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Passed over by the Redskins, Wade Phillips is doing Super


Passed over by the Redskins, Wade Phillips is doing Super

The Redskins fired defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on New Year’s Eve in 2014. One of the first candidates they interviewed to replace Haslett was Wade Phillips.

It seemed like the perfect fit. The Washington defense needed a shakeup and Phillips is one of the best defensive minds in the game and he has the results to prove it. In his 33 years as either a defensive coordinator or head coach his teams have finished in the top ten 18 times. And it doesn’t take him a few years to make a difference. Nine different teams have made the playoffs in Phillips’ first year on the job.

Phillips was very much available. He had finished the 2013 season as the interim coach of the Texans, was passed over for the permanent job, and spent 2014 out of football. He had a particular interest in the Redskins job because it would give him an opportunity to work on a coaching staff with his son. Wes Phillips is the Redskins’ tight ends coach.

But Jay Gruden was more impressed with Joe Barry’s relative youth (Phillips is 68) and energy. The Broncos, who had just hired Gary Kubiak, the coach who Phillips had replaced on an interim basis in Houston, as their head coach, didn’t have Phillips as their first choice as defensive coordinator either. They wanted Vance Joseph, who was then the defensive backs coach of the Bengals. But Cincinnati blocked the move and Kubiak turned to Phillips.

It worked out pretty well. The Broncos made the Super Bowl two years ago because their high-powered offense, led by Peyton Manning, scored over 38 points per game and just blew teams out. This year they scored just 22 points per game with Manning and Brock Osweiler splitting time at quarterback. But they still managed to go 12-4 and earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs thanks to Phillips’ top-ranked defense.

Win or lose on Sunday, many Redskins fans wonder what might have happened if Gruden had decided to go with Phillips last January. Under Barry the Washington defense did improve from 29th in points allowed to 17th and from 19 takeaways in 2014 to 27 last year.

Perhaps Phillips could have done better. But it’s fair to ask if he could have achieved substantially better results without Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, T. J. Ward, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and Malik Johnson.

It should be noted that Phillips has not always been a miracle worker. In 10 seasons as head coach or coordinator his teams finished 20th or worse in points allowed. Just like any other coach, he needs good players to execute his schemes.

I think it’s fair to say that in the short term the Redskins likely would have been better off with Phillips. We will see how Barry does if the Redskins continue to upgrade their defensive personnel.

RELATED: Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 


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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.


The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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