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Believe it or not, results show strong 2nd-half adjustments for Redskins defense

Believe it or not, results show strong 2nd-half adjustments for Redskins defense

In the first two weeks of the season, the Redskins gave up 38 second-half points. In the last two weeks, the Redskins gave up nine second-half points. Considering that, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Washington lost the first two games and won the last two.

After dropping to 0-2, Redskins coach Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Joe Barry took a lot of critisicm for a lack of second-half adjustments. Perhaps the problems were most obvious in the season opening loss to Pittsburgh, where the 'Skins made hardly any changes and proceeded to give up two fourth quarter TDs.

In Week 2, Barry and the defense began to show flexibility. While early in the game Josh Norman did not shadow Dez Bryant in coverage, by the fourth quarter against Dallas, the Skins best corner was in man coverage against the Cowboys star receiver. 

By Week 3, Washington's second half defense began to make plays. The Redskins twice intercepted Eli Manning in the game's last 30 minutes, including a last minute pick from rookie Su'a Cravens to seal the win. Barry's unit only gave up six points - two field goals - in the second half in New York, compared to 21 points before halftime. 

In the latest game against Cleveland, the 'Skins defense had a terrible second quarter. The unit gave up 17 points in 15 minutes, allowing a winless Browns team to tie the game before halftime. But again, in the second half, Washington's defense made plays, forcing two fumbles and Josh Norman grabbed an interception. 

This is not an essay to describe the greatness of Washington's defense. The unit has clear problems, especially stopping the run, but it's worth pointing out that the organization appears to have come up with a strategy that makes gains in the second half. Defensive captain Will Compton talked about the defensive playmaking in the second half after the win over the Browns.

"We showed up when we needed to, had three big turnovers in the second half," Compton said. "We needed that. We needed those big plays. We still have a long way to go, a lot to correct, but we showed up when we needed to."

During the Redskins two-game win streak, turnovers have played a huge role in the defense's second half success. That may or may not be sustainable, but it's not something born entirely out of luck. The Redskins practice forcing fumbles and looking for interceptions, every day, every practice. 

"One thing Joe B [Barry] over-emphasized was we have to make turnovers, we have to make turnovers," defensive end Ricky Jean François said on Sunday. "It doesn’t matter what the situation, we have to make turnovers because those turnovers may just help us out. We cash out on one of them and not three but six, that makes a hell of a different ballgame."

The Redskins lead the league in forced fumbles over the last 20 games, and forcing turnovers has fueled the current win streak. It's hard to think that's an accident.

MORE REDSKINS: DHall claps back at ESPNers for criticizing Beckham

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197