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Need to Know: Who's in-out for Redskins-Steelers

Need to Know: Who's in-out for Redskins-Steelers

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Monday, August 19, five days before the Redskins take on the Bills at FedEx Field.

Game chat tonight

We had a great turnout for our first game chat of the year so tonight should be a lot of fun as well. Tarik, JP, and I will all be at FedEx Field for Redskins vs. Steelers. We'll get the chat going right here at 7:30 getting ready for the 8:00 kickoff.

See you there!

Playing time estimate roundup

Mike Shanahan is well known for keeping estimates for playing time in preseason games a closely guarded secret. He has, however, been more forthcoming lately. Here is the information I’ve been able to glean from various comments by players and by Shanahan.

Starters: “Normally, going into the second game, we double the reps of the first game,” said Shanahan. This might be a little bit more depending on how the game goes but in that 25-30 play range is what we normally do in the second game. We’ll just have to kind of get a feel as the game goes, but it’ll be somewhere in that area.”

For reference/comparison purposes, the Redskins ran 35 snaps on offense against the Titans while Tennessee ran 26.

Here is what was said about some specific players:

Brian Orakpo: Missed practice with a bruised quad but Shanahan said he could play “barring a setback”.

Rookie running backs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison: Shanahan gave a somewhat vague answer when asked if these two would play. “A lot has to do with kind of the flow of the game, how the game’s going,” he said. “Yeah, we’re going to try to evaluate all our players over the next three games, get everybody a chance, but it’s kind of hard to tell you exactly what’s going to happen because I’m not positive at this time.” Thompson did tell Tarik El-Bashir that he will play.

QB Kirk Cousins: Shanahan said that Cousins, who is both the No. 1 and No. 2 QB for the time being, will play a half, which could carry him beyond the 25-30 snaps the starters are schedule to play.

QB’s Rex Grossman and Pat White: Shanahan said both are likely to play, depending on how many snaps the offense runs.

RB Roy Helu Jr.: After having a strong game against the Titans, Helu will get some more snaps this week. “He’ll get some playing time this week,” said Shanahan.

TE Fred Davis: Might play past when the other starters exit. “He will probably play close to half,” said Shanahan.

TE Jordan Reed: It looks like Reed will make his debut on Monday. “I think so,” Shanahan said when asked.

WR Donte Stallworth (hamstring): He did not practice all week. “He’s getting a little bit better, but not good enough to play,” said Shanahan.

ILB Rodderick Muckelroy (shoulder): “Muckelroy right now, his shoulder is still sore,” said Shanahan. “We’ll see how it is over the next couple of days. It’s probably a long shot.”

CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring): “Mouton is a longshot as well,” Shanahan said.

LB Nick Barnett: The in-camp signee is still working his way into shape and recovering from offseason knee surgery. “He will not play” against the Steelers on Monday night, Shanahan said. “Hopefully there is an outside chance that he might take a few reps against Buffalo.”

Reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the Steelers will play their first offensive unit for about a quarter but their starting offensive line may play the entire first half, depending on snap counts.

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Today’s schedule

Steelers at Redskins, FedEx Field, 8 p.m., ESPN

Minnifield turning heads in camp

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Days until: Bills @ Redskins 5; Final cuts 12; Eagles @ Redskins 21

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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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