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State of the Redskins, Week 6—Second-half shutdowns key to winning streak

State of the Redskins, Week 6—Second-half shutdowns key to winning streak

Here is where the Redskins stand in Week 6 of the NFL season.

Record: 3-2 3rd in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 1-1
vs. NFC: 1-1
vs. AFC: 2-1
Home: 1-2
Away: 2-0

Rankings and changes from Week 5 (through Sunday’s games)

Offense (yards/game): 366.0 (11th, -3 from last week)
Defense (yards/game): 392.0 (27th, +2)
Points for: 115 (16th, -4)
Points against: 122 (19th, +7)
Passer rating offense:  91.1 (18th, -2)
Opp passer rating: 91.0 (17th, +6)
Yards/rush attempt: 4.1 (15th, -8)
Opp. yards/rush attempt:
 5.1 (32nd, -1)
Weighted DVOA through Week 5 (Football Outsiders): 4.1% (12th, +2)

Trending the right way: The Redskins improved from 26th to 19th in points allowed at 24.4 per game. That is close to where they were last year when they were 17th at 23.7 allowed per game.

Trending the wrong way: The rushing defense is not getting any better. The Redskins dropped to last in yards per carry against them at 5.1 allowed per attempt. No other team has allowed even 5 per carry. While we're on the topic, the rushing offense dropped eight spots down to 15 in yards per carry.

Top three storylines:

Second half shutdowns—Last year the Redskins allowed an average 13.6 points per game in the second half. This season the average in the second half is 9.4 points. In the last three games they have allowed no second-half touchdowns.

Related: TD Punt return earns Crowder player of the week honors

Next men up getting it done—There were 16 players who participated in at least a third of the defensive snaps against the Ravens. Of those seven played either very little or not at all against the Steelers in Week 1. With Bashaud Breeland and possibly Su’a Cravens close to coming back, the Redskins have demonstrated some defensive depth.

Cousins still not there—You won’t see many better throws than Kirk Cousins’ perfectly placed touchdown to Pierre Garçon in the third quarter. But you won’t see many passes uglier than some of his third and short efforts that sailed over the heads of the receivers. If he hits a couple of those the game is a laugher at the end. Cousins still is clearly a notch below where he was last year. In 2015 he finished with a QBR of 70.1, sixth in the NFL. This year that metric has slipped to 58.2, 16th in the league.

Next three games

Sunday vs. Eagles (3-1)—Does rookie Carson Wentz really possess the best traits of Bret Favre and Peyton Manning as his coach said he does? Or is he a rookie who is off to a hot start and will come back to earth when defensive coordinators figure him out? If I’m the Redskins I’m more worried about an Eagles defense that has allowed just under 13 points per game.

October 23 @ Lions (2-3)—The Redskins once went for 30 years, from 1968 through 1997, without losing to the Lions. Now the Lions have won three in a row against Washington. The last time the Redskins beat Detroit Jim Zorn was in his first year as the head coach.

Related: Can Redskins D rattle Eagles QB Wentz?

October 30 vs Bengals (2-3) in London—While the Bengals are still a quality team this game does not seem quite as daunting as it did when the matchup at Wembley Stadium was announced. The Cowboys steamrolled them on Sunday. Despite a pretty good arsenal of weapons Andy Dalton has just five touchdown passes in five games.
https://audioboom.com/boos/5147074-episode-9-redskins-best-the-ravens?t=0

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After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

It's never been a talent issue for D.J. Swearinger. In college he made big plays and earned all conference honors playing in the SEC at South Carolina. He was drafted high by Houston, second round in 2013, and started 10 games his rookie season. 

In his first two seasons with the Texans, Swearinger started 22 games and proved to be a playmaker. He logged three interceptions and more than 100 tackles. He looked like a possible long-term answer at safety, until he was uncermoniously cut after his second year.

Reports showed Swearinger bucked at playing special teams. And over time, a reputation as a big - sometimes dirty - hitter emerged. 

None of it helped Swearinger, who was signed by Tampa in 2015. He played seven games for the Bucs but was cut mid-season. Arizona signed him late in the 2015 season, and kept him for 2016.

Last year, playing on a defense with strong leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, Swearinger excelled. He played all over the Cardinals secondary, starting 12 games and making plays like he did early in his career in Houston.

He finished the 2016 season with three interceptions, two sacks and eight passes defensed. He made more than 50 tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger with a +15.3 grade, by far the highest of his career and good for the 8th best rating of any safety in the NFL.

The Redskins haven't had solid safety play in years. In 2016, the team tried to address the position on the cheap, converting cornerbacks to safeties and signing low tier free agents. It didn't work.

So, finally, in 2017 the Redskins front office addressed the safety position by signing Swearinger to a three-year deal. And it sounds like the 25-year-old has grown up a lot after four years of bouncing around the league.

"I've been on a lot of teams. I want to make this home," Swearinger said (full video above). "I feel like I’m experienced enough to know what to do as a pro, know what to do to stay on top of things and be a pro. As long as I be a pro every day and make the plays I’m capable of, I’ll be a Redskin."

Swearinger's deal will keep him with the Redskins through the 2019 season, but already, head coach Jay Gruden seems excited about the new safety. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said watching film of Swearinger revealed a player hitting the highest levels of safety play in the NFL. In OTAs, seeing Swearinger in person, Gruden was impressed.

"Watching him the first two days really excites me. He just looks like a safety back there," Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but I just think D.J. is to a level in his career right now where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent."

There was some question if Swearinger can play the free safety role in Washington. More to the point, if he has the speed to play a true center field, with second-year man Su'a Cravens moving from linebacker to strong safety. Swearinger has zero concerns.

"I'm a free safety, I think that fits my body well," he said. "As a free safety you got to have the confidence in yourself that you can run with those guys and make plays on those guys."

Swearinger doesn't lack for confidence, and he shouldn't. Combined with Cravens, along with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback, the Redskins secondary could be a strength in 2017.

"We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out, I think this group can be one of the best," Swearinger said. "We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit."

It's normal for players to be excited in May. There supposed to be. 

Coaches, however, tend to be more hesitant with praise. Not optimism, but actual praise, though when it comes to Swearinger, Gruden isn't shy about his expectations.

"We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league," the coach said of his new free safety.

It's been a long journey for Swearinger. From four teams in four years to five teams in five years. He's hoping this one sticks. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

With Memorial Day weekend between now and the Redskins next batch of OTAs, let's look at the three best quotes from the first organized team session. For Redskins fans, the biggest looming issue remains the contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the organization, but there are plenty of other spots worth watching. 

1) Bad recruiting - A long-term deal might not get done, but that doesn't mean the talks aren't moving along. Cousins sounded almost optimistic but also knows that football is never a sure thing. To explain, he told a story from his high school days:

I’ve just kind of learned from previous experiences and if you know my story going back to high school, I played my senior year of high school with no scholarship offers, in fact there was a coach here from Northwestern today who was my recruiting coach at Northwestern, he’s still the running backs coach 10 years later at Northwestern and I was getting recruited by Northwestern, wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me, and it was just a reminder that you never know what’s going to happen. 

2) Sky's the limit - Despite the high-cost addition of Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary in 2016 was hardly a strength. Much of that came from poor safety play, where the team had few experienced options and spent little. This offseason, Washington invested in the position, bringing in D.J. Swearinger from the Arizona Cardinals. The new safety thinks the secondary can become a strength, quickly.

We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out I think this group can be one of the best. We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit.

3) Does it even matter - The NFL gives out a lot of awards, but at least publicly, there is no hardware for the funniest head coach. If there was a trophy, Jay Gruden should win it. Earlier this week the league announced a number of rule changes, most noticeably a change to stodgy TD celebration penalties. Another rule change: Overtime will shrink from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Gruden wasn't impressed when asked about it. 

Who cares?

Bonus - Who you calling fat? Gruden is too funny to only make the list once. Asked about second-year running back Robert Kelley, the coach made sure people know the difference between a nickname and reality.

That was just a nickname, he wasn’t actually fat. I think when you’re a 22-year-old kid, 21-year-old guy out of Tulane and you understand the wear and tear that the NFL is going to give you, you better get yourself into shape if you want to maintain a career in the NFL as a running back.

Always something on social 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back