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Need to Know: Enemy intel—Golden handcuffs for Murray in Philly

Need to Know: Enemy intel—Golden handcuffs for Murray in Philly

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 6, three days before the start of NFL free agency.

Enemy Intel: A look around the NFC East and more

Some nuggets from around the NFC East plus another team on the Redskins’ 2016 schedule.

—It looks like DeMarco Murray has a pair of golden handcuffs that will keep him with the Eagles this year. Everyone knew that Murray was not happy during a 2015 season that saw his rushing production drop from by over 50 percent, from 1,845 yards in 2014 to 702 last year. But Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ head of football operations, told PFT that he had not heard from Murray about any discontent. Perhaps that is because there is no realistic path out of Philadelphia for Murray. The Eagles aren’t going to cut him and incur an $18 million cap hit. Philadelphia could handle a trade financially but no team is going to deal for a contract that carries $9 million in guarantees the next two years. So Murray would have to take less money, perhaps a lot less, to leave. The best bet is that he will be there for both Eagles-Redskins games next year.

—After breaking his left collarbone twice during the past season Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will undergo something called a Mumford procedure to try to keep it from injuring it again. That involves (ouch!) shaving down part of the bone. He will have the procedure this week. The recovery time is 6-8 weeks, which means that Romo will miss the team’s offseason workouts and perhaps even the beginning of OTAs. That’s not a big deal for Romo, who knows his way around the offense pretty well. In fact, with the Cowboys likely to have at least one new backup on the roster and maybe two and Romo’s absence will give them a chance to get more work.

—Here is a prediction. The Giants have almost $60 million in salary cap space, by far the most in the division. They will be in the mix for virtually every big-name free agent on the market and they will sign more than their share of players like Eric Weddle, Olivier Vernon, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathian. The various analysts will look at the “improvements” and immediately declare the Giants to be among the favorites to win the NFC East. But they will be mistaking changes for improvements. A Giants beat writer looked at the top 10 free agents signed in each of the last three years. Of those 30 player signings only 12 were successful. So while New York might have some success there is no more reason to think that an influx of free agents will help them any more than similar free agent sprees like the Eagles’ “Dream Team” in 2011 or Redskins teams from many years past proved to be a boon for their win totals.

Alfred Morris said farewell to the Redskins organization and the fans even though it’s not 100 percent that he is leaving. In an Instagram post Morris said, “No matter what happens I will always be apart of #RedskinsNation and a special thanks to all the fans and their abundance of love, support, and loyalty y'all make this game what is #HTTR.” While the door is not closed to him returning to Washington it seems that he would be best served with a change of scenery and a place in an offense that is more suited to what he does well.

—Joe Flacco did a deal that created $6 million in cap space for the Ravens. Now, after his contract extension he wants to help them spend it. “The one thing is I would say we need to get our O-line solidified, see who’s going to be there for sure,” Flacco told PFT Live. He almost certainly has his eyes on guard Kelechi Osemele, who is set to become a free agent on Wednesday. Osemele also played some left tackle in a pinch for the Ravens last year and retaining him is the Ravens’ top offseason priority. Flacco wants him around to ensure that he will be standing when the Redskins play the Ravens this seasons.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 56 days ago. It will be about 189 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 3; Redskins offseason workouts start 43; 2016 NFL draft 53

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Week 7 Redskins-Eagles Preview: Monday night means more than it usually does

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Week 7 Redskins-Eagles Preview: Monday night means more than it usually does

After five straight defeats, the Eagles decided enough was enough and beat the Redskins on their home field in Week 1. In a bizarre turn of scheduling, Washington will face Philadelphia for the second time this season before playing any other NFC East opponent. 

For the Redskins, that means the time for a win is now. Behind the arm of Carson Wentz, the Eagles have streaked out to a 5-1 record, not to mention 2-0 in the division. Jay Gruden's squad sits at 3-2 and 0-1 in the division. Another loss to the Eagles, even though it's still early in the year, would put a major dent in the Redskins hopes of a NFC East title. 

"It’s a big game. The NFC East, they’re in the lead. They’re 5-1 and we’re 3-2. I mean, just do the math," Gruden explained this week. "If you look at 3-3 and 6-1 and we’ve lost twice to them, that’s a big difference. 4-2 and 5-2 and we’re right there in the thick of things as far as the NFC East is concerned."

MORE: TEN TIMES PHILADELPHIA FANS WERE THE WORST

The coach knows the stakes. Redskins fans certainly do, too. All the coverage starts at 7:30 on NBC Sports Washington with Redskins Kickoff, and here are three storylines to watch for the game:

  1. Blount force - In the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, the Redskins defense did a fine job of stopping the Eagles rush attack. Zach Brown and the 'Skins held Philly to just 58 yards rushing. In that game, LeGarrette Blount rushed 14 times for only 46 yards, averaging less than 3.5 yards-per-carry. Well, Blount and the Eagles run game looks mighty different now. In their last four games, Blount is averaging more than 6 yards-per-carry and posted more than 330 yards. Known for his strength between the tackles, Blount will present a problem for the Burgundy and Gold playing their first game without rookie star defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. The challenge will be real, and D-coordinator Greg Manusky knows it: "He does a great job of making people miss at the hole, in the hole. So we have got to make sure we get in his face and be able to get him down. He is a big-body guy." 
  2. No wiggle room - For the most part, the Redskins defense did a solid job against Carson Wentz in the first matchup against the Eagles. Unfortunately, with a mobile QB like the 6-foot-5, 240 lb. Wentz, a few broken plays can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the game. Think back to early in Week 1, the Redskins forced Wentz from the pocket and as he scrambled, he kept his eyes downfield and connected with WR Nelson Agholor for a long touchdown. On that play, two different 'Skins defenders nearly brought Wentz down in the backfield. But they didn't. And the 'Skins secondary did a good job in coverage for more than eight seconds. In that ninth second, however, Wentz struck. He's been doing it each game since, as he's emerged as an NFL MVP candidate with more than 1,300 pass yards to go with 13 TDs against just 3 INTs through six games. His ability to escape trouble must be incredibly frustrating for defenders, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson explained his passer's skill, saying, "He is strong in the pocket and usually the first guy, an arm-tackle guy, can’t bring him down. He usually sheds that block and can escape."
  3. 8 or more - Throughout the 2016 season, the Redskins frustrated their fans by getting out to slow starts. In 2017, the opposite has been true. In four straight games, Kirk Cousins and the 'Skins offense have scored a first quarter touchdown and taken early leads. In the second half, however, the offense has stagnated. While the Redskins average about 23 points-per-game, the team is only scoring about 8 points-per-game in the second half. Against a Philly team capable of scoring every time they touch the ball, Washington will likely have to score more in the second half to get a victory.

News & Notes

  • This will mark the Redskins 70th game on Monday Night Football, and their ninth MNF matchup against Philadelphia.
  • Kirk Cousins enters the game 3rd in NFL history in completion percentage (65.9) among players with at least 1,500 career attempts.
  • With 100 yards receiving, Chris Thompson could break a tie with Dick James, Craig McEwen and Larry Brown (two each) for the most career 100-yard receiving games by a Redskins running back in records dating back to 1960.
  • A win would snap a four game losing streak on Monday Night Football for the Redskins and give the Redskins their first Monday win since a 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Oct. 27, 2014.
  • The Redskins rank first in the NFL and the NFC in fewest penalty yards (204).

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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.

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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.

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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.