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Prediction: Strange things happen when Redskins, Rams meet

Prediction: Strange things happen when Redskins, Rams meet

Over the last decade or so, strange things tend to happen when the Redskins play the Rams.

In 2008, guard Pete Kendall caught a Jason Campbell pass that had been batted in the air. He fumbled and future Redskins safety O. J. Atogwe scooped up the ball and went 75 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Rams, in their first game under interim coach Jim Haslett, a lead they never relinquished in a 19-17 win.

In 2012 the Redskins went to St. Louis for the second game of the Robert Griffin III era. Griffin wasn’t as spectacular as he had been in New Orleans for his NFL debut but he had the Redskins in position to send the game into overtime with a late field goal. But receiver Josh Morgan was flagged for throwing the ball at cornerback Courtland Finnegan and Billy Cudiff’s 62-yard attempt never had a chance.

Last December the meeting between the two teams was not really all that strange. The Rams were playing well and the Redskins were in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Colt McCoy is not very good at avoiding sacks and it was a bad matchup as he got sacked six times by the Rams’ very active defense. They eventually knocked McCoy out of the game and Griffin came in and took one more sack. The Rams won 24-0.

The game at FedEx Field this Sunday looks to many like an easy Rams win. The guys in Vegas have the road team favored by about a field goal, which means they see the visitors as the clearly superior team. And they could well be. But we really don’t know yet.

The Rams were a 6-10 team last year; they lost their last three games. They couldn’t build off of the momentum from posting back to back shutouts against the Raiders and Redskins. They finished the year in a middle of the pack defensively in terms of yards and points scored and near the bottom on offense. They had their moments, including home wins over the Seahawks and Broncos, but they couldn’t generate anything consistently.

Under Jeff Fisher, who has been the coach since 2012, they have four two-game winning streaks, none longer. They have five losing streaks of three games or longer. Their record has gotten worse each year Fisher has been there, going from 7-8-1 in 2012 to 7-9 to 6-10 last year. If you are what your record says you are the Rams are not getting better under Fisher.

Are the Rams talented enough and consistent enough to come off of a big win at home on an artificial surface that maximizes their speed on both sides of the ball and win a road game on grass? Will they get two return touchdowns like they got and needed to beat the Seahawks, especially considering the Redskins are unlikely to punt the ball anywhere Tavon Austin?

From their point of view, for the Redskins to have a chance to win they will have to take advantage of whatever opportunities the Rams may present them. Let’s compare what the Redskins did on Sunday to what the Broncos did in their win over the Chiefs on Thursday night.

Peyton Manning passed for about 50 more yards than Kirk Cousins did against the Dolphins, but he needed 14 more pass attempts to get there. Denver could not run the ball, rushing for just 61 yards on 22 carries, less than half of the 125 yards that Alfred Morris posted alone.

So why did the Broncos win and the Redskins lose? For one thing, Manning was able to get his team in for the tying score in the late going while Cousins could not. That’s just Manning being who he is and Cousins being who he is.

But the Broncos defense took advantage of opportunities. When Aqib Talib and Chris Harris had their hands on Alex Smith passes, they held on. The Redskins dropped at least two potential interceptions of Ryan Tannehill, one of which would been six points or at least a first and goal. When the ball was on the ground late in the game in Kansas City, Denver got the scoop and score. When the second-half kickoff was fumbled by Miami and was there for the taking, Dashon Goldson couldn’t come up with it. If the Redskins had taken advantage of their opportunities like the Broncos maximized some of theirs, the outcome last Sunday may have been different.

So we have the Rams, who have yet to show that they can play consistent, winning football week after week, against the Redskins, who can’t put together a winning streak either and didn’t take advantage of some golden opportunities last week. I’m not so sure that Rams will come to town ready to play lights out again, perhaps suffering a bit of a hangover after their big win over the defending NFC champs.

The problem for the Redskins here is that the Rams can be off their game to an extent and still win if the home team doesn’t make some breaks. And before I can predict that the Redskins will create opportunities and take advantage of them I need to see them do it on a somewhat consistent basis.

Rams 20, Redskins 10

Prediction record this season: 1-0

 

 

The Redskins have the talent to win the game. But do they have the heart and brains?

 

This style? https://www.evernote.com/shard/s32/nl/896911159/4d06dce3-639d-4742-985f-904fb0944d19/

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.