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Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

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Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

What:Falcons (4-0) vs. Redskins (2-2)
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live:Comcast SportsNet noon and 4.In the first four games, the biggest storyline for the Redskins has been the sublime play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his impact on the teams resurgent offense.Not this Sunday, though.The Redskins struggling defense will be the focal point against Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons, one of only two undefeated teams remaining (the Texans are also 4-0).For Washington to have any chance against an Atlanta offense thats racking up 31 points per contest and ending a seven-game home losing streak they must pressure Ryan and slow down a versatile repertoire of weapons that includes standout wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.If that sounds like a lot, well, it is.I think every weeks a statement game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. This is a great football team were playing. Theyve got the hottest quarterback in the league, a really good running back and two good receivers and theyve got maybe the greatest all-time tight end that ever played. So its a great challenge for us.Although the Redskins have been adept at stopping the run theyre 10th the units struggles against the pass and propensity for yielding big plays they might be in for a long afternoon. Consider:They rank last in passing touchdowns against (11), 31stin passing yards against (1,305) and 30thin yards per attempt (8.8). (Ryan leads the league in passer rating and ranks second in passing touchdowns with 11.)The Redskins have yielded pass receptions of 30 yards or longer nine times, including second half completions of 65 and 54 yards last week in Tampa. Both of those backbreaking miscues led to Buccaneers touchdowns and, making matters worse, came against the teams best cover corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.Defensive end Stephen Bowen acknowledged that the Redskins front-7 must help out the backend by forcing Ryan to make hurried decisions. We have to get there, Bowen said. Weve been working on a pass-rush skills this week. I know Im going to the best I can to get one sack on the board --finally.For three weeks now, the secondary has talked about playing tighter coverage and eliminating the long receptions that have plagued them.Now would be a good time for that to start happening.In addition to keeping an eye the secondarys performance, here are some other areas the crew atcsn.washington.comwill be monitoring:Ground superiorityThe troubling news for the Redskins is they have yielded 123 points. The encouraging news is they have scored 123, as well.In order to move the ball and produce points against the Falcons, the NFLs second best rushing offense (Washington is averaging 171 yards per game) needs to follow a simple formula: run the ball, then run it some more.The Falcons are allowing only 19 points per game, but their run defense has been shaky, permitting 146.3 yards per game (29th).Last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gained 86 yards on nine rushes against Atlanta. The Redskins, meantime, boast a pair of the NFLs top rushers in Griffin and Alfred Morris and, as a team, are tied for the most 10-plus yard runs (23). Its also possible Ryan Grant will make his debut for the home team.No excuses2) Kicker Billy Cundiff preserved his job last week by making a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds against the Buccaneers. But misses from 41, 31 and 57 earlier in the game means his margin for error against the Falcons is negligible.Cundiff, snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca have had another full week to work out any kinks in the field goal operation. So there will be no excuses Sunday.Strength against strengthAtlantas pass defense has been significantly stronger than its run defense. In fact, the unit is tied for the seventh fewest passing yards against per game (207).The Redskins air attack, meantime, ranks among the leagues most formidable. Griffin is tied with Ryan for the second best completion rate in the game (69.4) and has thrown only one interception.Washingtons receivers, meantime, rank second in the NFL in yards after the catch with 625, an effort led by Pierre Garon and Fred Davis.Somethings got to give.

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Ricky Jean-Francois signs with the Packers, per report

Ricky Jean-Francois signs with the Packers, per report

Before last season with the Redskins, Ricky Jean-Francois had made the playoffs five consecutive times, doing so twice with San Francisco, twice with Indianapolis and then once with Washington.

Now, the veteran — who was released by the 'Skins on March 15 — has given himself a strong chance of getting back to the postseason again in 2017 by reportedly signing with the Packers on Thursday.

ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Jean-Francois and Green Bay agreed to a one-year, $3-million contract.

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The 30-year-old lineman visited with the Bears and Seahawks before choosing to sign with Green Bay. Former Redskin Chris Baker, now in Tampa Bay, had also attempted to recruit Jean-Francois on Twitter to join him with the Bucs.

By cutting Jean-Francois last week, Washington will save $3 million toward their 2017 salary cap. Some have also speculated whether his criticism of the franchise was a factor in the transaction.

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DeSean Jackson chose Tampa because he wanted a young QB with 'a lot of upside'

DeSean Jackson chose Tampa because he wanted a young QB with 'a lot of upside'

Kirk Cousins is a 28-year-old quarterback, which is pretty youthful by NFL standards, and he's thrown for 4,100+ and 4,900+ yards in the past two seasons, suggesting that his career is on the rise.

But when DeSean Jackson was evaluating where to ink his next contract during his time on the open market, he saw another passer who is younger than Cousins and, in his mind, has more potential than Cousins, too.

And that is one of the main reasons why Jackson left the Redskins and signed with the Buccaneers.

"I think it was a great fit, a great opportunity, a great up-and-coming, young team," the receiver said during an interview on ESPN's First Take. "Jameis [Winston], obviously, in my decision making, I really wanted to go with a young quarterback, someone who had a lot of upside to him and I think he was the one to fit that position."

Like Cousins, Winston has been a full-time starter for two seasons in the league, and like Cousins, he's posted some gaudy numbers.

Most of the numbers, however, don't stack up to Washington's QB. Cousins edges out Winston in touchdowns, completion percentage and yards, and has also taken fewer sacks and thrown fewer picks than the former Heisman Trophy winner, in the last two years.

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With those stats in mind, it's safe to say the Michigan State product is superior to the Florida State product today. But after hearing Jackson say he valued Winston's "upside," it's not hard to take that a step further and conclude that Jackson believes Winston's ceiling is higher than Cousins' ceiling. On top of that, the latter's contract situation probably was a factor to some extent.

Speaking of Cousins, the pass catcher was asked to talk about his old signal caller. His response was complimentary — but also quite short.

"I think he has what it takes," Jackson said. "At times, we probably needed more out of him and everybody else on the team as well, too. Kirk Cousins, obviously his numbers are off the charts. He had crazy numbers. But moving forward man, we're in Tampa now." 

It was a speedy answer from a speedy player. And while that speedy player did speak highly of Cousins, he's opting to wind down his career with Winston instead, which basically declares that he decided Winston must have "what it takes" more than Cousins.

Jackson is certainly moving forward in Tampa, but whether his production will move upward with Winston isn't as certain.

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