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Need to Know: Redskins' season reaches a tipping point

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Need to Know: Redskins' season reaches a tipping point

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 20, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tandler's Tuesday Take Two: The Redskins’ season is reaching a tipping point

For the first four weeks of the season, all seemed to be going pretty well for the Redskins. They were 2-2 and accomplishing their preseason goals of being able to run the ball and stop the run. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was not lighting the league on fire but he looked like at least a competent game manager with whom the Redskins could have at least some limited success. So little was expected of the Redskins that they were being called a pleasant, if modest, surprise team.

But then the last two games happened. The Redskins didn’t look bad overall in Atlanta but their ability to run ball well came to a grinding halt (51 yards rushing) and they couldn’t stop the run (Devonta Freeman, 153 yards rushing). And Cousins was wobbly with his accuracy most of the day and threw two interceptions, the second of which was returned for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

That was bad, the Jets game was worse. The Redskins gained only 34 yards on the ground while New York’s Chris Ivory rolled for 146. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick almost outgained the Redskins as a team, scrambling for 31 yards. Cousins again threw two picks, including one that set up a momentum-changing touchdown in the third quarter.

Now the Redskins are 2-4. Next up they host the Tampa Bay Bucs, a team that beat them 27-7 at FedEx last year in a game that was not even as close as the 20-point margin would indicate. The Redskins take their bye week after that. In November they have two road trips to play the unbeaten Patriots and Panthers. In between those games they play at home against the Saints, who are also scuffling at 2-4 but they have a major advantage at quarterback with Drew Brees. After the road trip they face the Giants, who are shaping up to be the class of the division.

I wrote last week that the Redskins are more a middle of the pack team than one of the bottom feeders and one injury-hampered loss to the Jets doesn’t necessarily change that. But they are coming to a stretch of the schedule where they are facing teams who are clearly better. That is why Jay Gruden declared that this game against the Bucs is a “code red”, as in one they must win.

If they don’t win this Sunday and you figure that the game in New England is a sure loss, that would put the Redskins at 2-6 at midseason and working on a four-game losing streak. A year ago they were 3-5 after eight games and on a two-game winning streak. While Scot McCloughan didn’t necessarily thing that the Redskins would contend for the playoffs this year, he, Bruce Allen, and Dan Snyder were certainly looking for some degree of improvement. Being in what looks like a sinking ship certainly wouldn’t look like improvement.

One game won or lost won’t necessarily change the ultimate fates of Gruden, Cousins, and other players and coaches. But there will be a big difference in the feel around Redskins Park between going into the bye with a win and going in with three straight losses and a near-certain fourth looming their first week back.

A convincing win would be better but perhaps we shouldn’t look for more than baby steps from this team, especially given that they are still likely to have some injured front-line players out against the Bucs.

In any case, Gruden certainly seems to be rallying the troops harder in this one than he has in any of his previous 22 games as a head coach. “Code red” is not a card you want to play often because eventually you lose credibility. But it’s out there this week and we will see how the Redskins respond.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no media availability

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Patriots 19; Saints @ Redskins 25

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Raiders

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Raiders

 

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, September 24, eight days before the Washington Redskins play Chiefs in Kansas City.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff 7:30 CSN; Redskins vs. Raiders 8:30 NBC

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (10/23) 29
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 35

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Raiders

—With Rob Kelley out and Jordan Reed unlikely to play, per Adam Schefter, Samaje Perine will get his first NFL start and Jeremy Sprinkle will be active for the first time. Perine got rolling as the game went on vs. the Rams. In quarters 1-3 he had 11 carries with an average of 2.2 yards per. In the fourth quarter, the rookie carried 10 times for a respectable 4.3 average. If he can get that 4.3 average all game and carry between 15 and 20 times, the Redskins will be fine on the rushing front.

—It was in Week 3 last year that Kirk Cousins got rolling. After throwing one touchdown and three interceptions in his first two games he threw two TD’s and no picks against the Giants. His pattern as the starter has been to start slowly and then pick up steam as the season gets going. Looking at the injury situation and at a Monday night game at Arrowhead Stadium looming next week, today would be a great day for him to get going. The talk in Oakland is that the Raiders will load up to stop the run and challenge Cousins to beat them through the air. Cousins will need to take them up on that challenge.

—The Redskins have four sacks in two games. It will be difficult for them to add to that total today because Raiders QB Derek Carr gets rid of the ball so quickly. The best way to get pressure on a quarterback like that is to take the shortest route. It will be important for Jonathan Allen to get some push up the middle and perhaps Greg Manusky will send Zach Brown or Mason Foster blitzing into the A-gap occasionally. The pressure is also on the secondary to make sure tackles after Carr gets those short completions to make sure they don’t turn into big plays.

—I was skeptical of the impact that Oakland RB Marshawn Lynch would have in his return at age 31 after a poor (417 yards) 2015 season followed by a season in retirement. And although there may be reasons to wonder about his durability over the course of a 16-game season, right now he’s healthy. The Redskins’ worst nightmare would be for Lynch to get 15 carries and grind out four to five yards per pop. That would set up Carr to do whatever he wants to do.

—This looked like a tough one even when it appeared that the Redskins would be at full strength on offense. If Kelley and, especially, Reed are out, the game looks to be an even more daunting task. The Washington defense is going to have to step up and force Carr to make decisions sooner than he wants to. Offensively, the Redskins are going to need to keep Carr and company off the field by controlling the clock. They did it last week against the Rams. If they can take time of possession 35 minutes to 25 again they have a chance to pull off the upset. It’s possible but I’m going to go against it happening.

Raiders 28, Redskins 21

2017 predictions record: 1-1

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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Report: Rob Kelley out vs. Raiders, Reed unlikely to play

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Report: Rob Kelley out vs. Raiders, Reed unlikely to play

The Redskins could be without two key offensive players against the Raiders tonight, according to a report.

According to ESPN, Redskins starting running back Rob Kelley (rib) is unlikely to play and that Jordan Reed (chest) is a game-time decision but it also is probable that he will sit out. Bot players were listed as questionable on the final injury report on Friday.

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Kelley was having a career day against the Rams last Sunday before he left the game in the second quarter with a rib cartilage injury. He practiced on a limited basis all week.

Reed, a key target for quarterback Kirk Cousins, missed some snaps after sustaining the injury to his sternum during the game against the Rams. He was out of practice on Wednesday and limited on Thursday and Friday.

Rookie Samaje Perine saw his first NFL action last week and he likely will get his first NFL start in Kelley’s spot tonight. If Reed can’t play, Vernon Davis will start and rookie Jeremy Sprinkle, who was inactive the first two games, will be in uniform.

MORE REDSKINS: A STRONG START FOR SMITH BUT MORE IS NEEDED

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.