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Think Outside the Box: How to Save the Season

Think Outside the Box: How to Save the Season

The Redskins are in a box. It keeps getting smaller and smaller as the losses pile up. They need to break out of it in terms of thinking, effort, and enthusiasm. Here are a few ways they can do that:

--Get Rocky McIntosh into the game more often. The Redskins first draft pick has what the defense has been missing—speed and solid tackling ability. Perhaps having the rookie flying around the field will inspire some more experience, higher-paid defenders to start doing the same. He doesn’t necessarily have to start, although Warrick Holdman does seem to be regressing to the way he played last year when he, well, sucked. But Gregg Williams needs to conjure up a few more packages that give McIntosh some significant playing time.

--Get some more intermediate and long passes into the offense. Whether it’s Mark Brunell or Jason Campbell pulling the trigger, something has to be done to loosen up opposing defenses. It’s OK to use the dink and dunk attack as the basis of your passing attack. But if opposing defenses know that they can play tight because nobody’s going to even try to get behind them or, if a receiver should slip past them, the quarterback isn’t even going to look at him.

--Figure out what to do with Adam Archuleta. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and hope for different results. While this adage applies to a number of areas on the team it’s no more glaring than it is with the free agent signee from the Rams. Time and time again he’s put into pass coverage situations that he just can’t handle. Archuleta gets a lot of criticism for it but that’s like being critical of me because I can’t jump over the top of the Washington Monument. He’s being asked to do things he just isn’t capable of doing. Williams needs to scheme around his weaknesses and emphasize his strengths.

--Play like you have nothing to lose. Go for it on fourth and one near midfield in the second quarter. Open the game with an onside kick. Come out in a no-huddle offense for the first series of the second half. Run a fake punt or field goal. These are all things that Gibbs did from time to time during his first run here that he have been left out of the plans entirely this time around. Don’t try all of this in the same game, mind you, but at least one or two such elements need to be present every week. For most of the season the team has either been tight or downtrodden. Whether the tactics work or not, taking chances and doing some things in an unorthodox manner gives the players a spark and shows that the coaches have confidence in them.

These are all relatively small changes, but changes such as these are the only ones that can me made at this point in time. In the NFL the difference between being competitive and being bad is slim. The nature of the game is that the result of a few relatively small changes can be much greater than the sum of the parts. A few 20-yard outs to Lloyd will fire up the offense and put the opposing defense back on its heels. The sight of a guy like McIntosh flying around the field can give a positive jolt of energy to players on both sides of the ball.

Will this be enough to save the Redskins season? Check back in this space in the next few days as a Special Bye Week Edition of the wildly popular Bold Predictions will break it down and see how the team will fare over the final nine games.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Losers of two straight games and for the first time in a month outside of the playoff picture, a desperate Redskins squad travels to Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. All the action kicks off on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at noon, but to get ready for the action, here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Getting back to good, or at least decent - Two weeks ago the Redskins seemed like a dangerous playoff squad with a strong offense and an improving defense. After two straight losses where Joe Barry's defense has given up 62 total points, the questions are mounting for Washington. Can the defense get stops on 3rd down? Generate a turnover? The good news for the Redskins is that the Eagles are struggggggling. Their offense has not score more than 15 points in three straight weeks. 
  2. Feed the fat one - After giving Rob Kelley just 28 carries in the last two games, Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay owned up to the Redskins lack of run game, "I definitely feel like I could’ve been more patient on some of those early down and distances where you get a little bit pass-heavy. And that’s something that as a decision-maker and as a coordinator, I have to do a better job." In a Week 6 win Kelley and Matt Jones piled up more than 200 rush yards against the Eagles. The 'Skins offense likely won't feature Jones, but expect McVay to feed Fat Rob plenty on Sunday.
  3. Playing in pain - The Redskins offense features a number of dynamic playmaking threats, but arguably the best is tight end Jordan Reed. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Reed separated his left shoulder, and though he finished that game he was forced out of action in Arizona. Expect Reed to be back Sunday, and expect Kirk Cousins to look for him early and often. On the season, Reed has more than 600 receiving yards and five TDs.
  4. If it ain't broke - Kirk Cousins has had more success against the Eagles than any other team in the NFC East. In four career games against Philly, COusins averages 336 yards per game passing to go with a 101.3 QB rating. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against the Eagles to just two interceptions. The biggest win of his career came last year when Cousins and the 'Skins clinched the NFC East title at Lincoln Financial Field. Cousins suceeds against the Eagles, and there's no reason it should stop Sunday. 
  5. Don't fly away - Rumors are starting to circulate that the Eagles would like to bring back DeSean Jackson next season. It's well known that Jackson will probably hit free agency after this season, and if Philly did pursuit their former playmaker, it would make sense. But between now and then, Jackson has another opportunity to torch his former team and help the Skins pursue a Wild Card bid at the same time. In his past two games, Jackson and COusins have connected on deep patterns, and there's little reason to tbink the same won't happen Sunday.

Numbers & Notes

  • If tight end Vernon Davis catches three passes he will become the 12th tight end in NFL history to record 500 career receptions.
  • With two more catches, wide receiver Jamison Crowder will set a single-season career high in receptions. He caught 59 passes in 2015.
  • If the Redskins win would mark five straight victories against the Eagles for the Redskins for the first time since a six-game winning streak in the series across the 1981-84 seasons.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!