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Need to Know: Gruden says Redskins' run game will mix zone and power

Need to Know: Gruden says Redskins' run game will mix zone and power

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 4, 12 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Three and out

Here are notes and quotes from after Wednesday’s OTA practice at Redskins Park:

1. Although Jay Gruden likely would rather have had DeSean Jackson there for the first week of OTAs last week he didn’t seem to be too worked up over the wide receiver’s absence. “They have lives,” said Gruden. “This is a major part of what they do. Obviously, we’d loved everyone to be here, 100 percent. I don’t know how many teams have a hundred percent, but I think we’ve had great participation overall from top to bottom of our roster. He missed a little bit of time, but he had reasons for it.”

2. It was noted that Josh LeRibeus did some reps at center during team drills. They are in need of a backup after Chris Chester was let go last week. “It’s important. It really is, because that’s one thing that we’re missing with Chris,” said Gruden. “If something were to happen to Kory [Lichtensteiger] in a game, Chris was our backup center. So we have to train another guy to be a center and Josh is taking the right steps to do that. We’ll have some backup centers in-house if something were to happen long-term, but it’s important on gameday that we have a backup center. Right now, Josh is working hard at it. Spencer Long is also working at it. We have to have that covered.”

3. After a few months of talk of the Redskins shifting to the power running game, Gruden wants it to be known that the team will be versatile on the ground. “We’re going to do both. We’re not going to abandon the outside zone,” he said. “Alfred Morris is a great outside zone runner. He’s a great zone runner. I think the ability to do a little bit of both is very, very important to keep defenses off-balance. Spencer is a very powerful man and very good for the power running game, the gap-style blocking, but he also has some great movement skills.”

Out: As noted in yesterday’s practice report, the Redskins defenders have a lot to learn with the team lining up in multiple looks form snap to snap. Defensive coordinator is pleased with the process. “It’s definitely a process, and we’re in the fifth OTA of the offseason,” he said. “We have good plays during the day and we have bad plays during the day, but that’s what we’re here for – we’re teachers. That’s the No. 1 thing that as a coach you have got to do, you have got to teach. It’s definitely a process, but like I said, there is a lot more good out there right now than bad and I’m very happy with where we are at as a unit.”

Timeline

—It’s been 158 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 101 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 12; Redskins training camp starts 56; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 112

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”