Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, December 24, two days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.
Five Redskins who need to step up to beat the Eagles
QB Kirk Cousins—He’s on a roll, with pass ratings of over 100 in five of his last six games including two of over 150. Now is not the time for him to have an off game. As noted here yesterday, the Eagles defense has been worked over lately so it is logical to think that Cousins will thrive. Since there is no reason to think that the running game will suddenly kick into gear Cousins will have to be the one to move the ball.
WR DeSean Jackson—It may not be absolutely necessary for him to go off with six catches for a buck-fifty and a couple of TDs. Cousins has other options as weapons. But it sure would make it a whole lot of fun, wouldn’t it?
LT Trent Williams—If the Eagles are going to get a pass rush it is likely to come from DE Fletcher Cox, who leads the team with 7.5 sacks, or OLB Brandon Graham, who has 6.5. They both line up on the right side of the defense, which means that Williams will be blocking one or the other of them on most passing plays. He’s been solid as a rock all year and he needs to keep it up.
OLB Ryan Kerrigan—Sam Bradford isn’t very consistent but like many quarterbacks if he has time to throw he can do some damage. He has some weapons like Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. The best way to make sure he can’t do damage is to have him on the ground and Kerrigan, who has been playing well lately, can be the one to put him there.
P Tress Way—How did the Eagles manage to win in Foxborough? With three return touchdowns, two of them on special teams. They blocked a punt and ran it in and Darren Sproles returned a punt for a TD. Way needs to boot the ball quickly put them high and deep but not so deep as to outkick the coverage and let Darren Sproles take one back to the house.
—Today’s schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30
—Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 2; Redskins @Cowboys 10; start of NFL playoffs 16
In case you missed it
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.
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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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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