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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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Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

The Redskins will host Tim Hightower for a visit on Wednesday, ESPN's Mike Triplett reported. Bringing Hightower in at this point represents an impressive story far beyond a mundane free agent visit.  

If his career ended today, Tim Hightower's story would already be remarkable. Hightower - a DMV native that played his college ball at the University of Richmond - played for the Redskins in the 2011 season. That season, he tore his ACL, and was limited to five games.

While torn ACL's happen frequently in the NFL, what happened next for Hightower was anything but ordinary. He missed the next three seasons with an undiagnosed infection, before incredibly returning to the NFL in 2015 with the Saints. 

His last two years in New Orleans, Hightower has been a solid contributor behind starting RB Mark Ingram. He's rushed for more than 900 yards, gained another 330 yards through the air and hit the end zone nine times in 24 games for the Saints. 

In Washington, Hightower would join a backfield of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. It will be interesting to see if Washington adds any other backs through the draft in April as well. 

Born in Waldorf, Hightower went to high school in Alexandria before playing college ball at Richmond. Playing with the 'Skins in 2011, Hightower quickly became a fan favorite, especially with his local ties. 

The Redskins run game has not been particularly strong for a few seasons, and questions remain if the current stable of runners will be enough to improve. Hightower doesn't necesarily equal a significant talent boost, but perhaps coaches and front office staff are looking at the group.

Be aware, however, this could be nothing more than a visit. Triplett reported it remains possible Hightower returns to the Saints. He also visited the 49ers last week, and new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was running the 'Skins offense in 2011 when the team originally acquired Hightower.

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Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 36 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Isaiah Ford

Wide receiver
Virginia Tech

Height: 6-1
Weight: 194
40-yard dash: 4.61

Projected draft round: 3-4

What they’re saying

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance. He is willing to run across the middle and cut back inside on quick screens, showing the toughness to absorb big hits and still hang on to the ball. Ford was asked to play outside as well as in the slot

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The top of the Redskins’ depth chart at wide receiver looks good with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. But depth is a concern, especially with Doctson’s durability a question mark. On top of that, Pryor is there on a one-year contract so there must be some succession planning at the position.

Ford was a very productive receiver at Virginia Tech, the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He has the knack for making the sensational catch and he isn’t afraid to go across the middle.

At 6-1 he has the height that seems to be the trend on the Redskins’ wide receiver corps lately. Ford could be a good mid-round pick for the team to develop in 2017 and be ready to be a full contributor in 2018.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Pitt

Ford is not afraid to run slants over the middle and is willing to cut back to the center of the field after catching bubble screens.

His run blocking ranged from unimpressive to bad with the caveat that it’s hard to evaluate on the TV camera angles. This is an area that can be improved with NFL coaching. Adding a few pounds to his 194-lb. frame could help, too. It also sometimes appears that he could use more bulk to help him use his height when fighting for a ball.

The good and the bad of Ford was on display in the span of a few minutes during the Pitt game. He made a spectacular catch on a tipped ball that bounced off of both him and the defensive back (view here) while they were on the ground. Ford had the awareness to scoop the ball off the chest of the defender and secure it to make the catch. A little while later he was in a great position to made a catch for a first down but he bobbled the ball as he was falling out of bounds (view here) and the pass was incomplete.

In the games I reviewed Ford showed a good knack to make back shoulder catches, something the Redskins don’t seem to like to try. But the ability is there if they draft him and want to try it.

Potential issues: Ford looks skinny, almost fragile, at 194 pounds. If he does add weight he needs to do so without losing much speed. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at the combine. Against college defensive backs he looks fast enough but that will be a different story in the NFL.

Bottom line: The Redskins can’t go into the season with a very green Maurice Harris and a very pedestrian Ryan Grant as their backup wide receivers. They need a player who can provide depth in 2017 and be able to step up to have a legitimate shot at starting in 2018.

There will be several prospects in the third- and fourth- round range who could be the guy. If the Redskins think that Ford can add a few pounds without sacrificing speed and brush up on his run blocking a bit, they could take a serious look at him.

In his own words:

On how the coaching change from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente helped him:

I think it simplified everything for us. It limited the amount of routes that I ran - slants, outs, fades and posts; my first two years, I was running digs, post curls, comebacks, things like that - that was fine. I'm comfortable doing both. The route-running was never a problem for me because I feel that's what I do best. Being able to play primarily 'X' last year, winning those 50-50 balls and running those routes, it helped me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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.