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Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 23, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Read and react

Some quotes from around Redskins Park on Thursday and my comments on them.

Jay Gruden on the Redskins’ approach to the third quarter, where they have been outscored 78-3 (counting points scored on drives that started in the third):
I think the big thing is awareness. I think awareness is letting them know that this is what the last six games have been like in the third quarter. We have had the lead five of six times and here are stats and we have to do something about it . . . then we get to halftime against Tampa Bay, hopefully it’ll be with a lead and we’ll make some, hopefully, some positive adjustments and the guys will come out ready to play.
Reaction: There is no magic wand to wave to fix the team’s third-down problems. Part of the fix would be to hold on to the ball; five of their 15 turnovers have come during the third quarter. And the defense stiffening up after a turnover would help, too; All five of the times the offense has given the ball away, the other team has turned the possession into a touchdown.

Joe Barry on one concrete step that has been taken to try to improve the third-quarter performance:
It’s been addressed, it’s been talked about. It’s been kind of a theme on the practice field. Halfway through practice, kind of cranking it up so I think it’s just one of those things. I think the worst think you can ever do anytime something is not going right is to ignore it and not talk about it. We’ve talked about it. We’ve addressed it. Now, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to coach better.
Reaction: Cranking up the intensity halfway through practice is a good thought. It may not be a stroke of genius and it may or may not have an effect. But since there is no one thing that will cure all of the ills, it’s worth trying. I think that at some point the odds will catch up to the Redskins, they will outscore their opponents in the third quarter over the course of a few games, and everyone will declare that the problem was solved.

Gruden on the team’s running game over the last few weeks:
Yeah, it’s hard. I think the big thing in the running game, it’s OK to get one or two years every now and then. We’re not going to hit all our runs, but it’s important for us to get some hits – some 15-yarders, some 20-yarders – which we haven’t had. We haven’t had any long runs. I don’t know what our longest run is the last couple of weeks but it hasn’t been very long. It’d be nice to get a couple of those which opens up your play-action.
Reaction: For Gruden’s information, the Redskins’ longest run in the last two weeks has been nine yards, by Chris Thompson early in the third quarter of the Atlanta. Their longest run against the Jets was an eight-yard gain by Thompson just before halftime. So not only have they not broken 15 or 20 yards, they haven’t even hit double digits. The Redskins are stuck in the vicious cycle where they can’t run the ball because they can’t run the ball. An inability to gain more than a couple of yards on first down means that running on second down is not a viable option.

Barry evaluating Perry Riley’s performance since missing two games due to a calf injury:
“The thing that was a bummer was when he got hurt, he played lights out against the St. Louis Rams. He really did. I think that’s a little —  when a guy misses some time, especially with a lower extremity injury, he comes back, you’ve got to knock a little bit of rust off, so I don’t think Perry has played poorly. And we’ve had the conversation, ‘Get back to how you played against the St. Louis Rams.’ I think he had a great week of practice this week. So, I think it’s part of the deal sometimes when a guy misses time and then comes back, it takes him a little bit of time to knock some rust off… Perry has played physical. I don’t think by any means — don’t pinpoint anything on Perry Riley. We’ve all got to play better, we’ve all got to coach better, bottom line.”
Reaction: That’s kind of a long passage to plough through so let me shorten it for you—Riley has not been playing well. OK, there might be some “rust” after the injury (he missed the Giants game and the Eagles game) but he’s been back for two games and there is no reason for a guy who has been starting for coming up on four years should not be able to come back without missing a beat. In answer to a follow up question, Barry said that they were not considering moving Will Compton into the starting job. But if accountability means anything, they can’t go for too much longer without considering making a move if Riley continues to play as poorly has he has the last two games.


Today’s schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Patriots 16; Saints @ Redskins 22

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year. 

A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all. 

  • The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded. 
  • We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now. 


  • Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above. 
  • Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react. 
  • The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous. 
  • Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson. 
  • Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player. 
  • Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
  • Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing. 
  • The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold. 
  • The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
  • To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long. 


  • A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid. 
  • What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore. 
  • Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up. 
  • Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre. 

  • Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due. 
  • I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done. 
  • Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying. 
  • So is Bennie Logan. Just saying. 

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