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Redskins vs. Dolphins: Pros, cons, and a prediction

Redskins vs. Dolphins: Pros, cons, and a prediction

Three reasons why the Dolphins will win:

—From the Redskins’ standpoint it would be a great story if rookie guard Brandon Scherff could battle Ndamukong Suh to a stalemate. But the reality is that, while Scherff may visit many Pro Bowls in the future it is likely that Suh will get the best of him. This will have Kirk Cousins on the run, unable to get rid of the ball quickly and will disrupt the Redskins’ plans to control the game by keeping the ball on the ground.

—Even if Scherff is able to hold his own against Suh the Redskins’ revamped offensive line will have to go up against two other very good defensive linemen in Cameron Wake and Earl Mitchell. Someone is likely to get through frequently.

—Ryan Tannehill has improved every year he’s been in the league. If he takes a step up from last year, when he passed for over 4,000 yards and threw just 12 interceptions in 590 pass attempts, he will be tough to handle. Despite some changes the Redskins’ secondary remains suspect and Tannehill could have a big day

Why the Redskins will win:

—DeSean Jackson can take the top off of a defense. He may play a limited number of snaps as he works his way back into game shape and Kirk Cousins might not always have time to throw deep but it only takes one to change the complexion of a game.

—Matt Jones could be a secret weapon for the Redskins against the Dolphins defensive front. The rookie running back may not do to well slamming into the line. But he is also good catching passes out of the backfield and he has great feet when he’s out in space. A good way to beat the pass rush would be for Kirk Cousins to flip the ball to him about half a dozen times and see what he can do.

—Tannehill cut down on the number of sacks he took, from 58 in 2013 to 46 last year. That’s a solid improvement but it’s still in the bottom third in the league. Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy could have their shots at the quarterback. If they hit home it could be a long day for Tannehill.

Prediction:

This is a winnable game for the Redskins even though the Dolphins are probably the better team. In a game where defenses should dominate a deep pass or two to Jackson or a big gain on a swing pass by Jones could tilt the balance.

But the Redskins aren’t ready to win a game like this. The matchup reminds me of the Redskins playing the Texans a year ago. They didn’t play horribly but Houston had a dominant defensive lineman in J.J. Watt who disrupted things just enough and Washington made just enough mistakes (giving up a blocked punt and a block extra point and losing two fumbles in Houston territory) to lose. I am not yet convinced that the Redskins are immune from such gaffes.

Dolphins 24, Redskins 17

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

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

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”