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Need to Know: Monday's result says the Redskins have a chance vs. Panthers

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Need to Know: Monday's result says the Redskins have a chance vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 18, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

—If anyone thinks that the Redskins can’t win this game, may I direct your attention to the result of the game played on Monday night in Cincinnati. The Texans were double-digit underdogs and beat the undefeated Bengals 10-6. Yes, they got some help from the Bengals, particularly in the form of turnovers and dropped passes. The Redskins will probably need some help if they are gong to pull off the upset but it can be done.

—As noted here a few days ago, Kirk Cousins just has one interception in the last 13 quarters of play and that one pick, which bounced out of the hands of Pierre Garçon and into those of a Patriots defender, clearly was not his fault. His ball protection skills will be tested on Sunday as Carolina leads the league with 14 interceptions. Cornerback Josh Norman, a 2012 draft pick the Panthers developed into one of the better corners in the league, leads the team with four.

—In part because of the interceptions, the Carolina defense has the best opponent passer rating in the NFL with an impressive 69.1. That’s down in Peyton Manning territory (yes, it’s shocking to type that). Other teams complete just 57.2 percent of their passes against them and they average 6.0 yards per attempt. Add in 26 sacks, tied for sixth in the league, and Cousins will be challenged like he rarely has been before.

—Perhaps this would be a good game for the Redskins to get their running game going. The Panthers give up an average of 103 yards per game on the ground and 4.1 per carry. I suspect that to an extent the Panthers are willing to give up some yards on the ground, make teams grind out long drives, believing that the offense will make a mistake. And that happens pretty often; in addition to their 14 interceptions, the Panthers have recovered six fumbles.

—The Redskins’ biggest obstacle to winning on Sunday will be the man behind center for Carolina, Cam Newton. His passing numbers are not at all impressive with a completion percentage of 56.3 and a pedestrian passer rating of 84.8. But he is in the MVP conversation because can also run the ball (366 yards and six TD’s) and he has a knack for making a play when his team needs it. It’s hard to figure out how to defend a 6-6, 260-lb. quarterback when you very rarely go up against his combination of size and skills.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Panthers 4; Giants @ Redskins 11; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 19

In case you missed it

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on 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.