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Need to Know: RG3 conversation will shift to games

Need to Know: RG3 conversation will shift to games

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 4, five days before the Redskins open up their season against the Eagles at FedEx Field.

Nickel coverage

1. I have been getting some Twitter comments from fans that range from annoyed to borderline hostile to RG3 because they were tired of hearing him talk about his knee rehab and talking about/creating the surrounding drama. Griffin has his first press conference in two weeks this afternoon at about 3:00. There will be some talk of that in today’s press conference and some questions about all of the parties involved not being on the same page (or reading from the same book, for that matter). But there will be questions about the upcoming game against the Eagles. After this afternoon, the next time we talk to him will be at about 10:30 p.m. on Monday and there will be a game to talk about. If plays as well as I think he will all the talk of concerns and being superhuman and not understanding the program will quickly become distant memories. (Note: You can see RG3's press conference today live on Comcast SportsNet at 3:20.)

2. Meanwhile, amidst all of the noise surrounding the quarterback position and the speculation over who the backup running backs will be, Alfred Morris is, well, being Alfred. We didn’t have a chance to hear much from him in training camp because he was out on the field signing autographs for kids long after the media had to go to attend press conferences. He’s been available in the locker room, just one of the guys, praising RG3’s rehab and the offensive line and the coaches and everybody but himself. He hasn’t been on the top of fans’ consciousness this offseason and that suits him just fine. Everyone will be reminded what a big part of  this team he is when Monday night rolls around.

3. It is likely that the Redskins will have to make one of their four running backs inactive for Monday’s game against the Eagles. The unofficial depth chart lists Chris Thompson as the fourth-string tailback but don’t look for him to be watching in sweats on Monday night. Thompson is at the top of the chart at both punt and kickoff returner. He might not do both but he is likely to be the punt returner. If that’s the case, then Evan Royster, the No. 3 running back, is a candidate for the inactive list.

4. I don’t talk much with power ratings but for those of you who get worked up when the Redskins end up getting ranked lower than you think they should here is one that should soothe you to some extent. The ESPN power ranking poll has the Redskins 10th, fifth best in the NFC and ahead of all of the other teams in the NFC East (Giants 12th, Cowboys 18th, Eagles 25th). Every team ahead of them had at least as good a record as the Redskins did last year and all but one advanced further in the playoffs. That seems pretty reasonable to me. They could well end up outperforming that ranking once they start playing but based on last year and everything we know it’s hard to give them a higher ranking right now.

5. Mike Vick may not be the ideal quarterback for Chip Kelly’s offense. Not too long after Kelly became the Eagles’ head coach he discussed his offensive philosophy. Part of it was a quick passing game. Kelly said that he wanted his quarterback to get his passes off in 1.6 seconds. According to Pro Football Focus, Vick took an average of 3.6 seconds to get his passes out of his hand during the preseason.

Stat of the day

—Of the 53 players who are on the Redskins’ roster, 11 are new to the organization since the end of last season. A total of 17 were not on the opening 53-man roster in 2012.

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Timeline

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

—Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Packers 11; Lions @ Redskins 18

—Today’s schedule: Player availability 11:15; practice 1:00; Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan press conferences after practice (approx. 3:00)

Florio expects the Redskins to contend

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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.

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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.

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