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Need to Know: Are the safeties better? Five observations on the Redskins' roster

Need to Know: Are the safeties better? Five observations on the Redskins' roster

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, September 7, six days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Observations on the Redskins’ roster

1. The safeties are different from last year but are they better? A lot depends on how Dashon Goldson plays. He may not have been better in Tampa Bay last year than Ryan Clark was in Washington. Preseason games are a small sample size but he did not excel during the three that he played in. I think Duke Ihenacho is an upgrade over Brandon Meriweather but not by leaps and bounds. We will see how it turns out.

2. As of this writing, the Redskins are going with just Jordan Reed and Derek Carrier at tight end. Relying on the often-injured Reed and Carrier, who has only been with the team for a few weeks, is a dicey strategy at best. Having a situation where Carrier is one hamstring pull away from being your only tight end is dangerous. Although Jay Gruden did not express any urgency towards getting one, it seems likely that one will be added before serious preparation for the Dolphins commences on Wednesday.

3. The Redskins lost special teams stalwarts Adam Hayward, Niles Paul, Silas Redd, and Logan Paulsen to injuries. There are no obvious replacements for them on the roster. Rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett can become a good teams player and they kept undrafted rookie Deshazor Everett because of his play in the kicking game. But there are still some major holes that need to be filled and no apparent candidates for them. Perhaps players will step up but even if they do the Redskins could still struggle to improve their special teams from the ranks of the worst in the NFL.

4. I don’t understand why they kept seven defensive linemen. To be sure, it is the number they have usually carried since switching to the 3-4 defense but I thought a new GM and a new defensive coordinator might bring some out-of-the-box thinking here. There are only three spots on the field to cover and Preston Smith, Trent Murphy, and even Ryan Kerrigan can fill in at end in a pinch. Looking back up at the special teams problems, linemen are of limited value there. I like Frank Kearse and Kedric Golston as players but one of those spots should have gone to a more versatile player. It's one of those "that's the way we've always done it" decisions.

5. It’s pretty clear that at least one defensive back should not get too settled in. There are 10 of them on the roster and when Bashaud Breeland returns from suspension a week from today one of them will have to be cut. Even after that, another one could go if they think they want another linebacker for special teams.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Off day

—It’s been 253 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 6 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 13; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 17

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In case you missed it

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.