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Five takeaways from Redskins' improbable win against the Seahawks

Five takeaways from Redskins' improbable win against the Seahawks

SEATTLE—Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ improbable 17-14 win over the Seahawks.

The power of positive thinking—All week long the Redskins were relaxed and confident that they could stay in today’s game. There wasn’t cockiness or anything but they certainly weren’t afraid of coming in to the loudest stadium in the NFL with key players missing on both sides of the ball and competing for 60 minutes. As it turned out they had to go at it for every one of those 60 minutes as it didn’t end until Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary pass fell incomplete as time ran out. If you think you can, well, maybe you just might be able to do it.

If this game felt different, that’s because it was—This was the first time since at least 1999 that the Redskins have started a game-winning touchdown drive in the last two minutes of a game. That’s as far back as the database at Pro Football Reference goes. I should be able to find out when the last one was but it will take some time. But I can almost guarantee that they didn’t have four substitute offensive linemen in the game at the time.

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They need to feed Josh Doctson—We thought that Kirk Cousins had some faith in the second-year receiver after they connected on the touchdown bomb against the Raiders. Doctson did have two hands on the game winner in Kansas City the next week but he couldn’t hang on as he hit the ground. Since then, Cousins has thrown him the ball on occasion but he hasn’t taken advantage of his incredible catch radius. Until today, that is. The Redskins need more of that.

Good field goal defense is valuable—Blair Walsh missed three makeable field goals, leaving the Seahawks empty after some good drives. Sure, that’s mostly luck except that the defense stopped the Seahawks far enough away from the goal posts that Walsh’s attempts weren’t chip shots (44, 39, and 49 yards, all wide left). And certainly the Redskins benefitted from the Seahawks shooting themselves in the foot constantly with penalty. They had an incredible 16 flags for 138 yards. They were the ones committing false starts and holding penalties while the Redskins line, held together by duct tape, had just one false start and no holding penalties on pass plays. There was some luck involved, no doubt. But you have to be in position to take advantage of good fortune and the Redskins were.

Maybe the Redskins can win when they don’t run—The rushing game wasn’t much today, with 23 attempts for 51 yards. They won after getting fewer than 90 yards rushing for just the fourth time since Jay Gruden has been the head coach. The last time they did it was against the Ravens last year, another improbable road win. The other two times were in 2015, the division-clinching win in Philadelphia the day after Christmas and the “You like that!” comeback win against the Bucs.

The road ahead is not quite as daunting—At 4-4, the Redskins have two more tough ones in the next two weeks, the Vikings at home and the Saints on the road. Both teams lead their divisions. If the Redskins can find their way to get a split of there, they go into a stretch run that includes the Giants twice, the Broncos, the Cardinals, the Chargers, and a Cowboys team that may be without Ezekiel Elliott. The should be getting healthier as time goes by and they could be set up for a run to get themselves into playoff contention.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Is the Redskins’ starter at left guard already on the roster?

USA Today Sports Images

Is the Redskins’ starter at left guard already on the roster?

The Redskins have checked off a number of their “needs” boxes that they had when the season began. But there are two holes that remain. 

One is nose tackle. Of course, that has been an issue since 2010. The Redskins may have obtained part of the solution when the brought back Phil Taylor last week and most believe that more help will come in the draft. 

The other need, the one at left guard, also may be a work in progress. Or, perhaps they think they have the solution on the depth chart. 

The team does not put out a depth chart before training camp but if they did distribute one right now they would have Arie Kouandjio as the starting left guard. That is cause for consternation among many Redskins fans and based on some of his past play the low confidence level is justified. 

Kouandjio was a fourth-round pick in 2015. He played sparingly his first two years in the league, getting two fill-in starts in 2016. In training camp last year, he spent a lot of time playing with the third team and it was no surprise when he was one of the final cuts. The team kept undrafted rookie Tyler Catalina instead. 

Kouandjio caught on with the Ravens’ practice squad but when injuries started to pile upon the O-line in Week 8, the Redskins brought him back. Two days after he was signed he played 22 snaps at left guard against the Cowboys. 

In all, he played in eight games, starting six of them. He allowed three sacks, which is the same number that Brandon Scherff gave up, but Scherff played about twice as many snaps. 

What about 2018? Word from John Keim is that Kouandjio has changed his training to focus on lower-body strength and agility. He knows that he has a chance to establish himself in the NFL and he’s doing what he can to take advantage of it. 

Another option at left guard is 31-year-old Tony Bergstrom, who was re-signed earlier this week. He has played for four teams in six years in the league and has started seven games including three at center for the Redskins. Like Kouandjio, he may not be the ideal solution but perhaps a passable option. 

The whole picture here could up be upended in the draft if the Redskins use one of their top picks on a guard. There has been plenty of chatter about Ohio State center Billy Price going to the Redskins in the second round. He may not last that long. If he’s there, however, the Redskins have to seriously consider him. 

The team may go through the draft and perhaps OTAs and minicamp with what they have now. If it doesn’t look like they have a starting caliber player in place they then could reach out to the free agent market and bring in someone like Alex Boone

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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Redskins have invested in running backs, but the investments haven't paid off


Redskins have invested in running backs, but the investments haven't paid off

The Redskins brass believes they need to upgrade the running back position. Jay Gruden and Doug Williams said so this offseason. 

That’s all well and good, but it’s time to dispel some myths regarding the run game. A popular misconception exists that the Redskins need to invest in the running back position to run the ball better. It's not correct. Washington has invested plenty at the position, it just hasn't worked.

Plenty of teams run the ball well without investing top draft picks in a running back. 

Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie in Kansas City. Surely he was a Top 10 pick to make that kind of impact?

Nope. Hunt went in the 3rd round.

Nine players rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Of that group, less than half were first round draft picks. Two of the nine players went in the second round (Steelers' RB LeVeon Bell and Bills' RB LeSean McCoy), Hunt went in the 3rd, Chicago's Jordan Howard was a 5th-round pick and Denver's C.J. Anderson wasn't even drafted.

In 2016, four of the top five rushers in the league weren't first round picks. Yardage leader Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys was a first-rounder. After that it was Howard, 3rd-round pick DeMarco Murray (Titans), 5th-round pick Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) and Bell. David Johnson of the Cardinals compiled more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage that season, and he was a 3rd-round pick too.  

The point is running back talent lasts deep in the draft, and Redskins fans need to be aware of that. 

The ‘Skins' problem hasn’t been a lack of investment at running back either.

In the last three drafts, the team has taken a running back each year. Samaje Perine in 2017, Keith Marshall in 2016 and Matt Jones in 2015. 

While Marshall was a late-round flyer, Jones was a third-rounder and Perine selected in the fourth. The team has invested in running backs, but those investments haven’t paid off. 

It’s premature to dismiss Perine. He led the team in rushing last season, and showed improvement in spots. Could he make a jump in his second year? Sure. Also don't forget Robert Kelley, an undrafted running back that emerged in 2016 only to lose most of the 2017 season to injury. There's also Chris Thompson, an elite talent, though he's not a traditional running back.

The pick that really hurt the Redskins was Matt Jones. Drafted in the third round, higher than many expected for the former Florida Gator, he showed glimpses of playmaking ability as a rookie in 2015. 

Jones' emergence expedited the exit of Alfred Morris, the last consistent runner on a Redskins roster. But Jones' career went backwards in his second season with Washington. Fumbling and lack of willingness to play special teams forced Jones to the bench, and he was cut in 2017. He signed on with the Colts, but got five carries in five games, and was inactive much of the year. 

Morris, meanwhile, had a solid 2017 season playing for the Cowboys. When Cowboys star RB Elliott served his six-game suspension, Morris stepped in well. He averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry for the season and torched the Redskins for 127 yards and a touchdown in a late November blowout. 

The point here isn't that the Redskins cannot or should not invest in a running back in next week's NFL Draft. 

It is important to point out that the team has, however, made investments in the last three drafts. And though Washington's attempt at finding a good running back in the third or fourth round hasn't paid off, that's not because it can't. Plenty of good running backs get drafted in the later rounds of the draft. 


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