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You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It’s situation normal among the Redskins faithful, which means a state of near hysterical overreaction. The complainers are saying that coaches, including Joe Gibbs, need to be fired and that players such as Robert Royal should be cut immediately. The lack of a first-round pick to tank games for is a particular irritant to many. The franchise is doomed, doomed. A period of incompetence of Cardinal-like proportions is inevitable. Those who don’t normally complain are, of course, complaining about the complainers.

That’s what three straight close, gut-wrenching losses will do to the high-strung Redskins Nation. Patience is not a virtue under such dire circumstances. Punishment for those deemed responsible for the losses must be swift and extreme.

Patience, of course, is exactly what’s called for here.

Progress is being made. Let’s take a walk down memory lane all the way back to 2004. After 11 games, the Redskins were 3-8. They were coming off of a three-game losing streak. The losses were to Cincinnati at home by 17-10 and to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the road by 28-6 and 16-7 respectively. None of those games were as close as the final score indicated.

In fact, there is this mythology floating around that the Redskins lost close ones last year, they are losing them this year, ergo there has been no progress. That’s just silly. It is true that seven of their 10 losses last year were by seven points or less. However, you can’t tell me that the Giants game at the Meadowlands, a six-point loss, was the same as yesterday’s game, also a six-point loss. They lost to Dallas by three at home but in the end it would have taken a miracle for them to win. It would have taken just a few first downs for them to beat Oakland in that three-point defeat.

Of those seven “close” losses, only two were truly competitive at the end. Only in those last two close losses, vs. Philadelphia at FedEx and at Dallas, did the Redskins have either a possession deep in the opponents’ territory with a chance to win in the late going (as they did against the Eagles) or a late lead that was snatched away (as was the case in Texas Stadium).

OK, losses are losses and it’s not a great situation if you have to compare the quality of one variety of loss to another. So let’s talk wins. The Redskins have won four close games this year. It’s not unreasonable to predict that, given their upcoming schedule, the Redskins will improve their win total from last year by at least two games, perhaps even three. That’s progress in wins as well as in the “quality” of the losses.

The point here is not to say that being critical of the performance of players or questioning the plays called by a coach, even those of Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, is out of line. It is done in this space on a regular basis. What the doubters need to keep in mind, however, is that Gibbs is constantly evolving. He’s not going to huff, “What we do works!” and that is that. He will examine the way he is doing things and if it’s not working he will change it. If a particular player isn’t producing, Gibbs will put him in situations where he can be successful.

Those who would cut multiple players and/or fire coaches need to learn the virtues of sticking to a plan. Suppose your lawn was a mess and you worked on it and worked on it until it looked pretty good except for this one patch of crabgrass that just wouldn’t go away. Would you bring in a bulldozer and dig up the whole yard to try to get rid of the one problem area? Or do you stick with what you’ve been doing and, since it’s gotten you this far, have confidence that it will be able to take you the rest of way?

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.


Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:


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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.


The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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