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Need to Know: Why did the Redskins stick with the 3-4 defense?

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Need to Know: Why did the Redskins stick with the 3-4 defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 6, 10 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

During the course of the week I get some good questions that don’t quite need a full post to answer. So on the weekend I like to empty out the inbox and go through and answer some rapid fire style. The first two questions are from the Real Redskins Facebook page.

I think the better question is, at this point, why change? They already had the personnel for a 3-4 except for the nose tackle and they added a good one in Terrance Knighton. I know that fans are somehow convinced that the 4-3 is, by its very nature, a superior defense. But the facts just don’t back that up. A total of 17 teams are expected to use the 3-4 as their base alignment. Some of those defenses will be good, some will not. But it will be due to the personnel they have and not how they typically line up. If the early looks at OTAs are any indication, however, the Redskins will line up in multiple fronts this year so they will be plenty of chances for the fans to see their beloved four-man fronts.

You can look at this question one of two ways. I think that it will be very tough for any player to make the 53-man roster at quarterback. But I wouldn’t call the position “overloaded” because there are question marks about all three of the players on the depth chart. In fact, I don’t think that any of the positions on the Redskins are overloaded in the true sense of the word. But I do think that, say, an undrafted free agent would find it tough to break through at wide receiver, quarterback, or running back. I think a player could surprise just about anywhere else.

This is asked of Jay Gruden on occasion and the answer he generally gives is that being a dropback passer has to be part of the skill set of a successful NFL quarterback. There are times when you have to drop back time after time and nothing else a quarterback does can compensate for not being able to do that. That’s accurate and I’ll add that nothing really “fit” Griffin last year. He didn’t run particularly well, he didn’t make plays on the move, and the read option was a dud. So perhaps part of the problem is finding that “fit”. Griffin might not be a drop back passer but just like Tom Brady needs to run sometime, performing from the pocket is something that Griffin has to be able to do. Everything else, the mobile QB stuff, can build off of that.

I’ve looked at Morris’ future a few times here and the answer has always that it’s too soon to tell. Gruden speaks highly of Morris and always makes sure to mention that Morris is going to be the No. 1 back. But that doesn’t address the long-term future of Morris as a Redskin. My take on it right now is that it is unusual spend a third-round pick on a running back and give the one you have a big free agent contract if the new guy shows anything. That’s just right now, though. Again, it’s early and a lot will happen between now and when free agency opens up next March.

Timeline

—It’s been 160 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 99 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 10; Redskins training camp starts 54; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 110

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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).”