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Need to Know: Redskins will have their hands full with Bills QB Taylor

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Need to Know: Redskins will have their hands full with Bills QB Taylor

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 16, four days before the Washington Redskins host the Buffalo Bills.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Bills

—Don’t believe for a second that this game doesn’t really matter to the Redskins’ playoff chances. Record in common games could come into play if there is a tie between the Redskins and Giants when the season is over and Buffalo is a common opponent. The Giants beat them so if the Redskins don’t they will lose a game in that category. Only a few combinations of possible results will have the tiebreakers going that far down the line but the way this year has gone, the unlikely scenarios may be the ones that come into play.

—You look at the list of quarterbacks with a passer rating over 100 and you see some Super Bowl winners like Wilson and Brady, players who have made multiple playoff appearances such as Palmer and Dalton and—Tyrod Taylor. Yes, the former Virginia Tech star who sat on the bench behind Joe Flacco for four years is having himself a very good season. In terms of passer rating he is the second highest ranked quarterback the Redskins have faced this year, behind only Tom Brady. Looking at ESPN’s QBR, Taylor is behind only Drew Brees in that metric among the quarterbacks the Redskins have faced.

—The Bills cut popular running back Fred Jackson just before the season started, highlighting a power struggle between GM Doug Whaley and head coach Rex Ryan. A couple of months ago receiver Sammy Watkins complained to the media that he wasn’t getting the ball enough. Last week there was a report that Whaley’s future with the Bills is up in the air. Now that they have lost three of their last four and are 6-7 and on the brink of elimination from the playoff chase, things could get louder in Buffalo. Meanwhile, it’s pretty quiet in DC.

—Rex Ryan has not brought his trademark brand of tough defense to Buffalo at this point. They are 20th in terms of yards allowed and even worse, 24th, in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. That represents a major drop off from last year when they were fourth in yardage and second in DVOA. They have suffered a few injuries but no more than most NFL teams.

—The Bills offense is solid. Watkins is happy now as one of Taylor’s favorite targets. He averages 18.4 yards on his 39 receptions and has scored seven touchdowns. Leading the way on the ground is a familiar face in LeSean McCoy, who is averaging 4.5 yards a carry.

Timeline

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

Days until: Bills @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Eagles 10; Redskins @Cowboys 18

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”