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Need to Know: High expectations for Redskins' Baker in 2014

Need to Know: High expectations for Redskins' Baker in 2014

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 18, six days before the Redskins start training camp.

Three and out

—I wouldn’t say that there is a great deal of hype surrounding DE Chris Baker this offseason but there certainly are some fairly high expectations. He signed a three-year, $9 million contact before free agency started and he is slated to play a key role as either a starter or the first one off the bench. Last year he was in some packages but he played more than 25 snaps in a game just once in the first 11 weeks of the season. His playing time ramped up after that and Baker started the last three games, playing 65 percent of the snaps (134 of 204). It is likely that he will have the heavier workload right off the bat and it will be interesting to see how he is used and how effective he is.

—Any playing time gained by Baker could be lost by Jarvis Jenkins. The 2011 second-round pick has not performed up to the potential it looked like he had when the Redskins drafted him out of Clemson. The best part of his career came during his rookie training camp when it looked like he could be a very effective 3-4 end, if not a star. But he suffered the torn ACL in Baltimore during a preseason game and he hasn’t been the same since. Jenkins is probably safe on the 53-man roster since he is a relatively young player (26) on what is an aging unit. But he’s not a lock and he needs a good camp and preseason to lock up his spot on the 53.

—Speaking of Jenkins, there was a lot of hype about the Redskins’ draft class of 2011 when Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan did some wheeling and dealing and ended up with 12 picks. But instead of being transformational, the draft class has provided many more questions than answers. With the exception of Ryan Kerrigan—the Redskins exercised the fifth-year option for their first-round pick—all of them have contracts that expire at the end of the season. It would not be totally stunning if Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Aldrick Robinson, Maurice Hurt, and Chris Neild all were playing somewhere else next year. That would be a faster disappearing act than the one we saw from the group that was drafted in 2008.

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—It’s been 201 days since the Redskins played a game; in 51 days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener vs. Patriots 20; Final cuts 43; Home opener Jaguars @ Redskins 59

Rypien on the 2014 Redskins

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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.


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:
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).”