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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

In the preseason, it appeared that a banged up and unproven line might hold back a potentially explosive Redskins’ offense.

But Kory Lichtensteiger returned from a second knee surgery, Chris Chester’s ankle sprain turned out to be minor, and most important, reserve Tyler Polumbus proved to be an adequate replacement for the injured Jammal Brown.

While it might be a stretch to call the Redskins’ offensive line one of the team’s strengths, the unit certainly has performed much better than anticipated through the season's first six games.

“Overall, I’ve been happy with our guys,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “They are starting to feel very comfortable with the system. They know what they are doing and it shows on the field.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III has been sacked 12 times, a lower total that 17 other starters and has been hit an average of 5.8 times per game. Some of that, of course, is Griffin’s elusiveness. Some of it, though, is the result of an offensive line that’s in sync and doing an effective job in pass protection.

For comparison’s sake, Arizona’s Kevin Kolb has been sacked 27 times, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 23 times. 

The statistics also show Washington’s Trent Williams-led offensive line has been effective in run blocking.

The Redskins rank second in the NFL in rushing yards with 996. Rookie running back Alfred Morris leads the way with 538, while Griffin has amassed 379, the most among quarterbacks.

The unit has, however, seen its share of struggles from time to time. Against the Bengals, for example, Griffin was sacked six times for a total loss of 53 yards and contacted 13 other times while passing. In that game, Williams suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and his replacement, Jordan Black, was not sharp.

That game was the line's low point. Sunday's triumph over the Vikings' top-tier defense, meantime, marked its best effort.

Griffin was sacked just once and hit while passing only three times. The team also rushed for 183 yards, a total highlighted by Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That play began with center Will Montgomery and guards Lichtensteiger and Chester opening a gaping hole for Griffin at the line of scrimmage.

Asked about the line’s unexpected improvement, Shanahan singled out three keys: health, chemistry and Polumbus’ emergence. Polumbus, a 6 foot 8, 305-pound tackle, was signed last November as a depth player. But he won the starting right tackle job in training camp, replacing Brown, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a hip condition.

“There were a number of people that worried about our offensive line,” Shanahan said. “We have stayed fairly healthy, which is always a big advantage. The offensive line is a group of people working together as a unit. Everybody’s got a piece of the puzzle.”

He added: “The big addition has been Tyler Polumbus. He’s come in and he’s done a good job of picking up the system very quickly. Hopefully, he’ll keep on improving.”

On the other side of the line, Williams is quietly putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season, a bid underscored by his standout performance against Jared Allen last week. Allen recorded a sack late in the game, but the Vikings’ star defensive end beat tight end Logan Paulsen on that play, not Williams.

“I don’t even like watching my rookie year film, because it’s not me,” Williams asked about his progress. “ It’s basically two different players at this point. Last year, I improved a lot. But even that player last year is not the player you see now. It’s experience.”

Williams also knows the line’s biggest challenge awaits Sunday at the Meadowlands. In addition to Jason Pierre Paul, the Redskins must contend with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, among others. 

“They have the best front four the league has to offer,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

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Oddsmakers give Kirk Cousins favorable shot at 2017 NFL MVP

Oddsmakers give Kirk Cousins favorable shot at 2017 NFL MVP

There continues to be a (ridiculous) debate on whether or not Kirk Cousins can continue to be a successful starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

In the betting industry, there is not much debate with Cousins being listed with 50/1 odds to win the NFL MVP award this upcoming season from Bovada. Among all the other players listed, he is in a tie for 14th. 

He is coming off back-to-back seasons with seven 300 yard passing games, a team record, and has an abundance of fresh, young wide receivers to compliment his passing style. Last year he was third in the league in passing yards with 4,917, trailing only Drew Brees (5,208) and Matt Ryan (4,944). 

The team may not be poised for a Super Bowl run in 2017-18, but if the team makes a post-season run, who will it be on the back of? Jordan Reed? Rob Kelley? Ryan Kerrigan?

No, it will be Kirk Cousins. 

RELATED: Ex-GM outlines staggering contract for Kirk Cousins

Entering this season at 40-years-old, and defending Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady is the overall favorite at 4/1. He is closely followed by Aaron Rodgers, and young quarterbacks Derek Carr and Dak Prescott. 

BOVADA 2017-18 NFL MVP ODDS:

Tom Brady, NE — 4/1
Aaron Rodgers, GB — 7/1
Derek Carr, OAK — 9/1
Dak Prescott, DAL — 12/1
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT — 12/1
Russell Wilson, SEA — 12/1
Matt Ryan, ATL — 16/1
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL — 20/1
Drew Brees, NO — 25/1
Andrew Luck, IND — 25/1
Cam Newton, CAR — 25/1
David Johnson, ARI — 33/1
Marcus Mariota, TEN — 33/1
Sam Bradford, MIN — 50/1
Antonio Brown, PIT — 50/1
Kirk Cousins, WAS — 50/1
Julio Jones, ATL — 50/1
Eli Manning, NYG — 50/1
Carson Palmer, ARI — 50/1
Adrian Peterson, NO — 50/1
Philip Rivers, LAC — 50/1
Matt Stafford, DET — 50/1
Odell Beckham Jr., NYG — 66/1
Rob Gronkowski, NE — 66/1
Alex Smith, KC — 66/1
Ryan Tannehill, MIA — 66/1
J.J. Watt, HOU — 66/1
Jameis Winston, TB — 66/1
Blake Bortles, JAX — 100/1
Andy Dalton, CIN — 100/1
Joe Flacco, BAL — 100/1
T.Y. Hilton, IND — 100/1
Marshawn Lynch, OAK — 100/1
LeSean McCoy, BUF — 100/1
Von Miller, DEN — 100/1
DeMarco Murray, TEN — 100/1
Carson Wentz, PHL — 100/1

RELATED: After Derek Carr deal, Cousins' best option may be short-term

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True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

Robert Kelley emerged as the Redskins top running back in 2016, an incredible story of an undrafted guy working his way to the top. Of course, Matt Jones' problems with fumbling helped push Kelley to the top. 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden speaks highly of Kelley, particularly his fluidity and vision, but the team drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round this year to provide additional competition in the backfield.

Here's the crucial statement: Rob Kelley will lead the Redskins in rushing yards in 2017.

Finlay: True.

Kelley averaged 4.2 yards-per-carry last season and the Redskins ground game is very much centered on a "4 or more" philosophy. Washington running backs coach Randy Jordan joined the #RedskinsTalk podcast and explained that the team wants a runner it can count on for positive yards more than creating big plays. The Redskins offense, as designed by Gruden, sets up for big plays in the pass game, and the run should allow for proper use of play action. 

In just nine starts last year, Kelley gained more than 700 yards. Project that out over 16 games, and he would be over 1,000 yards rushing. Perine has much to learn about the NFL, and understanding pass protections will take time for the rookie out of Oklahoma. Chris Thompson will be a key part of the offense, but much of his yardage will come via the pass game. 

Kelley will lead this team in rush yards. He's looked great in OTAs and minicamp while the coaching staff believes Kelley is in much better shape this year than he was as a rookie. Write it down in pen. 

RELATED: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

Tandler: True.

After the draft and during rookie camp I was saying that there was a chance that Perine could lead the team is rushing this year. But after seeing Perine playing with the big boys in OTAs and minicamp it’s apparent that he has a long way to go to become a consistently productive running back.

One thing Kelley seems to have going in his favor is that he has a very sensible outlook on the NFL. As JP noted, Kelley showed up to Redskins Park in better shape than he did as a rookie. This indicates to me that he understands that being an NFL players is a year-round job. Staying in great shape is important in the league but at running back it’s vital. Kelley gets that and because he does, his chances of being available for 16 games are much higher.

In turn, that improves his chance of being the team’s leading rusher. I’m not sure if he’ll get 1,000 yards—Perine will get things figured out enough to take some carries before the season gets too old—but Gruden will make sure that he gets fed plenty as long as he is available. 

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