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Need to Know: It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time

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Need to Know: It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 22, four days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bills

—It looks like the Redskins are peaking at the right time. Against a Bills defense that is more pedestrian than awful they posted their second highest total yards of the season and their most total passing yards. The defense is playing well; the final numbers on Sunday weren’t pretty but they didn’t give up much until it was 28-3. The Bills had one possession, their first one, with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Redskins not yet the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs but in a couple more games they could be.

—The Redskins appear to be back on track when it comes to converting third downs. After a three-game stretch where they went a combined 12 for 40 on third down (30.0%) they have converted on 14 of 23 (60.8%) over the last two games. On the season they have a conversion rate 43.6 percent, sixth in the NFL. That is a quantum improvement on their 31.5 percent conversion rate they had last year, which was 30th in the NFL.

—One reason for the solid improvement on third down is the play of Kirk Cousins. In the last two games is nine for 12 on third down for 100 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. That is a 127.1 passer rating. However, that isn’t all that impressive considering his rating on all passes over the last two games has been higher than that, a sizzling 131.6.

—I don’t normally get riled up over play calling especially in a game they won comfortably but I was a bit annoyed with the calls in the latter stages of the fourth quarter with the Redskins trying to run out the clock. When it was apparent that the Redskins weren’t going to be able to run the clock out by keeping it on the ground Gruden and McVay kept trying. The defense had been on the field a lot but a futile run was called twice in third and four situations. Certainly a pass to Jordan Reed or Pierre Garçon would have moved the chains and given the defense the rest of the day off. A small complaint in the big picture but if the game was a bit closer it could have been an issue.

—Losing to the Redskins doesn’t make the locals happy. Here is the start of my friend Vic Carucci’s rant in the Buffalo News:
Rex Ryan promised his team wouldn't quit. He lied. On the way to officially eliminating themselves from postseason contention for the 16th consecutive season, the Bills gave a pathetic effort, especially on defense. There was no point in this game where it even felt as if the Bills would be able to stop Kirk Cousins and the Redskins' offense, which produced touchdowns on its first three possessions. Cousins is a solid starter, but the Bills made him look like an absolute superstar.
At least Rex won’t get fired like his brother Rob did after his Saints defense was shredded by the “solid” Cousins.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 4; Redskins @Cowboys 12; start of NFL playoffs 18

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

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

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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. 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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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