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Practice report: RG3 sharp

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Practice report: RG3 sharp

RICHMOND—Here’s my look at today’s Redskins practice, first with a look at Robert Griffin III’s day and then a walk around a few other notable events.

(Note: just to mix it up we're shifting back to the old school, non-Twitter report for the last practice report of the year.

—Griffin looks none the worse for wear the day after his rigorous 16-rep day on Wednesday. Well, OK, it really wasn’t all that tough.

—In position drills, passing to receivers covered by nobody, Griffin looks sharp. Earlier in camp he seemed like he was using his arm more and his (right) plant leg less. Now he is driving off of the injured leg more and using his arm less. That’s helping his velocity and accuracy. And, most important, it’s a sign that the knee is rounding into shape.

—Griffin’s first set of four reps in 11 on 11 includes two handoffs to Alfred Morris and two passes. One pass is a dumpoff to Roy Helu and the other is a nice dart to Josh Morgan, who was about 25 yards downfield on the numbers. He executed the handoffs perfectly, for the record.

—In between reps, Griffin stands by Kyle Shanahan but seems to be focused more on what he needs to do the next time he’s behind center rather than paying close attention to what’s going on when he is out. In other words, he’s not doing as many as many “mental reps”, he’s more thinking about his own reps.

—The highlight of RG3’s second set is a play-action bootleg pass to Fred Davis. Griffin hit him on the move about 15 yards downfield.

—The next time he was out there it was just for one play but it was a good one. He hit Josh Morgan on a deep post, the pass right on the money. At this point Griffin is four of four.

—Griffin doubled his number of completions the next time out. He was four for four, all of them in the five- to 10-yard range.

—In a goal line set, Griffin gets two snaps. On the first one he hands off to Alfred Morris. The next one was the play-action bootleg and he found Davis in the back of the end zone for his first “touchdown” of 11 on 11 drills.

—After hitting Aldrick Robinson for 19 yards after a play fake, Griffin had taken 17 snaps and was 10 for 10.

—It was in the next set that Griffin threw his first incompletion. He went for Pierre Garçon on an out pattern but the pass was way wide.

—A little bit later on, Griffin hit Garçon on that sideline patter and that was his last play of the day. In 21 snaps he was 14 of 15 for (per John Keim of ESPN and Zac Boyer of the Free Lance Star) 179 yards with the one touchdown.

In some other notable happenings:

—It’s apparent that the defense has been instructed to go extra hard after the ball when a rookie gets a carry. After one Jawan Jamison carry the defense swarmed around him, tugging and punching at the ball. They kept it up every time Jamison got the ball and when Chris Thompson got it although it didn’t seem that Thompson was treated quite as roughly as Jamison.

—The highlight catch of the day came when Kirk Cousins went to Leonard Hankerson on a deep post. Both the receiver and the defensive back (who couldn’t be identified because the defenders were wearing bibs as the emulated the Steelers defense) got their hands on the ball. Hankerson snatched it away and rolled downfield.

—Later Cousins threw a pass intended for Jordan Reed that newly acquired linebacker Quan Sturdivant tipped and intercepted. Nice play but Reed needs to learn how to play defensive back when he needs to. He didn’t make much of an effort to knock the pass down.

—Speaking of receivers who don’t try to knock down passes a defender is about to catch, Dezmon Briscoe had better pick up his level of hustle. He turned into a spectator on interceptions by Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford. He gave just no effort at all to break up the pass.

—Your know, since Griffin started running in 11 on 11, the seven on seven drills have gone away. They didn’t do any of them last year either. The Redskins, Kyle Shanahan in particular, don’t like seven on seven, they’d rather run the whole team to simulate the offense. Assuming Griffin is healthy, next year I don’t think we’ll see seven on sevens at the Bon Secours training center.

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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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