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Six-Week Stretch Will Define Season

Six-Week Stretch Will Define Season

Forget about the Monday night opener and the return of Smootie and Brad “Whiney” Johnson. Never mind the prime-time affair six days later in Texas Stadium for the home debuts of the idiot kicker, Mike Vanderjagt and the idiot receiver, Terrell Owens. At this point, I don’t really care about the season ending clash with the Giants on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Just tell me how the Redskins will do in a stretch of five games in six weeks in October and November and I’ll tell you how the Redskins will finish the 2006 season.

It starts in Week 7 in Indianapolis with a game against the Colts. This is one that you have to put down as an “L” looking at it right now, but despite the prowess of Indy’s passing attack, I don’t think that you can underestimate the impact of the loss of Edgerrin James. After that, it’s the well-placed bye week. Certainly, the timing here is much better than last year when the well-deserved rest came after the second game of the season.

The week off gives the Redskins two weeks to prepare for the rematch with Dallas. We don’t know what state the Cowboys will be in by then. Besides the two idiots mentioned above, they have an immobile, aging quarterback, a supposed star running back who can’t stay on the field for more than half the season, an offensive line that is in the process of being rebuilt for the second straight year and a coach who hasn’t displayed an ounce of enthusiasm about the moves that Jones is making. To mix some metaphors, the team appears to be a toxic mix that could explode into a train wreck at any moment. Certainly if Dan Snyder had tried to pull together so many ill-fitting pieces he would be roundly laughed at for trying to build his own fantasy football team as he was in 2000. However, Jerry Jones is being hailed for having put together the last pieces of the championship puzzle. The main difference is that Deion Sanders was just an egotistical, arrogant hot dog while Owens is an egotistical, arrogant hot dog who is a proven team killer.

After that there are two straight road games, the first one in Philadelphia. The guess here is that with a healthy Donovan McNabb the Eagles will be better than the were last year but not the league powerhouse they were the three years prior to 2005. The Linc will be a tough place to win. Then it’s on to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the scene of two taught, controversy-filled games between the two teams last year. It wouldn’t be surprising if the 2006 regular-season contest between the two teams was another preview of a playoff matchup.

Then on Thanksgiving weekend there will be a game at FedEx Field against the Carolina Panthers. While there probably wasn’t a good way to do it, the NFL missed the boat by not putting the Skins and Panthers in the same division and guaranteeing twice-yearly games between the two teams. Before the Panthers came along in the late 1990’s, the Redskins were the team of the Carolinas and many Carolinians remain loyal to the Burgundy and Gold while sort of rooting for the teal and black. This game also has the potential to be loaded with playoff implications.

During this stretch, the Redskins will have ample opportunity to make some statements as to whether or not they should be counted among the NFL’s elite teams. A 3-2 record or better over the meat of the schedule would be evidence that the Redskins are indeed candidates for a long playoff run. A losing record in the five games doesn’t doom them to a year of watching the playoffs on TV, but the team’s aspirations for ’06 go beyond a one and done appearance or even a two and done for that matter and a sub .500 mark against the tough teams won’t bode well for postseason success.

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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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