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Need to Know: The Redskins need more pass rushers

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Need to Know: The Redskins need more pass rushers

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 26, 29 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Why the Redskins need to sign and draft more pass rushers

You don’t have to dip too far into advanced stats to figure out why the Broncos were able to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl. Brady dropped back to pass 60 times and he was hit on 20 of those dropbacks. In sheer numbers that’s the most a quarterback has been hit in any game, regular season or playoffs, since 2006.

Mostly as a result of the pressure, Brady completed fewer than half of his passes (27 of 56), mustering just 5.5 yards per attempt. His passer rating was 56.4, his worst in any game since he posted a 53.5 against the Jets in 2013 and his second-worst ever in the playoffs (49.1 vs. Ravens in 2010). He barely resembled the guy we know as one of the best who ever played the game and a quarterback who is money in the playoffs.

The Broncos were able to control Brady and win because, simply put, they had a lot of good pass rushers. Von Miller, the second pick of the 2011 draft, had 2.5 sacks and 4 hits (sacks also count as hits) of Brady yesterday. DE Derek Wolfe (1 sack, 4 hits) was a second-round draft pick in 2012. Former Cowboys star DeMarcus Ware (0.5 sacks, 7 hits) was a free agent pickup in 2014. DE Malik Jackson didn’t get a sack but the 2012 fifth-round pick did hit Brady three times.

Denver spent its first round pick last year on OLB Shane Ray, who didn’t get in on the sack party yesterday. But he did post four sacks on the year and he is expected to develop into a double-digit sack type of player. It would not be surprising if they tabbed another player with pass rushing ability in the draft this year as Jackson is set to be a free agent and Ware don’t have a whole lot of effective years left.

And that is why Redskins fans do not need to be concerned about the possibility that re-signing Junior Galette will stunt the development of Preston Smith. Or that there won’t be snaps for Trent Murphy. Or how Ryan Kerrigan fits into the picture. Or what happens if (when?) Scot McCloughan drafts or signs another pass rusher (or two?) this spring.

To be sure, it can’t be all about pass rushers. Denver can put on pressure because its defensive backs do a good job covering one-on-one. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris and safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart help the pass rushers do their thing so the draft and free agency can’t be all about the guys up front.

Right now the Redskins have three effective pass rushers in Kerrigan, Smith, and Chris Baker. Galette is a free agent but he has said that he will re-sign with Washington. Jason Hatcher was better getting to the quarterback than his two sacks indicate but he may not be back due to retirement and a high salary cap number. Murphy, who had 3.5 sacks last year, may or may not develop into a consistent pass rusher.

So with possible retirements and other question marks, the Redskins need a few more players who can get to the quarterback to get into the pipeline. And when they do that, McCloughan needs to stockpile a few more.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 16 days ago. It will be about 229 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 29; NFL free agency starts 43; 2016 NFL draft 93

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.