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Need to Know: Redskins RBs are holding on to the ball

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Need to Know: Redskins RBs are holding on to the ball

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, August 3, eight days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice (special teams only) 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago. It will be 40 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 16; Final roster cut 31; Cowboys @ Redskins 46

Breaking down camp

I have a lot of fun doing the live practice blogs but I can’t always get into much analysis since there is always something going on. So I’m going to pull out a few observations from yesterday and go into some more depth.
The defenders are trying hard to rip the ball out of the hands of all of the running backs, not just Matt Jones. So far I have not yet seen them be successful.
I’m not going to say that the running backs have not yet fumbled because I haven’t seen every play. But through five sessions I haven’t seen a fumble by a running back and, again, it’s not because the defense hasn’t been trying. I think that Jones picked up some bad habits last year and the team put an emphasis on teaching proper technique to Jones and to the rookies and the other young running backs on the roster.
In 11 on 11 in the red zone, Cousins threw a little swing pass to Jackson, who scampered in for the score. Jackson did not score a touchdown from a play from the red zone last year.
Jackson caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III in 2013. Since he has been with the Redskins his shorted TD reception other than that was a 28-yard catch last year. I don’t think you want to make him a regular red zone target but I think you could sneak him out there every once in a while the defense is focused on Reed, Davis, Garçon, Doctson and company in the red zone.
Preston Smith is not just a pass rusher. He just got in the backfield and disrupted a play with Jones going up the middle before it ever got started.
Smith didn’t really struggle against the run last year but it wasn’t a strong point of his either. He’s going to play a lot more snaps this year and they will test him in the rushing game. If he can make a few big players against the run they might not test him as much.
There have been a lot of yellow flags on the field during this 11 on 11 session. They're getting a bit ragged it appears.
They had a partial crew of actual NFL officials who were in town to explain the new rule changes to the players and media. It seemed like every time you looked up there was a flag for holding or for a false start or offsides against the defense. I'm not sure if the Redskins were just having a bad day or if the officials were catching things that they have been doing all along. The Redskins averaged nearly 19 fewer penalty yards per game last year compared to 2014 so they need that trend to continue.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.