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Skins will need a fast start on Sunday

Skins will need a fast start on Sunday

There is one line of thinking that says that the Washington Redskins will have to run the ball well in order to beat the New Orleans Saints at FedEx Field on Sunday. The game plan needs to be Portis right, Portis left and Betts up the middle. The objective is to keep the pressure off of Jason Campbell, let him pick his spots, and to shorten the game to keep the ball out of the hands of Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and company.

Another line of thinking is that the Redskins need to come out of the tunnel passing and to keep it up throughout the game. The game plan needs to be deep to Moss, intermediate to Cooley, and short to whoever breaks open. The objective here is to take advantage of the weak link on the Saints, their pass defense and keep the pressure to produce on Brees, Bush, and company.

The line of thinking here is that whatever the Redskins do they need to start doing it quickly.

The Redskins offense can't start off slowly again this week. A sack on the game's opening series would quickly get the team into a "here we go again" frame of mind. A couple of three and outs out of the gate will bring out a strong undertone of boo-birds. A slow, hesitant pace, even in the early going, will rekindle thoughts of the "what, me hurry?" offense the team displayed in the fourth quarter in the Meadowlands.

This doesn't meant that Campbell needs to launch a deep one to Moss on the first play or that Portis needs to break off a long one in the early going. It does mean that Jim Zorn's scripted first 15 plays need to work. They need to be imaginative calls that are well executed by the players. Those 15 plays must take place over about a drive and a half, not the first two quarters of play. One of them should result in a touchdown or, at a minimum, set up a field goal.

None of this will do any good, of course, if the Saints go up 10-0 by scoring on their first two possessions. If Brees throws for 300+ yards, something he's done 14 times as a Saint, it's unlikely that the Redskins will be able to keep up.

But Brees will get his and for the Redskins to keep the Saints from denting to scoreboard too often they will have to take advantage of opportunities. If a ball is rolling free on the turf they have to dive on it. If they have Brees in their grasp they need to bring him down. It goes without saying after last week that when a defender has two hands on a pass he needs to catch it.

Will the Redskins get off to a quick start and make the defensive plays necessary to win? It says here that while the defense might make its share of plays, the offense—and that's everyone from the quarterback to the receivers to the backs to the lie—isn't yet ready to operate in an efficient manner in the WCO.

Saints 17, Redskins 10

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Angry Jay Gruden says Redskins 'not even close' to thinking about playoffs

Angry Jay Gruden says Redskins 'not even close' to thinking about playoffs

Angry is one way to describe it. 

Jay Gruden was clearly fuming with his Redskins team after a lackluster loss in Arizona. 

The Washington coach said that his team "underachieved" in the 31-23 loss and Gruden questioned if his team was properly focused early in the game. 

And it wasn't just with the media that Gruden voiced his disgust. The Skins coach let the players have it in the locker room after the game; so loud that his voice could be heard next door in the interview room. 

Generally an easy going guy – especially for an NFL head coach – Gruden's post game comments showed the coach at a level of frustration not often seen. 

Asked about his team's chances for the playoffs, Gruden wouldn't even entertain the notion. The coach said his team would focus on its next game in Philadelphia and that the Skins are "not even close" to thinking about the playoffs. 

MORE REDSKINS: Where do the Redskins go from here?

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Five observations from the Redskins' loss to the Cardinals

Five observations from the Redskins' loss to the Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ—Here are my five observations on Cardinals 31, Redskins 23:

—Jay Gruden said that the Redskins “underachieved” against the Cardinals today. He was right but he didn’t go far enough. At 6-5-1, the Redskins have underachieved all year. They have left points on the field with red zone and goal to go problems. With the talent they have on offense they already should have double-digit wins instead of fighting to stay above .500.

—I’m not going to forget the defense here. They have given up 31 points two weeks in a row. One of the touchdowns today came after a turnover so the Cardinals had only 10 yards to go but they did have a chance to get away with just a field goal but they couldn’t make a third-down stop. On their first drive the Cardinals converted on third and 11 and third and 12. That set the tone for a day on which Arizona converted 10 of 16 on third down. The D helped carry the team for a while in late September and in October but the unit is fading when it needs to be getting stronger.

—Kirk Cousins probably didn’t cost himself any money in a new contract today but he sure did get off to a bad start. He misfired to a few open receivers when he had time to throw. Some of these plays may have gone down as “drops” since the receiver got both hands on them but they could have been better passes that produced yards after the catch. After he got warmed up he hit on some nice passes, especially a 59-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson early in the second half to set up their first touchdown. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the tough start.

—Back to the defense, the Cardinals came into the game with two viable offensive weapons, RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald. The Redskins knew that if they could stop those two the Cardinals would have a tough time scoring. But both made plays, particularly Johnson, who had 175 yards of total offense and had a touchdown rushing and one receiving. Not everyone is Bill Belichick but you have to be able to scheme to take away the team’s most obvious threat.

—The Redskins have lost two straight, the Buccaneers won against the Chargers so for the first time in a few weeks the Redskins are on the outside looking into the NFC playoff picture. That’s not where they want to be and there is a pretty good chance that they can return there next week with a win over the Eagles. But they need to play to their potential.