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Need to Know: It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time

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Need to Know: It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 22, four days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bills

—It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time. Against a Bills defense that is more pedestrian than awful they posted their second highest total yards of the season and their most total passing yards. The defense is playing well; the final numbers on Sunday weren’t pretty but they didn’t give up much until it was 28-3. The Bills had one possession, their first one, with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Redskins not yet the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs but in a couple more games they could be.

—The Redskins appear to be back on track when it comes to converting third downs. After a three-game stretch where they went a combined 12 for 40 on third down (30.0%) they have converted on 14 of 23 (60.8%) over the last two games. On the season they have a conversion rate 43.6 percent, sixth in the NFL. That is a quantum improvement on their 31.5 percent conversion rate they had last year, which was 30th in the NFL.

—One reason for the solid improvement on third down is the play of Kirk Cousins. In the last two games is nine for 12 on third down for 100 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. That is a 127.1 passer rating. However, that isn’t all that impressive considering his rating on all passes over the last two games has been higher than that, a sizzling 131.6.

—I don’t normally get riled up over play calling especially in a game they won comfortably but I was a bit annoyed with the calls in the latter stages of the fourth quarter with the Redskins trying to run out the clock. When it was apparent that the Redskins weren’t going to be able to run the clock out by keeping it on the ground Gruden and McVay kept trying. The defense had been on the field a lot but a futile run was called twice in third and four situations. Certainly a pass to Jordan Reed or Pierre Garçon would have moved the chains and given the defense the rest of the day off. A small complaint in the big picture but if the game was a bit closer it could have been an issue.

—Losing to the Redskins doesn’t make the locals happy. Here is the start of my friend Vic Carucci’s rant in the Buffalo News:
Rex Ryan promised his team wouldn't quit. He lied. On the way to officially eliminating themselves from postseason contention for the 16th consecutive season, the Bills gave a pathetic effort, especially on defense. There was no point in this game where it even felt as if the Bills would be able to stop Kirk Cousins and the Redskins' offense, which produced touchdowns on its first three possessions. Cousins is a solid starter, but the Bills made him look like an absolute superstar.
At least Rex won’t get fired like his brother Rob did after his Saints defense was shredded by the “solid” Cousins.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 4; Redskins @Cowboys 12; start of NFL playoffs 18

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Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.

But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.

“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

RELATED: OFFSEASON NFL POWER RANKINGS

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back