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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Rams

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 13, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Rams in Los Angeles

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice

Days until:

—Sunday night Raiders @ Redskins (9/24) 11
—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 19
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 46

First look at Redskins vs. Rams

—For the second time in three years, an 0-1 Redskins team coming off a deflating season-opening loss faces a 1-0 Rams team riding high after a big win. In 2015, the Redskins lost to the Dolphins in Week 1 while the then St. Louis Rams stunned the defending NFC champion Seahawks with a 34-31 overtime win. As it turned out the Week 1 momentum meant nothing. The Redskins never trailed and rolled up 182 yards rushing in a 24-10 win.

—Rams RB Todd Gurley did not play in that 2015 game. The then-rookie did not make his debut until Week 3 due to a hamstring injury. Despite the late start, he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns that year. But he had a sophomore slump last year. He gained a respectable 885 yards but it took him 278 attempts to get there, a putrid 3.2 yards per attempt. And although the Rams romped in the opener Gurley again struggled with 19 carries for 40 yards, a 2.1 per-carry average. Here is what NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger said of his play that game:

And that was against the Colts, who were 30th in rushing defense in the NFL last year, giving up 4.7 yards per carry. Gurley clearly has talent and the Redskins don’t want to be the team against whom he gets it together.

—Aaron Donald does not need to prove himself. The defensive tackle has been first-team All-Pro each of the last two years. But he held out for a new contract all year until reporting on Saturday. Donald did not play in Week 1 and the Rams can extend their roster exemption for him at least through the Redskins game. But coach Sean McVay is saying that he wants to get Donald on the field on Sunday. As of now, the plans are for him to play and the extent of his time "is going to be predicated on how he feels going out to practice and getting involved," said McVay. This could be some gamesmanship on McVay’s part but don’t be shocked to see Donald in there on Sunday if only on a limited basis.

—McVay, of course, is the Redskins’ former offensive coordinator. I’m not sure how much that fact will mean in terms of the outcome. He knows a lot of the players and what makes them tick and what makes them uncomfortable. He also knows Jay Gruden’s offensive philosophy inside and out. On the other hand, Gruden and his assistant coaches know what McVay likes to do as well, so there may not be much of an advantage either way. Gruden summed it up pretty well. “It’ll be a great challenge,” he said. “We have a good idea of what he likes to do, but you just don’t know when he’s going to do it.”

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

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I tweeted that Jonathan Allen led all Redskins rookies, and all defensive linemen, in snaps played against the Eagles promting this question:

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Need to Know: Key for the Redskins—No mistakes

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Need to Know: Key for the Redskins—No mistakes

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 19, four days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins kickoff, noon, NBC Sports Washington; Redskins @ Saints, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 11
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 21
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 28

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints

Will the Redskins commit to running the ball? Some of you will answer with a kneejerk “no” because they don’t think that Jay Gruden will do that. But just look back at the Rams and Raiders games, when they ran 39 and 34 times, respectively. If running is even moderately effective and if the score remains in a range where the Redskins can play ball control, Gruden is more than happy to let Kirk Cousins had the ball off. The Saints defense allows 4.7 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL so the effectiveness aspect should allow for running. Can the Redskins defense keep a cap on Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram long enough for Gruden to be able to stick with the run?

The Chris Thompson factor—Whether he is taking handoffs or catching passes, Thompson’s productivity has been a key for the Redskins. He averages 61 yards from scrimmage in their losses and 116 yards in their wins. Earlier in the season it was Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff getting out in front of Thompson on outside zone runs and screen passes. While they were out of the lineup, Thompson was largely stuck in the mud. With both back, maybe he can get some traction in the Superdome.

Can’t afford mistakes—Like most teams who lead their divisions, the Saints are very opportunistic when it comes to takeaways. They don’t have a large number of them, 13 (13th in the NFL), but they are taking advantage. They have scored eight touchdowns after turnovers, with two pick-sixes, a scoop and score after a fumble, and five TD drives. Kirk Cousins can’t afford to make a mistake, especially in his own territory.

Prediction—It’s not impossible to paint a picture where the Redskins win this game. But it would take something like we saw in Seattle, with some mistakes by the Saints (equivalent to the three missed Seahawks field goals) combined with a dash of late magic could get them past the Saints. The Redskins are 7-1 in the Superdome and Drew Brees has a career passer rating of 70.5 with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions against Washington. Of course, many of the players responsible for those numbers have long since retired. But the reality is that the Saints are playing better than the Redskins and they’re at home. That means that the home team is likely to win.

Saints 31, Redskins 21

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: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 18, one day before the Washington Redskins play the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: AM walkthrough and then travel to New Orleans. No media availability.

Days until:

—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 6
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 13
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/19) 23

Quick Redskins news hits

C Spencer Long tried to play last week and he couldn’t make it more than a dozen snaps before sitting down for the rest of the day. He is out against the Seahawks tomorrow.

With Brian Quick and Ryan Grant questionable with concussions and Terrelle Pryor out with an ankle injury, the Redskins are down to three healthy wide receivers. While Quick and Grant might play, the depth chart could have Doctson, Crowder, and Harris on it.

The Redskins week that was

2 reasons Redskins didn't trade Terrelle Pryor—If you want to know why the deal with the Browns didn’t happen, follow the money. Between his signing bonus and the half of the year’s salary, the Redskins have already paid $4.5 million. Although he hasn’t been nearly as productive as they hoped he would be, there was no point in letting him go to save $1.5 million unless they got a second-day draft pick, or maybe a fourth, in return. See that Jay Gruden said that he didn’t hear of the proposed trade, talks must not have become too serious.

Remember Junior Galette? The Redskins don't seem to—As with Pryor, everyone is waiting for Galette to break out. But unlike Pryor, he’s not an expensive unproductive player. He’s making the veteran minimum. Against the Vikings, he played just 19 snaps. Perhaps a return to New Orleans for a game against his old team will spark a sack or two.

Recent comments from Cousins may hint at future in D.C.—Cousins has been big on making statements about the long-term future with the Redskins (read the post for specifics). That doesn’t mean that it’s a lock that he stays in town. But it should give some pause to those who believe that it is a lock that he will be in another uniform when 2018 or, at the latest, 2019 rolls around. He has never been inclined to go to the highest bidder and if the Redskins make a competitive offer that delivers what he wants he could well stick around.

How the Vikings scored 21 unanswered points against the Redskins—The 21-0 run in about seven minutes of game time that the Vikings used to make a competitive game at FedEx Field a rout was a combination of good offense by the Vikings and bad defense and offense by the Redskins. They couldn’t cover Adam Thielen on either drive. Cousins threw an interception off of his back foot and that set up the middle of the three touchdowns. If the Redskins end the season a game out of a playoff spot that seven-minute stretch will be one of the big reasons why they failed to make it.

Player one-liners, defense— Usually, the offensive edition of the player one-liners tends to be the most popular but this week it was the defense that drew the most interest. The defensive player I’m going to keep an eye on the most in the last seven games is rookie safety Montae Nicholson. He has the speed and hard hitting ability that the secondary needs. When asked what will happen when Nicholson is healthy, Jay Gruden said without hesitation that he is the starter. Nicholson’s health will be important for the defense down the stretch. DeAngelo Hall is better suited to a part-time role at this stage of his career.

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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