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RG3 not a done deal for Week 1--yet

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RG3 not a done deal for Week 1--yet

Will Robert Griffin III be the starting quarterback for the Redskins when they take on the Eagles on Sept. 9?

The short answer is that it seems very likely, perhaps inevitable. But the longer answer is that there are still one more hurdle to  clear before RG3’s status as the Week 1 starter is etched in stone.

This morning, Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that Griffin will start on Monday night against the Eagles seemed to confirm what many have thought for a long time. Griffin has seemed to be on track to be ready for the season almost from the moment Dr. James Andrews finished up the surgery. We heard he was “ahead of schedule” so often that it became a punch line. But every time he was seen in public, from the NFL awards dinner to the draft day appearance at FedEx Field to throwing during OTAs and minicamp, it seemed as though he was, yes, ahead of schedule.

But soon after Schefter reported this, word came out from sources inside the Redskins organization and from people close to Griffin that we should tap the brakes on it. He has not yet been cleared to play. That will not happen until tomorrow when Andrews is scheduled to watch Griffin work out before the Redskins’ preseason game in Tampa and then conduct an examination of his famous right knee.

Before that happens, it can’t be said that Griffin is “officially” cleared to play. But that appears to be a mere formality. Griffin said on the radio yesterday that he feels like he is no less than 100 percent.

Kyle Shanahan seems to agree. “I don’t think anybody knows if you’re 100 percent except the person who’s saying that,” said the Redskins’ offensive coordinator on Tuesday. “I mean, you only can know your own body. He’s such a good athlete, he could fool me; he looks 100 percent to me. He can fly around. He can make the throws. There’s no gimp at all – obviously he wouldn’t be out there if there was. But he looks good to me.”

Mike Shanahan also was impressed. “He had a good practice yesterday [Monday] and he had a good practice today [Tuesday],” said Shanahan. “I can see a big improvement from the start when he came out here the first day to where he is now. You can see he is in football shape and there hasn’t been a setback so everything has been very positive.”

Let’s see here, looks 100 percent, flying around, no gimp, making the throws, big improvement, in football shape, very positive—sure sounds like they’re talking about a guy who is their starter in 12 days to me.

It’s like you’re about to buy a house. The money is in the bank, everything checks out, the paperwork is ready to go. All that you need to do is hand over the check and sign the papers.

But you have that final walkthrough to do. And while it’s highly unlikely that you will find anything during that inspection that would derail the deal, it’s possible that you see cracks in the foundation, mold, or something else major that will change everything.

The chances are, however, that nothing will be found and you’ll sit down and sign the papers and the house will be yours.

The Andrews exam tomorrow is like that final inspection. It’s one more look to make sure everything is good to go. It’s a formality, but it’s there for a reason.

So we will have to wait a little bit longer to hear that Griffin is officially cleared to play. Hey, it’s been 231 days since his surgery, what difference is a few more days going to make?

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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 a league-worse 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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