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Need to Know: Is the Redskins' depth chart at outside linebacker set?

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Need to Know: Is the Redskins' depth chart at outside linebacker set?

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 9, two days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:30; Jay Gruden news conference after practice, approx.. 3:30

—The Redskins last played a game 212 days ago. It will be 34 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 10; Final roster cut 25; Cowboys @ Redskins 40

Read and react: Jay Gruden

On if he’s decided how much the starters will play vs. the Falcons:
“Not yet. You know, we’ll play it by ear, see how we do out at practice today and we’ll have a staff meeting tonight and then make a decision.”
I’m not sure what would make Gruden change from having his starting offense go one series if they move the ball and two if they don’t. The starting defense will probably go two series. It’s not like Gruden to go unconventional in situations like this.

On if Trent Murphy, who just moved back to outside linebacker, would focus more on pass rushing that coverage:
“Originally that was our plan. We’re trying to get him going forward more often. He, Preston [Smith], Ryan [Kerrigan] will be our feature ends – Houston Bates. We’ll see what happens with the other guys who are competing for jobs – Willie Jefferson, Lynden Trail, Double E [Ejiro Ederaine] and Shiro Davis, so we’ll see what happens there. But we’ll try to get him going forward more, yes.”
So it looks like the roster spots at OLB are set, with Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, and Bates. That’s what Gruden just said. If you’re in the “we’ll see what happens” group I think you might want to get used to living on a practice squad salary at best.

On Su’a Cravens’ position
“We’re going to try him at linebacker first. He’s a 20-year-old kid and coming in here he has got to learn one spot first. He needs to learn the defense, so we figured inside linebacker in nickel and dime situations is the spot to teach him the defense first. From there we can branch off, see his skill set, move on and try him at safety – maybe nickel – whatever it is. Right now we feel like the best place for him learning the defense is at linebacker.”
This is for those of you who are worried that the Redskins will want the 6-1, 222 Cravens to play inside linebacker on first down and plug the hole against big running backs. When will be in when the other team is likely to pass and he will cover and occasionally rush. And he could be more of an in-the-box safety than a linebacker. So sit back, relax, and watch how his role evolves and develops.

On if there is a better example for young players than Ryan Kerrigan:
“Not really, no. He’s very humble, number one. Keeps to himself and does exactly what’s asked of him in practice. He practices hard; in fact, we have to pull him back a little bit because he practices so hard and we want to keep him healthy for the 16-week grind. He’s a top-notch guy, on and off the field, character-wise.. He’s what you’re looking for.”
I’m not sure if Kerrigan’s sack numbers will ever quite live up to his contract. But he’s a guy you want to keep around because of this. One of the things that Scot McCloughan emphasizes in building a team is having players around who serve as the blueprint for other young players who come into the program. Kerrigan is worth a bonue over his sack numbers just for that.

Tandler on Twitter Instagram

An hour after practice ended Josh Norman is still signing autographs. #Redskins

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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.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

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.