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Redskins-Vikings: Five keys and a prediction

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Redskins-Vikings: Five keys and a prediction

Here are five keys to the Washington Redskins-Minnesota Vikings game plus a prediction.

1. The Redskins are on the road playing against a 1-7 team in a building that can get very loud if the home team is doing well but can get very quiet if the Vikings are down. It would seem to be important for the Redskins to get on top early in this one and get the crowd out of the game. Kyle Shanahan agrees. “I haven’t played there in a few years, but the last time I was there I barely could hear myself think,” he said. “It can get real loud and those people can get going. And the crowd will be a factor. It’s always going to be a factor on third downs and crucial situations, and the better you can get off to a start, the quieter they get. It’s something we’d obviously like to do.”

2. On the defensive side, one thing the Redskins would obviously like to do is to get after Christian Ponder. He’s been sacked 15 times in his five starts and that was with a healthy offensive line. Injuries will force to Vikings to sit right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion) and probably left guard Charlie Johnson (elbow). That will break up an O-line combo that has started every game since the start of the 2012 season. If they can take advantage of the backups, look for a multi sack game from Ryan Kerrigan and possibly Barry Cofield.

3. The Redskins could jump out to a fast start and get pressure on Ponder and then have Cordarrelle Patterson undo all of the good they’ve done. He’s averaged 36.7 yards on 22 kickoff returns; that’s a big chunk of field position. And you can’t stop him by kicking deep in the end zone. One of his TD’s was a 109-yard runback so it’s obvious that he’ll run it out from anywhere. Kai Forbath either needs to boom it into the first row of the stands or pooch it with hang time down to the 10. If I’m the Redskins I’ll take my chances with Ponder and even Adrian Peterson with decent field position over a quick six from Patterson.

4. Yes, we all know that the Redskins are 10-1 when Alfred Morris gets 20 or more carries in the game. But it’s not all that simple. If it was, then Kyle Shanahan would simply call for Robert Griffin III to hand off to Morris on the first 20 snaps of the game and call it a day. For Morris to get to 20 carries, the passing game has to be working so the defense doesn’t stack to box to stop him. It also helps if Griffin can get his wheels moving to give the defense something else to guard against. In any case, the numbers don’t lie. In 2012 Morris had 20 or more carries three times in the Redskins’ first nine games. The team’s record was 3-6 (2-1 in Morris’ 20+ carry games). In the final seven games he carried at least 20 times in every game. The Redskins, of course, went 7-0.

5. No matter what the pass rush, special teams, and Morris do, it’s going to be hard for the Redskins to win unless Griffin can, for the first time this year, put up a second solid game in a row. Since the bye he has twice completed 50 percent or less of his passes and has posted the two worst single-game passer ratings of his career. Not surprisingly, the Redskins lost those two games. He has twice has a completion percentage of 62 or better and passer ratings of over 85. The Redskins are 2-0 in those games. They are not good enough to overcome a bad game by their quarterback.

It says here that the Redskins rack up five sacks of Ponder, Morris gets his 20 carries and Griffin plays well enough for the Redskins to pull out the win:

Redskins 24, Vikings 14

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.