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The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.26.06: The Tuesday Take--While Mark Brunell's performance on Sunday answered some questions, others remain. Plus a look ahead at the Jaguars, who go by the simple philosophy that if the other team doesn't have the ball it's hard for it to win.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It was only Houston. They were only dink and dunk passes. So what.

That was the reaction of Mark Brunell’s detractors to his NFL-record 22 consecutive pass completions on Sunday, a performance that wound up with the much-maligned quarterback going 24 of 27 for 261 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating for the game of 119.3.

And, to an extent, it’s a justified reaction. Houston has the worst defense in the league statistically. They’re almost 100 yards a game behind the team ranked 31st. While such stats can be misleading early in the season, they seem to be pretty darn accurate in this case. They have no impact players, they have no identity as a unit; they’re just not very good.

But there have been some pretty bad defenses in the history of the NFL and in all the thousands of games played before this one nobody has completed 22 consecutive forward passes in one game. Not Unitas against the pitiful Redskins teams of the early 60’s, not Jurgensen against the expansion Saints, not Montana playing the horrid Bucs teams of the late ‘80’s, not Marino while the Dolphins were regularly beating up on the Bills, not Manning in facing these Texans twice a year. Nobody.

This doesn’t qualify Brunell for the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that his struggles are over. But to brush it off and say that anyone from your little sister to a horrible NFL quarterback could complete 22 straight passes against an NFL defense is going to the other extreme and not giving him enough credit.

Yes, they were short passes. The record would have be exponentially more impressive had even a couple more of the attempts been of the length of the one on which David Patten made that spectacular catch 25 yards downfield. On at least a couple of occasions it looked like Brunell had time to find a receiver downfield but he checked down to Ladell Betts or another receiver roaming a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Redskins will need to go deep in the passing game on occasion if they are going to beat the better teams on their schedule. Brunell needs to develop the confidence to throw the intermediate and deep routes and the patience to wait for those plays to develop when he’s getting time to throw.

But for six games, including the preseason, no facet of the offense was working well. It was a train wreck. Now it appears that a few of the cars have been put back onto the track. We will see if the rest of the mess can be straightened out.

Jaguars a team in possession

In taking an early look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, one number jumps out—23. That’s the average number of possession minutes that the Jags’ three opponents have managed so far this season. And this meager total has been compiled by some quality opponents in Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. There’s nary a stiff among them.

The flip side of that coin is that the Jaguars’ offense has had the ball for 37 minutes a game. There is no secret formula for putting up numbers like this. You run the ball and you stop the run. The Jags defense has allowed just 59 yards a game on the ground, the third-best total in the league. They’re eighth in the league in rushing offense, but they’re third in rushing attempts. Jacksonville is one of just four teams who have run the ball more than 100 times. That’s 33 times a game and even though their average is mediocre at 3.7 yards a crack, they keep at it and they wear their opponents down.

The closer the Redskins come to evening up that time of possession the better their chances will be of pulling the upset (yes, the Redskins are a three-point dog at home). That means showing the same patience with the running game that the Jags have shown. It also means not prolonging Jacksonville’s possessions and shortening their own by creating a bunch of yellow laundry all over the field. They won’t be able to bail out of very many first and 20 or second and 15 situations like they could against Houston.

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Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

RICHMOND—The Redskins will assemble here tomorrow to get ready to get ready for the 2017 season. There are plenty of position competitions and other storylines. Here is a look at what we at CSN will be paying attention to, starting with the offense.

Kiss Cousins goodbye?

As everyone reading this knows, the Redskins quarterback did not agree to a long-term contract by the deadline last week and he will play out the season on the franchise tag. The situation will have a major impact next spring as free agency approaches but that’s to be sorted out in 2018. The question here is whether Cousins’ contract status will affect what takes place here in Richmond and as the season unfolds starting in September.

Some believe that it will be a major storyline and that it will be a distraction with media asking lots of questions and the possibility that Cousins’ thoughts will drift towards next year and his potential free agency.

RELATED: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

However, Cousins was in a similar position last year, when he played on the franchise tag for the first time. There was a flurry of questions at the start of training camp, Cousins answered them, and then they moved on. The rule that prohibits contract negotiations with a tagged player during the season had its intended effect. There was no buzz about the situation until the season was over.

This year the situation is ratcheted up a bit because of the high cost of the tags available to the Redskins next year. But Cousins is very good at deflecting questions about his contract status and he should be able to handle the scrutiny.

Changes at wide receiver

No team had ever lost two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason until the Redskins saw both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson depart as free agents in March. It means that Josh Doctson steps into a featured role and Terrelle Pryor will be expected to produce as well as he did in Cleveland last year, if not better.

The changes also mean that Jamison Crowder is likely to see more targets and holdovers Maurice Harris and Ryan Grant could see increased roles. It all will be sorted out in training camp starting on Thursday.

Further down the depth chart, can sixth-round rookie Robert Davis get up to speed soon enough to justify a roster spot? And can veteran Brian Quick rebound from some shaky offseason practices to claim a slot on the 53?

Two-back attack?

Last year Rob Kelley worked his way up from being an overlooked, undrafted free agent rookie to being the starting running back. This year, Samaje Perine comes in as a fourth-round pick with an eye on taking the job away from Kelley.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, 11-20

It is likely that Kelley, who is a favorite of Jay Gruden’s, will be the Week 1 starter. Still, it would not be surprising if Perine led the team in carries and rushing yards in several games as the season unfolds, perhaps more.

Meanwhile, Mack Brown and Keith Marshall (if he can stay healthy) will compete for the fourth running back job—if the team decides to keep that many. They only kept three coming out of camp last year.

O-line stability

The same five starters will line up for the second year in a row. There’s really nothing to see here unless Arie Kouandjio can make a big push and move into Shawn Lauvao’s spot at left guard.

There is some intrigue about the backup center spot. If rookie Chase Roullier can’t get up to speed they may have to look at the waiver wire.

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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Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

When the Redskins open training camp in Richmond on Thursday, fans will line up to get autographs from Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. Plenty of other players will excite the fans too as optimism rules the first few days of practice in July and August. 

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

There are other players that fans probably won't scream their names, but who could play a role or fight for a roster spot this fall. Winning in the NFL is almost nearly as dependent on the final 10 players on the roster as it is the first five. Depth is key, and here are a few players that fans might have forgotten about. 

  • RB Keith Marshall - The speedster out of Georgia has a wildly impressive resume - on paper - but just can't stay healthy. In college he started ahead of Todd Gurley for a time, now considered one of the best RBs in the NFL for the Rams. Marshall landed on the injured reserve last year as a rookie but looked healthy and capable at Redskins Park this offseason during OTAs and minicamp. The running back position looks quite full, but if Marshall can show his elite speed and make it through four preseason games, he just might push Mack Brown for a roster spot. 
  • LB Martrell Spaight - A tackling machine in college at Arkansas, Spaight missed most of his rookie season in 2015 before appearing in 14 games last season. Bad luck struck again, and he finished the year on the IR. With the addition of Zach Brown to the interior linebackers, Spaight might have a tough battle for a roster spot. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Brown all seem certain to make the team. Spaight could also start the year on the PUP list, which might be the surest way to stay on the Redskins.
  • LB Chris Carter - Signed as a free agent this year, the journeyman Carter has played for six teams in six years and looks poised to play the special teams role that Terence Garvin took on last year. If Carter makes the roster, that means trouble for Spaight. 
  • DL Anthony Lanier - An undrafted rookie in 2016 that didn't see much game action, Lanier has really impressed coaches with his work ethic this offseason. He has great size at 6-foot-6 and added about 20 pounds of muscle since the season ended, which should allow him the strength to handle the trenches. Lanier could be a sneaky important player this fall for Washington. 
  • S Will Blackmon - D.J. Swearinger and Su'a Cravens look to be the starting safeties for the Redskins in 2017. Swearinger has a proven track record in the NFL secondary, Cravens does not, but showed the ability to do so in college at USC. After those two, and with DeAngelo Hall on the PUP list, the Redskins lack much depth or experience in the defensive backfield. That's where Blackmon should help. A versatile veteran, Blackmon has the speed to keep up with most wideouts and is one of the more cerebral players on the defense. 

Bonus: RB Matt Jones - He might want off the Redskins roster, but that hasn't happened yet. If the team sustains any injuries at the running back position, Jones' fortunes could change quickly. 

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