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Redskins hit the road looking to take 1st place

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Redskins hit the road looking to take 1st place

What: Redskins (3-3) vs. Giants (4-2)

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox WTTG-5

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet at noon and 4

Outlook: With Robert Griffin III under center, the Redskins almost always produce enough points. 

The problem six games into the 2012 season has been preventing them. And, once again, that figures to be challenge No. 1 for Washington’s defense as it squares off against an Eli Manning-led Giants’ team that’s coming off a convincing, 26-3 victory in San Francisco.

Manning struggled in a pair of losses to the Redskins a season ago, tossing a total of four interceptions and no touchdowns. 

So far this season, though, Manning has consistently ranked among the NFL’s top passers. The two-time Super Bowl winner has thrown for the third most yards (1,772), the seventh most touchdowns (11) and has been sacked fewer times than any other starter (4). 

But what should concern the Redskins most about Manning is this statistic: He’s also tied for the third most passing plays over 25 yards with 15.

Pass defense and susceptibility to big plays, of course, has been Washington’s weakness for much of season. In fact, the Redskins have allowed the most passing yards (1,970), the most passing first downs (97) and are tied for most passing touchdowns yielded (15). They're also tied for the seventh most passing yards allowed per play (7.9).

Cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson were instrumental in limiting the Vikings’ big plays in last week’s 38-26 victory. But they’ll be tested by Giants’ star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is tied for second in touchdown receptions (6) and third in total receptions (43). Hakeem Nicks, meantime, returned from a three-game absence last week because of a knee injury and is expected to be closer to 100-percent against the Redskins after practicing on a Wednesday for the first time all season.

The Redskins’ strength on defense has been stopping the run. The Ryan Kerrigan and Stephen Bowen-led unit ranks 10th in yards allowed on the ground has only permitted three rushing touchdowns.

But they’ll be facing the NFL’s hottest running back in Ahmad Bradshaw, who has rushed for 200 and 116 yards, respectively, the past two weeks. He also scored twice.

As you can see, it’s likely the Redskins’ defense will have its hands full. But if it can produce another bend-but-don’t-break performance against the defending champions, and Griffin has another solid outing, it’s not unreasonable to expect a typical NFC East contest. Which is to say a nail-bitter that could turn way late.  

Here are three additional areas the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring:

1- Griffin was the toast of the league last week following his 76-yard, victory-clinching run against the Vikings. For the season, he leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards (379) and, just as impressively, completion percentage (70.2).

But Sunday’s showdown will be unfamiliar territory for the rookie. His introduction to the NFC East will come on the road, against the defending Super Bowl champion quarterback and with first place in the division up for grabs.

Griffin, however, insisted that the increased stakes won’t alter his approach. 

“A couple of years ago, my Dad told me you jump the same way you jump at 6’8” that you do at 6’0,” he said, harkening back to his days as track and field star. “So for me, you always keep your preparation the same, whether it’s the Giants or anyone else.”

2- All indications are that the Redskins’ top wide receiver, Pierre Garçon, will miss his second straight game and fourth overall with a nagging foot injury. 

Fred Davis, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan have done a nice job picking up the slack, combining for 943 yards. At some point, though, the lack of an elite downfield and red zone threat will catch up with them. (The Redskins are tied for 26th in touchdown receptions with 6.)

Mike Shanahan said he hopes that rest, treatment and injections will get Garçon back on the field. But as the coach said this week, the injury is “very much a mystery.”  

3- Alfred Morris had his lowest production as a professional last Sunday, rushing for 47 yards (on 16 carries), or roughly half of his typical output, against Minnesota. 

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the downturn was the result of a Vikings’ defense that’s been good against the run and the fact that Morris was used more on a quick-hitting plays. 

On Sunday, Morris will face a Giants front that’s led by defensive ends Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre Paul and is widely considered among the NFL’s best. The unit has held four of its six opponents to a team total of 84 or fewer yards on the ground.

Morris is also contending with the reality that he’s no longer an unknown. Opponents now have six games of film to study.

That said, Kyle Shanahan is not concerned.

“He’s going to get his yards and people are going to have to commit to him,” Shanahan said. “ And when they do, it opens up other people.”

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Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 23, 21 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 142 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 110 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 21
—Training camp starts (7/27) 65
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 79

Who will surprise in 2017?

As OTAs start today, all 90 players on the roster have something to work for. But few dozen of them don’t have to work for a job. These are players who either because of their contracts or draft status or importance to the team who are locks to make the 53-man roster. Here are the 2017 roster locks.

Offense (18)

Backs: QB’s Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, and Nate Sudfeld; RB’s Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine.

I’ve had Sudfeld on the bubble ever since the Redskins drafted him but he’s past the point where they are going to give up on him and risk putting him on the practice squad. A year ago, Kelley was on the outside of the bubble and now he is a mortal lock.

WR/TE: WR’s Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder; TEs Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Receivers Maurice Harris and Robert Davis are close to being locks but there is a lot of competition going on in the bottom of the depth chart. Jeremy Sprinkle is likely to make it as a tight end but he may have to beat out special teams stalwart Niles Paul.

O-line: OT’s Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, G’s Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio; C Spencer Long

You can argue about Lauvao but the fact that the team did not draft or sign serious competition for him tells me he is safe. Someone who can back up a center is a lock to make the roster. That could be sixth-round pick Chase Roullier or a veteran plucked off waivers.

Defense (18)

D-line: Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Jonathan Allen, Anthony Lanier, Ziggy Hood

Lanier will still be a project but after keeping him last year the Redskins will hang on to him again to see if he can develop into a pass-rushing threat. Matt Ioannidis could be the sixth defensive lineman but he could get beaten out.

Linebackers: OLB’s Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson; ILB’s Will Compton, Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Trent Murphy will be suspended for the first four games so he won’t be on the initial 53. Martrell Spaight is close to being a lock but competition will be fierce for that last inside linebacker spot.

Backs: CB’s Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar; Safeties Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

Five or possibly six positions are up for grabs here. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau is a lock to be with the organization but he could be on the PUP list.  

Specialists (3): LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way, K Dustin Hopkins

It would be very surprising if they brought in competition for Hopkins.

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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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE WITH PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM

He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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