Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins know their foe in Vick

vick-running-2.png

Need to Know: Redskins know their foe in Vick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 7, two days before the Redskins open up their season against the Eagles at FedEx Field.

Nickel coverage

1. Mark Maske of the Post is reporting that the Redskins are now $1.85 million under the salary cap. They recently created some cap room by restructuring the contracts of Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, and Adam Carriker. The money was needed to get the Redskins under the cap using the in-season rules. All year up until now, only the top 51 cap numbers counted towards the limit. Now, the cap charges of all 53 players plus those on injured reserve and the PUP list plus the $48,000 per week they pay the eight members of the practice squad are charged to the cap. The team’s spending was squeezed because they are in the second and final year of their cap being lessened by $18 million due to an NFL imposed cap penalty.

2. Tarik El-Bashir had this tidbit on Twitter yesterday: “A league source says the Redskins will bring in a left-footed punter to kick to rookie Chris Thompson. Eagles P Donnie Jones is lefty.” The spin of the ball is different coming off the foot of a left-footed punter and given Thompson’s inexperience—he hasn’t returned a kick in a game that counts since high school—it is a good idea to give him some practice handling those kicks.

3. Of course, Thompson has not yet been named the punt returner. On Thursday, Thompson said that he fielded two punts for every one that Josh Morgan and Santana Moss did in practice. Mike Shanahan said that the “competition” was ongoing and that Thompson had fielded so many punts due to his inexperience. I guess Shanahan just has to have something to keep secret. The world knows who the starting quarterback will be. He can’t drive fantasy owners crazy by playing musical running backs every week. Punt returner is all he has left.

4. One of the story lines floating around for this game is that the Eagles will have the same advantage over the Redskins on Monday as the Redskins did over the Saints in last year’s season opener. The Redskins surprised New Orleans and posted 40 points with the Pistol formation and option plays executed by rookie QB Robert Griffin III. The Eagles should be able to surprise the Redskins the same way, per this story line. But the difference is that Chip Kelly will be trying to mold Mike Vick into his scheme. It may not play to his strengths. The Redskins’ system was customized to fit the strengths of RG3. In short, it comes down to the player and not the scheme and the Redskins know Vick very well. They have faced him four times and there are miles of film on him. He won't be able to immediately change his tendencies and his strengths and weaknesses will remain.

5. It’s possible that Brandon Meriweather won’t be able to play on Monday due to his groin injury. If he can’t go, Reed Doughty is likely to start at strong safety. If that happens, expect Jordan Pugh to get a significant number of snaps at strong safety as well. With Meriweather out virtually the whole year in 2012, Pugh played anywhere from third to half of the snaps in most games when he first hit the field in Week 5 after he joined the team a few weeks earlier. Pugh isn’t going to make a lot of plays that you’ll see on SportsCenter but he also won’t make many mistakes.

Stat of the day

—Robert Griffin III posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the Redskins’ first meeting with the Eagles last year. The NFL did not recognize the performance as a record, however, because Griffin’s 15 attempts did not meet the minimum of 18 the league requires for such marks.

Like Real Redskins on Facebook!

Timeline

—It’s been 241 days since the last Redskins game; there are two days until the next one

—Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Packers 8; Lions @ Redskins 15

—Today’s schedule: No media availability; the team will practice in late afternoon

Morgan, Biggers talk to B-Mitch

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it