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Need to Know: Redskins should stick to the script vs. Falcons

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Need to Know: Redskins should stick to the script vs. Falcons

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, October 7, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Atlanta Falcons.

First thoughts on Redskins vs. Falcons

—After facing three top punt returners in four weeks, the Redskins will dodge facing perhaps the best of all time. The Falcons’ Devin Hester, who has 14 punt return touchdowns in his career, has been placed on injured reserve with the designation to be able to return with a turf toe that has sidelined him for the first four games. That will put him on the shelf for at least eight weeks and, obviously, will keep him out of Sunday’s Redskins game.

—If there ever was a game where the Redskins need to stick to their script, it’s this one. Atlanta allows 4.4 yards per rushing attempt, 27th in the NFL. The Falcons are fifth in rushing yards allowed but nobody really has run on them. The Giants had 23 rushing attempts against them, the most they have faced all year. The 77 opponent rushing attempts against the Falcons are the fewest of any team that has played four games. With Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, Washington will provide a more severe test for Atlanta’s ability to stop the run. They will try to run as much clock as they can in order to keep the Falcons’ potent offense off of the field.

—There was plenty of chatter that the Redskins had their eyes on Julio Jones when they held the 10th pick in the 2011 draft. We’ll never know if the talk was serious because the Falcons moved up to draft him sixth overall. The Redskins may wish they had made the move when Sunday rolls around. He’s on pace for 152 receptions for 1,912 yards. If I’m Joe Barry I try to take him out of the game as much as possible and see if Matt Ryan can beat me throwing to an aging Roddy White, Jacob Tamme, and Leonard Hankerson.

—Many fans thought that the Redskins should have addressed the offensive line later in this year’s draft and gone for a pass rusher like Vic Beasley with the fifth overall pick last April. He ended up with the Falcons and he leads the team with two sacks. His play against the run is suspect and it’s easy to see the Redskins testing him early and often. Beasley will be lined up opposite Trent Williams, who outweighs the 235-lb. Beasley by about 80 pounds.

—I don’t see any particular advantage for either side with Kyle Shanahan running the offensive side of things for the Falcons. If Jim Haslett was still the Redskins’ defensive coordinator there might be cause for concern since Shanahan went up against him in every practice and every training camp session for four years. And perhaps if Robert Griffin III was behind center, Shanahan might be able to tip off Dan Quinn on some nuances of his game. Shanahan might have some insight into Kirk Cousins but not much. And I don’t buy that Shanahan will want to get revenge against the organization that fired him and his father at the end of the 2013 season. If he’s working any harder on this game than on the 15 others there is something wrong.

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 @ Falcons 4; Redskins @ Jets 11; Bucs @ Redskins 18

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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