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Need to Know: Was tumultuous week a distraction for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Was tumultuous week a distraction for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 3, the day the Washington Redskins host the San Diego Chargers.

Potential distractions abound but players should have no excuse

It was one of those weeks at Redskins Park.

It started with a loss to the Broncos that may have been closer than the 45-21 final would indicate but there were plenty of issues. Denver scored 38 unanswered points in the second half so there was plenty for the defense to be concerned about. But Robert Griffin III couldn’t get untracked, posting the worst passer rating of his career, so it wasn’t all on the defensive side of the ball.

In the locker room after the game Pierre Garçon lamented the state of the Redskins’ passing game saying, “If you suck at passing, you suck at passing.” He said that he wasn’t blaming Griffin exclusively but certainly some luster has come off of last year’s rookie of the year.

Then on Monday, Brandon Meriweather returned from his one-game suspension and said that he was going to have to start hitting offensive players lower, possibly risking torn ACLs. For good measure, he took a shot a Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, bringing up a previous domestic violence incident.

The trade deadline came and went on Tuesday and little-used tight end Fred Davis was still a Redskin. That promoted an odd session with the media on Wednesday in which he admitted that he has “nodded off” during meetings but he still thought he may have been made inactive in the last two games due to a clause in his contract that pays him $500,000 if he is on the game-day active list 12 times during the season.

On Thursday, Post columnist Sally Jenkins published a piece that took some unveiled shots at Griffin, calling him “an unteachable know it all” who has “the owner on speed dial” and is “calling all the shots” on the Redskins. Although Jenkins lives in New York and is rarely around Redskins Park, she does have connections in the organization so it would be a mistake to dismiss the column out of hand.

Going on sort of in the background all week was a war of words between former Redskins tight end and current radio talker Chris Cooley and ex-Redskins defensive tackle and current, well, nothing really, Albert Haynesworth. In the exchange, Haynesworth took a shot at Mike Shanahan, calling him, among other things, “conniving”. That prompted a response by Shanahan, who said that Haynesworth had the triple crown of issues: “lazy, lack of passion and a lot of times a lack of character.”

That drew a good laugh from many in the media and fans who remember the bad old days when Haynesworth was lying down on the field while the Eagles’ Mike Vick was scrambling circles around the defense. But it was one more layer of potential distraction in a week that was full of them.

It didn’t seem like the players who weren’t directly involved in the various incidents paid much attention to them. Players in the locker room were asked about what Meriweather said about going for the knees and about the topic of the emphasis on high hits in general. That’s part of the game. But if players were asked to respond to “suck at passing”, Davis nodding off, Griffin as an “unteachable know it all”, or Cooley and Shanahan vs. Haynesworth it was very limited and not enough to be an issue.

If the Redskins do lose to the Chargers it will be because Griffin still isn’t quite sharp enough to break through San Diego’s bend-but-don’t-break defense or because Philip Rivers is playing out of his mind or due to some other on-field factor. It won’t be because of some things that distracted the fans and media but didn’t have much of an effect on the players who will line up today.

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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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