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Need to Know: Redskins have uneven special teams play vs. Patriots

Need to Know: Redskins have uneven special teams play vs. Patriots

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, August 9, nine days before the Redskins host the Browns on preseason Monday night football.

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A look back at some notes and quotes from the Redskins preseason game against the Patriots before the final days of training camp start up.

—Some think that Jay Gruden is a pass-first coach but that’s not how he sounded about the Redskins’ ball control (39 minutes of possession time) offense. “It’s important. Our offensive line did a good job blocking, obviously. Both our fullbacks in the game did a nice job,” he said. “Of course the receivers blocking downfield, getting those tough yards. Those yards after contact instead of those three-yard gains, you’re getting four or five yards. It was good to see some cutback runs. Some guys made some physical runs and all sorts of things.”

—Robert Griffin III probably would have preferred to attempt more than the four passes he threw. But he knew what Gruden wanted to do and that it made his offensive line happy. “I think he wanted to get his guys in and out and keep us healthy,” said Griffin. “We’ll move on to the next game and we’ll get some more snaps. And those offensive linemen like to run the ball. Let them get their hands dirty in there for a couple plays and get [running back] Alfred [Morris] some touches. We played off that really well.”

—Griffin liked his coach’s demeanor as well. “He was funny, getting the plays in and out to us,” he said. “He enjoys it and that’s the great thing about it. You enjoy the process, you enjoy game day. He’s out there with us on game day. When we have a bad play, he has a bad play. When we have a great play he has a great play. That’s great to see from a head coach.” Note that Griffin later clarified that Gruden did not tell “knock-knock jokes” into the headset while he was making the calls.

—One area that was uneven for the Redskins on Thursday was special teams. There was a 46-yard field goal attempt that was both wide and short, a kickoff out of bounds, and a play that looked bad (long kickoff return) then turned good (recovered fumble) but ended up bad (turnover negated by offside penalty). Then there was a Patriots kickoff return that went 47 yards before rookie kicker Zach Hocker made a nice tackle. “Yeah, that was different,” said Hocker of making the tackle. “The touchback would have been great, but getting to convert the tackle and, you know, I had to make a couple tackles in college and finally getting that one NFL tackle out of the way definitely boosts my confidence the next time they bring one up to make the play.”

—When talking to Mike Shanahan after games, he would never give names of players who played well. After giving the caveat that he need to watched to watch the film, Gruden was happy to name names. “Obviously, [running back] Silas Redd had some physical runs, and was impressive, and then [running back] Lache Seastrunk came in there had a couple splash runs, which was good to see,” he said. “From a receiver standpoint, [Rashad] Ross had another big catch. He’s made some big catches all along. [Wide receiver] Aldrick Robinson, he just continues to make play after play after play. Then defensively, it was good to see [linebacker Brian] Orakpo get a sack and some of the safeties fly around. Not only on defense, but on special teams, like [safety] Akeem Davis. I saw him make a big hit on special teams and do a good job.”

If you have any questions about what's going on at training camp, hit me up in the comments. I'll answer all questions as soon as I can get to them. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Timeline

—Former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams was born on this day in 1955.

Today’s schedule: Practice 2:15; Jay Gruden media availability after practice; players available coming off of the field.

—It’s been 222 days since the Redskins played a game; in 30 days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Monday night preseason vs. Browns 10; Final cuts 23; Home opener vs. Jaguars 37

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to spend send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110 but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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.

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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