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Need to Know: How will the Redskins do in the second half of the season?

Need to Know: How will the Redskins do in the second half of the season?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 14, one day before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five thoughts on the Redskins at the midway point of the season

—The defense has improved only marginally from last year, a somewhat disappointing result after the big free agent expenditures there during the offseason. They have allowed 24.4 points per game (17th in the NFL) compared to 27.4 last year (29th), so that’s marginally better. But after they started out well giving up just 27 points in their first two games, they have given up 27 or more points in four of their last six.

—Offensively, they are about a wash. Scoring per game has increased by just a tenth of a point (18.8 last year to 18.9 this year). You can argue over which quarterback should be playing (although there seems to be unanimous agreement at Redskins Park), but it’s hard to argue that sticking with one guy has helped. By the time eight games had passed in 2014 there had already been three quarterback changes with more to come. The issue is the rushing game, with the average yards per carry plummeting from a middle of the pack 4.2 last year to a pathetic 3.6 average.

—Special teams got off to a rocky start with a punt return for a touchdown costing them in the season opener and a blocked punt getting Week 3 in the Meadowlands off to a rocky start. But they have turned things around, scoring TDs on a kickoff return and on a blocked punt. And they haven’t allowed any big returns against them since Week 1. Part of the credit goes to Dustin Hopkins, who is taking kickoff returns out of the equation by pounding many of his kickoffs through the end zone.

—How much have injuries hurt the Redskins? Some more than others. Jordan Reed being out of the lineup may have been the difference in the loss to the Falcons. Chris Culliver could have helped against Brandon Marshall and the Jets. If you want to go back to the preseason, maybe Niles Paul on special teams and Junior Galette edge rushing could have turned around the result of the Miami game. I think that they would have lost at the Giants and at the Patriots even if they were fully healthy. And, of course, the opponents have had their share of injuries, too, so perhaps these things would even out.

—The Redskins are 3-5 at the midway point of the season for the fourth year in a row. Only in 2012, when they lost game No. 9 and won their last seven to win the NFC East, have things ended well after that start. I don’t see a magical run to the division title like we saw with RG3 in 2012. But I also don’t see an 0-8 record in the second half like we saw in 2013 or a six-game slide that started off the second half last year. I could see them going 3-5 in the second half, maybe 4-4 if they catch a few breaks.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 1; Redskins @ Panthers 8; Giants @ Redskins 15

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Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 29, 25 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.

Timeline

At Redskins Park—Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft; conference calls with players selected; Gruden will speak to media shortly after Redskins’ final pick.

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 13
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 25
—Training camp starts (7/27) 89
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 134

The Redskins’ best late-round picks since of the last 10 years

While no aspect of drafting in the NFL is easy, it is much harder to find key contributors on the last day of the draft than it is in the first three rounds. The Redskins will have seven picks in this afternoon's draft to try to find one or two of them. 

Since the 2007 draft the Redskins have taken 56 players from the fourth round on. Of those, 45 played in at least one NFL game but only 12 of them were the Redskins’ primary starter at their positions for at least one season. Here are the five best of those players.

QB Kirk Cousins (round 4, 2012)—He was probably the most controversial pick on this list since the Redskins had just drafted Robert Griffin III a couple of days earlier. History proved Mike Shanahan right.

RB Alfred Morris (6, 2012)—This pick came a few hours after and with much less noise than the Cousins pick did. Many believed that the Redskins were set a running back with Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Morris not only surprised many by making the team but he lined up as the Week 1 starter. He went on to break the team’s single-season rushing record by piling up 1,613 yards rushing.

LB Perry Riley (4, 2010)—He didn’t get into the lineup until midway through his second season. Riley was always solid for four-plus seasons as the starter but never spectacular. The team let him go last year in training camp and he played well for the Raiders after they picked him up.

CB Bashaud Breeland (4, 2014)—Breeland started 15 games as a rookie. At first he was in the slot but after DeAngelo Hall was injured in Week 3, Breeland moved to the outside and he has stayed there ever since. He has seven career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

WR Jamison Crowder (4, 2015)—At 5-9, many teams thought Crowder was undersized and he didn’t run a great 40 at the combine. But he was big enough and fast enough to break the Redskins rookie record for receptions in a season and then to lead the team in touchdowns with eight last year.

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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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

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