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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 14, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Lions 9; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 16

Around Redskins Park

Kirk Cousins has had success in his three career starts against the Eagles. The Redskins are 2-1 in those games and Cousins has thrown for an average of 360 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 105.1.

But those were different Eagles teams, especially defensively. It looks like defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has the Philly D going very well. They have gone from the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense to near the top of the heap.

There are many reasons why the Eagles are better against the pass but you really don’t need to look much further than their pass rush. Pass defense starts with pass pressure and the Eagles are one of two teams in the league who have sacked the quarterback on more than 10 percent of opponents’ pass attempts. The scary part for the Redskins is that they didn’t have one big game that inflated their pass rush stats. They have 14 sacks in four games and have three sacks in each of two games and four in each of the other two.

Fortunately for the Redskins, keeping Cousins upright is one of the strengths of the offense. They are third in the NFL when it comes to pass protection, allowing sacks on just 4.0 percent of pass plays. Part of this is an offensive line that is built for pass protection and part is Cousins’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

The line that will start on Sunday has been charged with just four sacks in five games, per Pro Football Focus. Morgan Moses has two on his ledger and Shawn Lauvao and Trent Williams have one each. Spencer Long has started two games and played half of a third and has not allowed a sack while Brandon Scherff has played every snap this year and has zero sacks.

It should be noted here that the Redskins have not faced the toughest of pass rushes so far this year. The highest ranked team in defensive sack percentage they have faced is the Ravens, who are 16th. They have also faced the Cowboys (21st), Browns (27th), Steelers (29th), and Giants (32nd). (Yes, Redskins fans are allowed to snicker at the non-performance of the Giants defense after they loaded up on free agents in the spring.)

One thing that Cousins needs to be careful of is ball protection. The Eagles have recovered four fumbles this year and three of them have come on sack and strip plays.

The key matchups will come on the offensive left side, the quarterback’s blind side. Half of the Eagles’ 14 sacks have come left DE Brandon Graham (3 sacks) and left DT Fletcher Cox (4). They likely will more around and stunt some so LT Williams and LG Lauvao will have their hands full.

I think that they key number here is three. If Philly gets fewer than three sacks of Cousins the Redskins have a good chance of winning. If they get more than three the home team probably is in trouble.

Tandler on Instagram

Good defensive play by Whitner. #Redskins

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In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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