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Need to Know: What they're saying about the Redskins righting the ship

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Need to Know: What they're saying about the Redskins righting the ship

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, September 22, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Raiders at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and Matt Cavanaugh press conferences, open locker room after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 10
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (10/23) 31
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 37

What they’re saying about the Redskins

Jerry Brewer, Washington Post, on Redskins building an identity

The Washington football team — your most persistent headache, the squad whose light hadn’t even flickered during the preseason and the first game — awoke Sunday with a kind of performance that can bring a team together, that can be called upon in difficult times throughout the long year.

This is a good, one paragraph summary of what we saw on Sunday in Los Angeles. It wasn’t any reason to throw a party or anything but it was a sign of life. They avoided getting crushed by fans and the media for being 0-2. At 1-1 they have life, especially with the rest of the teams in the NFC East experiencing some struggles as well.

ESPN power ranking

Washington can be a force when its rushing attack gets going. Over the past three seasons, the Redskins are 15-2-1 when rushing for at least 90 yards as a team (3-13 when they don't). The 229 rushing yards Sunday against the Rams were Washington's second most in that span.

They jumped from No. 24 to No 17 in these rankings, more of a reflection of the overreaction to the loss to the Eagles than any actual improvement in the team. I think the Redskins belong somewhere in the middle of the pack right now and that is where most have them now.

CBS power ranking

They ran all over the Rams, which is a good sign for the offense. Now they have to amp up the passing game.

This is a good point on ramping up the passing game. Even a moderately efficient performance throwing the ball would have meant a dominant win for the Redskins. They won’t be able to run for 229 yards every week and Kirk Cousins has to get it going.

MMQB, Mystery in DC

I suppose most will explain this in one of two narratives:

1. Cravens was never committed to football, and Washington needed to move on rather than letting him continue to be a distraction.

2. The bumbling Washington brain trust committed another blunder, this time blindsiding a player who was trying to right his life off the field.

The reality is probably somewhere between those two sentiments. Coaches need to know who is on their roster going forward, and the 22-year-old can use the time to chart a clear path forward. Remember, a Washington legend once took a year off because his heart wasn't in the sport.

The Cravens story remains a puzzle with many missing pieces. The key may be in the 15-minute conversation he had with Doug Williams on the sideline before the Texas-USC game the night before the Redskins played the Rams. Perhaps the talk convinced Williams that Cravens is not in the proper frame of mind to return to the team and that the additional two weeks they could have taken before putting him on the reserve/left team list would not make any difference. It seems like too much of a coincidence that two days after Cravens talks face to face with a member of the Redskins brass for the first time since he left the team a week before the season opener.

That’s just speculation but that’s all we have at the moment. By the way, the legend who once took a year off was John Riggins, although his 1980 absence was more of a contract holdout than it was his heart not being in the sports, although there was an element of the latter involved.

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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Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.

You can listen to Gruden’s full comments on Scherff in the video above.

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially one like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

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: 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.

Timeline

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 Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS 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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