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Need to Know: How did the draft improve the Redskins' 2015 opponents?

Need to Know: How did the draft improve the Redskins' 2015 opponents?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 6, 41 days before the Washington Redskins hold their mandatory minicamp.

Enemy Intel: How the draft improved the Redskins’ 2015 opponents

The Redskins believe they improved themselves in the recent draft. But the 13 different teams they will line up against this season also got better during those three days last week. Let’s look at what the top draft pick for each team on the Redskins’ schedule.

Dolphins, WR DaVante Parker—The Redskins’ revamped secondary with three new starters will be tested by the 6-3 Parker, who was just a shade behind Amari Cooper and Kevin White as the top receiver in the draft.

Rams, RB Todd Gurley—We’ll have to see if Gurley, who suffered a torn ACL last season, is playing or if he’s on the PUP list. Rookie backs can get up to speed in a hurry so if he’s healthy, look out.

Giants, OL Ereck Flowers—He is huge and has a ton of potential but he’s likely to be far from a finished product in Week 3. If he plays right tackle, which seems to be what they’re going to do there, Ryan Kerrigan could have a good Thursday night.

Eagles, WR Nelson Agholor—Jeremy Maclin played against the Redskins 10 times and averaged almost five catches for 75 yards per game, an average of 15 yards per catch. He’s out and Agholor is in and has the potential to do the same kind of damage to the Redskins.

Falcons, OLB Vic Beasley—You could make a case that the Redskins should have considered Beasley, with his strong pass rushing skills, with the fifth pick instead of Brandon Scherff. Depending on where Beasley lines up they could go head to head.

Jets, DL Leonard Williams—Or maybe Washington should have taken Williams. It’s likely that Williams will move around in the Jets’ 3-4 defensive front to it’s likely that he and Scherff will go head to head.

Bucs, QB Jameis Winston—The top pick in the draft will be about halfway through his rookie season so he could be starting to get the hang of it or he could be so confused he doesn’t know which way is up.

Patriots, DT Malcolm Brown—Nothing flash here, just a good, solid defensive lineman. He probably won’t start but he’ll play a few dozen snaps and help his team.

Saints, OT Andrus Peat—It looks like he’ll start on the left side and could be pretty well settled in at this point. Trent Murphy and Preston Smith will test Peat’s pass protection skills.

Panthers, OLB Shaq Thompson—If he catches on quickly he could be a solid playmaker but it seems likely he will be of real concern to opposing offenses in 2016 or 2017.

Cowboys, CB Byron Jones—A solid corner but not really a playmaker. We’ll have to see how the Dallas cornerback situation shakes out. If they keep Brandon Carr Jones could end up starting. If he stays, look for Jones to play in nickel situations.

Bears, WR Kevin White—So they traded away Brandon Marshall but they got the 6-3 White to pair with the 6-4 Alshon Jeffry. These will be tough matchups for the 6-0 Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland, 5-11.

Bills, CB Ronald Darby—The Bills didn’t have a first-round pick, taking Darby in the second round with the 50th overall pick. The guy to worry about is Sammy Watkins; the Bills used their first-round pick in this year’s draft to move up to get the wide receiver. He’s 6-1 but plays much bigger, catching anything thrown within his area code.

 

Timeline

—It’s been 129 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 130 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 41; Redskins training camp starts 85; Redskins @ Giants 141

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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.