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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up to beat the Packers

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up to beat the Packers

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 8, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers in a wild card playoff game.

Five Redskins who have to step up to beat the Packers

QB Kirk Cousins—He is not just the straw that stirs the drink; he is the whole cocktail on offense for the last 10 games. The Redskins’ formula for success lately calls for scoring 30 points or more and they can only do that if Cousins has a big day.

RB Pierre Thomas—The veteran is kind of an X-factor for this game. He’ll almost certainly be active. I’m backing off of my prediction that Matt Jones will be able to go. He did not look too good in drills yesterday and time is growing short. Thomas is a fresh pair of legs and he looked good both rushing and receiving against the Eagles. The Redskins will need some semblance of balance on offense to be successful and Thomas may need to provide it.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan—Aaron Rodgers was sacked 13 times in the Packers’ last two games. Kerrigan can be the main force in getting to him on Sunday. The Redskins’ backfield will be stressed by Rodgers’ scrambling. If Kerrigan can corral him a few times the Redskins will be able to keep the Packers offense (four touchdowns in last three games) in low gear.

ILB Will Compton—The Packers’ offense is not a one-man show. Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined to rush for 1,359 yards this year so they will need to be contained. Compton and Mason Foster will have to plug the holes to keep them under control. The two runners both average 4.1 per return so it’s not like either is a home run threat. Good recognition and solid tackling will do the trick and those are right up Compton’s alley.

FS Dashon Goldson—Compton relays signals to Goldson, who gets the secondary set straight. When they get into nickel and dime situations Goldson will have to direct players such as rookies Quinton Dunbar, Dashaun Phillips, Deshazor Everett plus veteran Cary Williams who was just signed on Tuesday. He will have to get them in position and then, if James Jones or Randall Cobb gets past them, Goldson will need to be the last line of defense.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:15

Days until: Redskins vs. Packers in wild card playoff game 2; NFL divisional playoffs 8; Super Bowl 50 30

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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.