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Jay Gruden looking for Redskins DE Anthony Lanier to take a second-year jump

Jay Gruden looking for Redskins DE Anthony Lanier to take a second-year jump

When we look at if a team will improve from year to year we often make the mistake of focusing on players brought in from the outside. Who did they sign? Who did they draft? That ignores the fact that teams often make their greatest strides through improvement from the players they already have on their rosters. In particular, players often made great leaps from their rookie seasons to their second years and that improvement can make a team better without adding a new player.

One of the players the Redskins are hoping can make that leap is defensive end Anthony Lanier.

“We’re really, really excited about Anthony Lanier,” coach Jay Gruden said during the NFL meetings in Phoenix this week.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

A double “really” from the head coach warrants a closer look. Nobody was particularly excited last year when the Redskins signed Lanier as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama A&M. While there was some buzz about him during the offseason program and in training camp he was thought to be a practice squad candidate at best. It was a major surprise when he made the 53-man roster in September. The team cut defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis, a fifth-round draft pick, and used the roster spot for Lanier.

“We didn’t want to risk losing a big defensive lineman that has some pass rush ability,” Gruden said last September on the decision to keep Lanier. “We’re going to try to keep him here to develop him.”

Lanier’s development came along slowly. He was inactive the first seven weeks of the season before taking the field for the game against the Bengals in London. Over the next three games he played 48 snaps, most of them in nickel situations. He got three QB pressures and recovered a fumble. While he didn’t have a huge impact, he was showing that he could learn on the job.

He played a few snaps in the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas before he got kicked in the leg, causing an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

The early end to his season did not prevent Lanier from making a big impression on Gruden.

MORE REDSKINS: Will the Redskins get a shot at drafting LB Reuben Foster?

“We do one on ones almost every day,” said Gruden. “That’s one drill that I watch diligently every day. One on one pass rush so I get to see how our offensive line is doing, that’s how games are won in my opinion. He was a guy who was most difficult for our guys to block. He was not a very natural rusher, either, he was just doing it on pure power, length.

“I think the more he works coming out of his stance, getting off on the snap count, hand usage, all these things that [new defensive line] coach [Jim] Tomsula will work with him, he’s got a chance to be really, really good.”

Another double “really” from the coach. It’s unrealistic to expect huge production out of Lanier, who still will be learning on the job. But if he can stay on the field and pick up four to six sacks and draw some attention away from edge rushers Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette, and Preston Smith he could be quite an asset.

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 @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

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Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 20, three days before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.


Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences, open locker room, after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 9
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 16
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 34

Injuries of note:
Not practicing
: OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Ty Nsekhe (core muscle)
Limited: CB Josh Norman (rib), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle), OLB Ryan Anderson (back), S Stefan McClure (knee). OL Tyler Catalina (concussion protocol).
It was encouraging that Breeland and Norman practiced although Jay Gruden noted that they both took place only in individual drills. See the full injury report here.  

First look at Redskins vs Eagles

Number that pops out—LeGarrette Blount, who had a career average of 4.4 yards per carry coming into the year, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, fourth in the NFL. Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be a lumbering power back. The key to stopping him is the same as it always has been, getting the north-south runner to go east-west. The Redskins did a solid job against him in Week 1, limiting him to a 3.3-yard average on his 14 carries.

The clutch gene? Carson Wentz is the MVP favorite right now and the thing is that his stats are very good but not very impressive. He ranks 10th in net yards per attempt, 25th in completion percentage, eighth in yards per game, and seventh in passer rating. But he gets it done when it counts. Seven of his 16 touchdown passes have come on third down. His passer rating of 130 on third down is 10 points better than the second-best in that category, a guy named Tom Brady. As a result, the Eagles get first downs on 53 percent of their third-down passes, also best in the league.

Third down passing the key—The Redskins allow conversions on 35.7 percent of third-down passes, 16th in the NFL. If this game ends up with third downs near the Redskins’ season performance they will be in good shape. If the Eagles convert half of their third downs or more, the visitors will be in trouble.

Protecting Kirk Cousins—The Eagles have 14 sacks on the year. They got four against the Redskins in the season opener so they have 10 in their five games since. Their leading sacker is Brandon Graham, who has four on the season. Two of those came in the opener so he has two in the other five games. He will again be lined up against Morgan Moses, who had one of his worst games since becoming a starter against Philly. If Moses plays as well as he has since Week 1 Cousins could have time to have one of his usual big games against the Eagles.

Yes, Ertz is a pain— This is kind of hard to believe but Zach Ertz, who has been in the league since 2013, is third all-time in tight end receptions against the Redskins with 54. He’s behind only Jason Witten and Jackie Smith and ahead of Jeremy Shockey, Mark Bavaro, and Jay Novaeck. Ertz has played nine games against Washington; Witten has played 28 and Smith played 27. So if it seems like Ertz is always a thorn in the Redskins’ side, it’s because he is.

Potpourri: Wentz is the Eagles’ second-leading rusher with 133 yards on 32 carries . . . The Eagles have the third-best special teams DVOA in the league. On punt returns, they are averaging 16 yards per and giving up an average of 5.6 yards. That’s a lot of hidden field position.

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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From the locker room

Josh Norman talking about how it felt when he put some stress on his broken rib during practice on Thursday.

Posted by Rich Tandler on Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Kirk Cousins is real nice - and 3 other things we learned from the 49ers game


Kirk Cousins is real nice - and 3 other things we learned from the 49ers game

Kirk Cousins got mic'd up during the Redskins win over the 49ers last Sunday, and well, it confirmed a few things Washington fans already knew about their quarterback. 

For starters, Cousins is a nice guy. A real nice guy.

On one play, Cousins completes a pass downfield while facing a bit of pressure. As soon as he throws the ball, he starts shouting to his offensive line, "Good pocket! Great pocket!"

He keeps going, "Hey that was you guys. I took forever, I took forever. Hey nice job."

NFL quarterbacks like to thank their offensive lines, but not always immediately, even while the play is going on. Kirk is a nice guy.

Some other things learned from the mic'd up session:

  • Josh Doctson has a nickname. It's "Papa Doc." No idea if that's an 8 Mile reference. 
  • Trent Williams believes Kirk Cousins' shoulder is worth $200 million. And he might be right. 
  • Kirk Cousins wants to stay aggresive. He laid it out to QB coach Kevin O'Connell. Cousins explained during the Redskins early lead:

"Sometimes I get in a weird place, you get a lead like this. Where you start playing conservative, not to lose. It’s smart to do that but it also kinda hinders your ability to just go play."


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