, and one name that will get suggested is Nick Mangold. An 11-year veteran that played his entire career with the Jets, Mangold has more experience than Long, Roullier and Patrick combined.

He's also played the position at a very high level. Twice named to the NFL's All Pro team, Mangold has made seven Pro Bowls, most recently in 2015.

It's not entirely clear why Mangold isn't on an NFL roster already. He worked out for the Ravens this offseason, though some reports suggested Mangold wanted more guaranteed money than was discussed. 

A quick look at his Twitter feed does not suggest a guy missing the NFL life. A big soccer fan, Mangold seems very dialed in to London's Tottenham Hotspur and the New York City Football Club. (Check his Twitter out here)

If the team truly believes Long should not miss any regular season action, Mangold is probably not a fit. At 33-years-old with an impressive resume, Mangold likely doesn't want to come back just to be a backup, and Gruden has repeatedly talked about Long's ability and potential in the middle of the line. Should Long suffer a setback, the equation could change. 

Other names are likely to pop up for tryouts, as the 'Skins must consider more interior line depth. Making a run at Mangold might be something fans want to do, though it might not make sense at this point.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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!