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Redskins vs. Vikings Bold Predictions

Redskins vs. Vikings Bold Predictions

This game is a classic gut check for the Washington Redskins. They have nothing tangible to gain from Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Minnesota, on the other hand, is trying to avoid a road loss that would knock the team out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Teams in the Redskins’ situation react differently. In 1979 the Chicago Bears played the St. Louis Cardinals in the season finale. The Bears needed a win and a Redskin loss later in the day to get a playoff spot while the Cards were, as usual, playing out the string. The Cardinals laid down like dogs, putting up no fight in going down to a 42-6 defeat. Chicago got its playoff spot after Dallas rallied to beat the Redskins.

Last year, though, it was an identical situation with the Arizona Cardinals facing the Vikings this time. This time the Cardinals did not quit; the fought to the end and shattered the hearts of those in Viking land with a stunning 18-17 win on the last play of the game.

So which team will the Redskins more closely resemble on Sunday? Will they show up wanting to make their small but indelible mark on this NFL season by knocking the Vikes out of the postseason? Or will they be more worried about tee times for next week?

The best guess is that the former scenario should prevail. Last week’s loss to Dallas was a setback in trying to build some positive momentum going into the 2005 season and they don’t want to go into the offseason with consecutive losses. On top of that, not everyone’s job is safe and anything less than a full effort will not be looked upon well by Gibbs and company.

But even if the spirit is willing, the collective body may not be cooperative. Clinton Portis has been placed on injured reserve with a sternum injury suffered in the Dallas game. Fred Smoot is doubtful and dime corner Ade Jimoh was also placed on IR.

If Smoot can’t play, the Redskins will be extremely shorthanded in the defensive backfield against a team with one of the best receiving corps in the NFL in Randy Moss, Nate Burleson, and Marcus Robinson. Walt Harris will start in Smoot’s position opposite Shawn Springs and undrafted rookies Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown will come in for passing situations. With Daunte Culpepper, who might be a league MVP candidate if not for a guy named Manning, throwing the ball it could get ugly.

Against such a potential onslaught, Gibbs and company could design their offensive game plan in a couple of different ways. They could play keep away and try to grind it out with Ledell Betts in Portis’ place in the backfield carrying a heavy load and Patrick Ramsey throwing short passes to Chris Cooley and Laveranues Coles. Or he could open it up, let Ramsey go deep to Rod Gardner, Coles, and Taylor Jacobs.

Playing against the 29th-ranked Minnesota defense either could be a good option. I see a lot of the first with a little of the second. Expect 25 or so carries for Betts and several attempts at long passes by Ramsey.

How many points will that add up to? Not enough. The offensive line will need to have a dominant game for this to work. We’ve been waiting for the offensive line to have such a game all year and it’s not likely to happen in the 17th week of the season.

Vikings 24, Redskins 14

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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