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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

In case you missed it

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.