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Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense

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Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense

By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
CSNwashington.com 

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team’s performance unit by unit. Over the last couple of days we’ve looked at the offense and special teams. Today, the defense goes under the microscope.

Tandler’s grade: D

There isn’t a whole lot positive to say about this group. They just keep on finding ways to fail. They have blown leads early in the fourth quarter and they have blown them in the last minute. Other times they have been cut up with surgical precision from the very beginning of the game.

It’s no secret that the pass defense has been the major issue. Although they are no longer on pace to become the worst pass defense in NFL history in terms of yards yielded, they still are likely to be among the worst dozen or so ever. They are making the Pearl Harbor Crew from the 1980’s look stout by comparison.

The rushing defense is better, top 10 in yards allowed in fact. But why would you try to run against this defense when going via air has the potential to be so much more rewarding?

The rushing defense is one reason why they weren’t graded as a total failure. The defense also gets credit for racking up 16 takeaways (8th in the NFL) and returning four of them for touchdowns.

One thing not taken to account here are the injuries that have hit both the front seven and the backfield. Injuries are part of life in the NFL and teams need to have depth to deal with them.

El-Bashir’s grade: D

This was supposed to be the season the defense transitioned from “good” to “great.” Instead, Jim Haslett’s unit has plummeted to the bottom of the rankings, crippled by injuries to linebacker Brian Orakpo, lineman Adam Carriker and safety Brandon Meriweather and stung by its inability to generate a consistent pass rush or prevent big plays.

Through nine games, opponents have scored on plays of 30 or more yards eight times. Opposing quarterbacks have connected on passes of 30 or more yards 12 times, including last week’s 82 pass from Cam Newton to Armanti Edwards that set up Newton’s turning-point touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 21-13 loss.


As a result, the Redskins’ defense ranks last in passing yards against (2,715) and is tied for touchdowns yielded through the air (20.)

Compounding Haslett’s biggest concerns at the bye is the unexpected struggles of his once solid run defense. After holding six of the first seven opponents to 94 or fewer yards on the ground, the Steelers rushed for 140 yards and Carolina gained 129.

When the Redskins return to the field Nov. 18 against the Eagles, it’s possible they’ll have Meriweather for the first time all season. But it’s doubtful one player will be able to turnaround a defense that’s permitting 397.9 yards of total offense per game – up 58.1 over last year’s average.

Is it scheme, personnel, a combination of the two? All that’s certain right now is that hard questions must be answered this offseason.  

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Redskins put four on injured reserve; which ones will return in 2018

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Redskins put four on injured reserve; which ones will return in 2018

The Redskins placed four players who were Week 1 starters on offense on injured reserve Tuesday.

Not only is the 2017 season over for RB Chris Thompson, WR Terrelle Pryor, C Spencer Long, and G Shawn Lauvao, three of them may never play for the Redskins again.

Here is a look at the situation of each player, presented in order of the likelihood that he will be back with the Redskins in 2018.

—There is not any doubt that Thompson will be back. His two-year, $7 million extension kicks in next year. He turned 27 last month and assuming there are no issues in rehabbing his broken fibula, he will be back in his familiar role as the third-down back and the player Jay Gruden turns to when the team needs an offensive spark.

MORE REDSKINS: QUANTIFYING THE LATE-HALF DIFFICULTIES

—The other three players are all in the last year of their contracts. Of those, Long is the most likely to be back. They like his ability to play multiple positions. A third-round pick in 2014, he has started 13 games at left guard and 18 at center. There was talk earlier this year that the team might make a push to extend his contract. But now, they could be ready to move to Chase Roullier at center. The Redskins will see how Long’s health is as the free agency period approaches and decide what to do from there.

Lauvao is on the last season of a four-year free agent contract. This will be the second season in that deal significantly shortened by injury. He missed 13 games with a broken ankle in 2015. He just turned 30 and the Redskins might want to go with someone younger and cheaper at left guard. But Jay Gruden likes veterans and perhaps if Lauvao is willing to return on a relatively cheap deal, he could return for some depth.

RELATED: APOLOGY FOR BLOWN CALL RINGS HOLLOW FOR COUSINS

—There is very little chance that Pryor will be around in 2018. Both sides tried to make something happen but it just didn’t work. He was smart about the situation and always handled himself with class through the frustration. A team somewhere will give him a shot next year, but it likely won’t be the Redskins and it definitely won’t be the kind of long-term, big-money deal he was hoping to get when this season started.

These are not the only free-agency decisions involving injured players that the Redskins will have to make in 2018. Other pending free agents on injured reserve are NT Phil Taylor, LB Mason Foster, K Dustin Hopkins, LB Will Compton, and LB Trent Murphy.

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.

 

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Giants

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 22, one day before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Jay Gruden press conference and open locker room, 12:30 p.m.; the team will conduct a walkthrough instead of a practice.  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 8
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 18
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 25

Five Redskins under pressure vs the Giants

RB Byron Marshall—After signing with the team just a week ago, Marshall will have to step into one of the most important roles in Jay Gruden’s offense—third-down back. With Chris Thompson out, Marshall will have to pick up the protection schemes and execute them. He should have no issues running for some yardage on a draw or catching a pass out of the backfield but he now assumes a good chunk of responsibility for keeping Kirk Cousins upright.

WR Jamison Crowder—In the first six games of this season, Crowder caught 19 passes for 149 yards. In his last three games (he missed one with a hamstring injury) he has caught 20 for 271. With Jordan Reed’s status still uncertain, Thompson out, Terrelle Pryor going on injured reserve, and Josh Doctson experiencing up-and-down productivity, Crowder needs to be the rock among the pass catchers. Maybe he can get into the end zone for the first time this year.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan—An undrafted rookie named Chad Wheeler is likely to start at right tackle for the Giants. With the Redskins still reeling from injuries, they have to take maximum advantage of a mismatch like this. Kerrigan will likely be lined up against Wheeler most of the time and he needs to spend the day in Eli Manning’s face.

CB Josh Norman—The guy who is supposed to be the rock of the Redskins’ secondary has not played well in the last two games, both losses in which the team gave up a combined 72 points. Opposing quarterbacks have gone seven for seven throwing into his coverage for 112 yards and a touchdown. He doesn’t have Odell Beckham to worry about, but Sterling Shepard is a talented receiver and Norman will need to be on top of things to hold him down.

S DeAngelo Hall—The veteran played well in his first game back against Seattle but he has struggled since. He went out of the Vikings game early with a bone bruise on his knee and then he did not play well after coming in to replace an injured Montae Nicholson in New Orleans. It seems likely that Nicholson (concussion) will be out against the Giants and Hall will have to play better. Hall not only needs to help out a reeling defense but he needs to make sure that the coaches have trust in him so that he can maintain a role for the rest of the year.

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.

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