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Need to Know: Will Kerrigan play against the Patriots?

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Need to Know: Will Kerrigan play against the Patriots?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, November 2, six days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Ten quick thoughts on the Redskins at the bye

—I don’t think that Dustin Hopkins is a great kicker by any stretch. He's good, maybe very good. But the Redskins just settled for having a mediocre, “accurate” kicker for so long that it just seems great by comparison.

—I still think that Matt Jones will be a very good running back; he could visit a Pro Bowl or two. But he needs to learn to be more patient and I’d like to see them work the quick toss to him more often.

—I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Kerrigan can’t go against the Patriots with his broken hand. I’m not a doctor and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night but it seems to me that his wrist will need to be immobilized during the initial couple of weeks of healing. That makes you essentially a one-armed player.

—The Redskins have 74 pass plays that have gained 10 yards or more this year. That’s tied for 10th in the NFL going into yesterday’s games. I guess most of the other quarterbacks in the league dink and dunk down the field, too. This just in—most NFL teams throw a lot of short passes.

Keenan Robinson has missed 12 tackles, most on the team. He’s a little bit beaten up but not enough to hamper him. It’s possible that he’s pressing in his contract year; someone needs to get him to relax.

—Is Alfred Morris pressing in his contract year, too? It’s possible. I can see having problems adjusting to the new blocking schemes but it’s not like the zone has completely disappeared. And they didn’t run much read option last year and he still had a solid year. A great mystery.

—Why hasn’t Robert Griffin III offered to sign a new contract that rescinds his 2016 option in order to facilitate a trade or open up the possibility that the Redskins might play him? At this point, I don’t think he wants to play this year, here or elsewhere. At this point could do nothing to improve his stock by playing this year, better for him to lay low.*

—I don’ think we’ve seen the best of Jamison Crowder. He has yet to make a move and blow past a would-be tackler for a big play. His longest gain this year is 26 yards. A much longer one is coming, either on a pass or on a punt return.

—Will Jeron Johnson get a shot at playing safety? Trenton Robinson is a good special teams player and a passable backup but he’s not a starter. Perhaps the light is going on for Johnson and he’ll get a shot at some point.

—The most mysterious injury on the team right now is that of Chris Culliver. His knee has no structural damage per an MRI but there still is apparently some pain, too much for him to be able to play. He’s been out three games and counting. Right now I’d say he’s questionable at best for the Patriots game. Of course, that could change.

*h/t to someone in my Twitter timeline for the gist of this, can’t find the tweet, let me know if it’s you.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 10:45; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 12:30

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 6; Saints @ Redskins 13; Redskins @ Panthers 20

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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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