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Need to Know: Five questions about Redskins vs. Texans

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Need to Know: Five questions about Redskins vs. Texans

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 3, four days before the Redskins open their season against the Texans.

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Here are five questions about the Redskins-Texans matchup this Sunday

How will they control J. J. Watt? The $100 million man probably is going to pressure Robert Griffin III on multiple occasions but the Redskins aren't completely helpless. Jay Gruden’s Bengals did pretty well against him. In three games, one regular season and two in the playoffs Watt recorded two sacks of Andy Dalton. Gruden will have a plan for dealing with him. But the best way to control a pass rush from any player? Run the ball.

Can they exploit QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? The last time Fitzpatrick faced the Redskins was one of the best days of his life. On October 30, 2011 he signed a big contract extension with the Bills and they he went out and led Buffalo to a 23-0 win over Washington. Things haven’t been so good for him since and now he has a tenuous hold on the Texans starting job after they traded for Ryan Mallett over the weekend. Fitzpatrick is known for putting the ball up for grabs (3.6 percent career interception rate) and the Redskins, who did not get a takeaway by their first team during the preseason, would love to take advantage.

What about Arian Foster? He had a lost season in 2013, missing the last eight games due to a back injury. He didn’t play at all during the preseason so this will be his first game action since November 3, 2013. Will Foster, who rushed for at least 1,200 yards each season from 2010-2012, be rusty or will he be refreshed? Foster said yesterday that he is feeling “wonderful” physically. We will see.

What can Jadeveon Clowney do? The first overall pick in the draft made some hits during this time at South Carolina that made you recoil and feel the pain no matter how many times you watched them. He may not know what he’s doing yet as he adjust to the NFL game but he appears to be capable of doing some damage while he’s learning. Keep your head on a swivel, RG3.

Will Andre Johnson ever age? They say that Father Time is undefeated but the 33-year-old Johnson is fending him off pretty well. Last year, with Matt Schaub and Case Keenum (both of whom are now ex-Texans) throwing him passes he still managed to catch 109 passes for over 1,400 yards. This is one of those “you can’t stop him you can only hope to contain him” situations. DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson will try.

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. I'll answer all questions as soon as I can get to them. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Timeline

Today’s schedule: Open locker room player availability 11:15; Practice 1:00 open to media for first 30 minutes; Jay Gruden news conference after practice (approx. 3:00)

—It’s been 248 days since the Redskins played a game; in four days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Home opener vs. Jaguars 11; Redskins @ Eagles 18; Thursday night Giants @ Redskins 23

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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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