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Need to Know: RG3 under the microscope

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Need to Know: RG3 under the microscope

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 11, two days before the Washington Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Nickel coverage

Five items of interest from Redskins Park:

1. You normally don’t think of nose tackle Barry Cofield when you think of reasons why outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are having good years. After all, Cofield plays in the very middle of the trenches while the linebackers play more on the edge. But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says that the nose can help the outside rushers a great deal and, particularly, vice versa:

You know, typically the 3-4 is predicated on the pressure players from the edge and then the ability for that nose tackle to create mismatches inside. A lot of times teams will take their offensive tackles and send them out and block the real good rushers outside and typically that leaves that nose tackle with a single block inside. When you have a guy who is threatening in there and can present some problems for you in those one-on-one matchups, it really makes the defense difficult.”

2. I don’t think that any fans need to be told that the Redskins’ special teams have been far from special to this point. The kicking teams regulars like Darrel Young didn’t really need to be told, either but they did get some words when they were on their way out the door for their bye:

Special teams, special teams. What can we do to put our offense and defense in better position. You can't go 80 yards every time you have a drive. The blocked punt, the missed field goals, the missed tackles in the open field. Everything was addressed before the bye week, by Shanahan and the special teams coach, they told us what they expect of us.

3. Robert Griffin III knows that he is under the microscope after his injury. He said that he has dealt with such scrutiny before, even tough the spotlight is not quite as bright at Baylor as it is in the NFL with the Redskins.

Mentally you have to prepare for that kind of scrutiny. I had to deal with that when I came back from the injury in college. There’s going to be naysayers, there’s going to be people that doubt you and say you shouldn’t have come back so soon or this and that. You just can’t worry about those kinds of things. We did not expect the year to start off the way it did as far as going 1-3, but as far as some of the scrutiny that comes with it, you kind of have to be prepared for that kind of stuff – whenever people build you up so high, they’re just waiting to cut you down.

4. How different might things be in the NFC East if Dallas tight end Jason Witten had been a Saint? Jim Haslett talks about Witten and how he had his eye on him when Haslett was head coach of the Saints:

He’s deceivingly fast. I think he’s a great route runner. He does a good job pushing off. He’s an excellent pass blocker. He’s one of my favorite guys to watch play. Even when I was with the Saints and he was with the University of Tennessee, we were going to draft him. I thought the guy was going to be an outstanding player and he’s turned into it. And he’s consistently the same guy from year one to now. I don’t see any drop-off.

5. With the air in NFL stadiums filling up with footballs are defenses sending more players after the passer to try to combat the aerial circus? We asked Kyle Shanahan:

I don’t know if they are doing more this year than usual, especially around the league. I look at it as a week-to-week deal. I haven’t really sensed much more or any difference than the rest of my career. I have said, and we got blitzed the least amount last year that I’ve ever been close to a part of, but before that, the blitz has been the same pretty much my whole career. It depends what teams you play, what coordinators you play, and what they believe in.


Injury outlook

Based on the injury report (here is Wednesday’s; we didn’t post a new one Thursday because it was identical) here is what I think the designations will be when they come out later today:

Probable: TE Jordan Reed (thigh), TE Fred Davis (ankle), K Kai Forbath (groin), RB Alfred Morris (ribs)

Questionable: TE Logan Paulsen (knee), LB Brandon Jenkins (ankle)

Doubtful: DL Chris Neild (calf)

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Timeline

—Days until: Redskins @ Cowboys 2; Bears @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Broncos 16

—Today’s schedule: Practice 11:50; player availability and Mike Shanahan news conference after practice (approx. 1:30)

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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 a league-worse 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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