Quick Links

Need to Know: Will DeSean Jackson be 100-percent for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Will DeSean Jackson be 100-percent for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 15, the day the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

PSA: If you’re attending the game today be sure that you take a look at the NFL’s statement on stadium security issued yesterday.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints

—Despite pronouncements by Jay Gruden and Sean McVay that DeSean Jackson is 100 percent, or very close to it, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not a fantasy football player but I think that if you have a reasonable alternative and can’t afford to gamble you might want to consider leaving Jackson on the bench. There is the possibility you could miss out on 110 yards and a touchdown from Jackson but you could also see another five-point performance from him as well.

—The defense is going to be shaken up in an effort to be able to stop the decline that has seen the unit go from being ranked in the top 10 earlier this season into the 21st ranked in terms of yards per game. Will Compton will start at inside linebacker. If Keenan Robinson is healthy, Compton will start in place of Perry Riley. If Robinson is inactive it will be Compton in his place. And Trenton Robinson, who has been playing almost 100 percent of the plays at strong safety, will yield many of his snaps to some combination of Jeron Johnson and Kyshoen Jarrett. Those aren’t huge upgrades but they re improvements.

—Here’s a not-so-bold prediction—the Redskins’ status as one of three NFL teams that has not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for over 300 yards this year will come to an end. Drew Brees will throw for something around 325. The key to slowing him down will be getting him on the ground (he has taken 22 sacks, a rate of 5.5 percent, 19th in the NFL) and making tackles to limit yards after the catch.

—For yet another game the No. 1 question going in from the standpoint of the Redskins offense is can they get their running game going. They are in the worst four-game rushing stretch in team history, with just 172 yards. Can they break out of it in a big way? Just about any way you want to measure it, the Saints have one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. Look for Matt Jones to possibly start at running back and for the Redskins to get things rolling, at least to a respectable extent.

—The Redskins are 3-1 at home and the Saints are 1-3 on the road. New Orleans’ only road win came in the retractable dome in Indianapolis. As I noted in a post earlier this week, Brees does not play as well outdoors as he does in a dome. If Kirk Cousins can protect the ball—in the last nine quarters he has one interception and that pass that bounced out of Pierre Garçon’s hands—the Redskins should put up enough points to win this one and go into the last seven games of the season with four wins under their belts for the first time since 2010.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Saints 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Redskins @ Panthers 7; Giants @ Redskins 14; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 22

In case you missed it

Quick Links

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.

In case you missed it

Quick Links

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.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it