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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

RICHMOND—Rain was a constant threat as the Texans returned for the second of three practice sessions against the Redskins. Here are my observations from the practice:

—There were officials present again today, the crew led by referee Walt Coleman. I’m not sure why teams don’t bring in refs for every day of training camp, at least a small crew and even college refs could help call offside, catch/no catch, etc.

—The teams started off with a long session of special teams work. Although it’s boring to watch since they only go about 70 percent to practice the kicking game, the Redskins certainly need the work.

—Matt Jones is a north-south runner. He’ll go at an angle to get to the hole and once he does it’s straight towards the goal line. The rookie went around left end on one play and as soon as he got in the clear he immediately headed straight up the field.

—Brandon Scherff had some tough moments going up against J.J. Watt. But on one play Scherff got proper position on the defender and cleared him out of the hole. That is how you have to try to control a player like Watt. You aren’t going to out muscle him.

—Rookie wide receiver Quinton Dunbar changed from a white jersey to a burgundy jersey, indicating a switch from offense to defense. He lined up there all day and did a credible job. At 6-2, he has the length they like at the position but at 201 pounds he look a bit fragile out there. But they needed the help and Dunbar stepped up and provided it. He’s still a long shot to make the team but the more he can do, the better his chances will be of eventually hanging on.

—The Redskins’ top four cornerbacks were out so Dunbar and others had to try to hang on against the Texans passing attack. On one play Houston wide receiver E. Z. Nwachukwu easily beat Deshazor Everett deep but quarterback Ryan Mallett overthrew him.

—Among others working at cornerback were Tajh Hasson, Dunbar, Trey Wolfe, Justin Rogers, and DreQuan Hoskey.

—With the Redskins’ weakened secondary, the Houston offense looked pretty good. It resembles the scheme used by the Patriots, where Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was the offensive coordinator. It’s about quick, accurate passing. The pass rush is going to be the strength of the Redskins’ pass defense and the quick throws help to negate that. Of course, when it’s Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett executing the offense and not Tom Brady, it doesn’t work with quite the same devastating precision.

—Mallett and Hoyer are splitting first-team snaps and competing for the starting quarterback job. Based on the limited snaps I’ve seen, I think Hoyer would be the better choice. But unlike some in the New England media did last year, I’m not going to declare who the starter should be based on a very limited sample size of what they have done during the offseason.

—Working off to the side at the beginning of practice were Logan Paulsen (toe), Preston Smith (groin), Trevardo Williams (hamstring) and David Amerson (shoulder). During the course of practice, Stephen Paea (groin) and Frank Kearse (knee) joined them on the sideline.

—Robert Griffin III was up and down during the course of the day. He had a rough time on one particular series when nearly every snap he either was pressure or didn’t have anyone open. The good thing was that he didn’t panic and try to force the ball into too small a space. He threw it away when he had issues.

—Hoyer went back to pass and quickly was swarmed by the defense. The defense didn’t hit him, of course, and he managed to flip a pass to a back. He turned and looked at O’Brien, seemingly pleading with the coach to count the completion. O’Brien was having none of it. “There’s no [expletive] way you got that off,” he said.

—Safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith was playing deep middle when third-string quarterback Tom Savage either severely overthrew a pass or threw it into a deep area thinking a receiver was going to be there. Cromartie-Smith ran up and made a diving interception.

—The second team offensive line was, from left to right, Willie Smith, Arie Kouandjio, Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, and Tom Compton.

—Kirk Cousins started off a series with a fumbled snap and then had a pass batted away.

—The play of the day from the Redskins standpoint came when rookie running back Matt Jones took a handoff and headed down the left sideline. Texans rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson tried to get in his way. But Jones is about three inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than Johnson. Jones easily won the collision and mowed over the cornerback. That drew hoots and hollers from the players on the sideline, both offensive and defensive.

—In goal to go sets just before the end of practice, both the Redskins’ first- and second-team offenses scored touchdowns. Griffin threw a nice fade to Pierre Garçon in the corner and the official on the spot signaled a completion and a touchdown. Then Colt McCoy mishandled a shotgun snap but recovered, scrambled, and threw to Evan Spencer just over the goal line.

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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In case you missed it

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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