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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

Here is my report card on some players, coaches, and various other aspects of the Redskins’ 26-20 win over the Vikings. If you think I’m off or if I didn’t issue a grade where you think one is needed, hit the comments.

A

The Redskins have been waiting all season for Preston Smith to have a game like this one. He became the first Redskin with multiple sacks and at least one interception in a game since Marcus Washington did it in 2005. If he continues to make big plays the defense will improve by leaps and bounds.

For a couple of games it looked like Dustin Hopkins was trending towards being a bit wobbly, with misses of makeable field goals against both the Lions and the Bengals, the latter being a critical error. But he was back in form yesterday, drill four of four tries including one from 50 yards out.

B

I think that Rob Kelley got about 50 more yards than his blocking should have given him. That’s not based on film analysis, just from watching and figuring that he averaged around two additional yards on his 22 carries. Why not an A? I’m looking for over 100 yards and/or a couple of TD’s for him to earn that grade.

Since I graded them with an F a couple of weeks ago, I should point out when the officials do a good job. The crew of Pete Morelli kept the game moving along. Accepted penalties were exactly equal with each team with four for 35 yards for each team. The non-PI call on the throw to Ryan Grant was borderline but not awful. And the game moved at a brisk pace, finishing up in 2:52.

I really can’t find much to fault Jay Gruden on. He’s had his team ready to play just about every game this season and yesterday was no exception. There were no questionable fourth-down calls yesterday, no replay challenges. Just a normal, nerve-racking win in a critical game.

Pierre Garçon had another workmanlike day, with six receptions for 81 yards, leading the team in both categories. There is plenty of talk of him being underutilized but he’s on pace to catch 75 passes for 850 yards, not a bad season at all. He will make some money next year at age 30 whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere.

C

Slot corner Kendall Fuller was on Stefon Diggs for most of the Vikings’ wide receivers’ 13 receptions for 164 yards. It was a tough assignment and Fuller did prevent Diggs from breaking a long one. But it still was a rough day for the rookie.

D

WR Ryan Grant played 78 percent the offensive snaps (more than any WR except Pierre Garçon) and did not catch a pass. He was only targeted three time and perhaps he should have drawn a flag on one second-quarter throw. But at times it seems like the Redskins are playing with four eligible receivers when he is on the field.

The Redskins’ red zone efficiency was, well, not efficient at all. They scored a TD on their first trip to the red zone and they had to settle for field goals on the three subsequent trips inside the Minnesota 20. They are now dead last in the NFL in red zone performance at 38.9 percent.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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