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Need to Know: Another special teams challenge on tap for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Another special teams challenge on tap for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 29, five days before the Redskins host the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

QB battle less than thrilling—For one of the few times this year the Redskins could field the better quarterback in a game. Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly tearing up the league but Sam Bradford has the same 3-4 touchdown to interception count as Cousins and has a worse completion percentage (Cousins 69.2%, Bradford 62.4 percent) and a lower yards per pass attempt average (Cousins 6.7, Bradford 5.8). Bradford just doesn’t look comfortable in Chip Kelly’s system at this point.

Protecting the quarterback—The Redskins have done a very good job of protecting the quarterback so far. Their four sacks allowed is tied for ninth best in the NFL. But the Eagles have allowed Sam Bradford to get sacked only twice. This could be an X-factor is the game; one of the teams could get an decided advantage by breaking through and racking up three or four sacks.

Containing Sproles—The Redskins did a good job of bottling up Rams punt returner Tavon Austin a week after he had returned a punt for a touchdown against the Seahawks. Now the Redskins face Darren Sproles, who took one back all the way against the Jets on Sunday. Sproles is also a threat from scrimmage, although he has been pretty well bottled up so far this year.

Lack of Eagles big plays—Reuben Frank, who covers the Eagles for our sister site, CSN Philly, tweeted out the following stat on Monday morning:

The Redskins have four plays that covered a third of the field so far. The Eagles’ big plays likely will come at some point; they had 21 of them last year. But you have to wonder if Chip Kelly doesn’t sometimes regret giving big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson his walking papers in 2014.

Will Murray break out?—In his years with Dallas, the Redskins contained DeMarco Murray pretty well, holding him under his career averages in both yards per carry (4.8 career, 4.6 vs. Redskins) and yards per game (82.5 career, 74.4 vs. Redskins). Murray has become the poster child for futility in Philadelphia with 11 yards on 21 carries after being a big splash signing in free agency. The Redskins will need to keep him bottled up. If he gets rolling, even just to the extent of having his average game against the Redskins, it could get the whole Eagles offense rolling.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Off day

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Falcons 12; Redskins @ Jets 19

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.

Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.

Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return. 

Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games. 

The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury. 

MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond. 

The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.

Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it. 

  1. Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come. 
  2. Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions. 
  3. Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus. 

Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-

We didn't spend last week playing checkers.

News & Notes:

  • Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
  • The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed. 
  • D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
  • Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week. 
  • Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.

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