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Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?


Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 4, seven days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.


Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 207 days ago. It will be 39 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 15; Final roster cut 30; Cowboys @ Redskins 45

—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this date in 1949.

Breaking down camp

You shouldn’t believe everything that an NFL coach says.

Jay Gruden said this yesterday when asked about the possibility of trying to game the new rule that puts touchbacks after kickoff on the 25 yard line.
“We’re going to experiment, You know, we’ll see what Dustin [Hopkins] is good at. You know, we’re going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. You know, we don’t want to just succumb to the 25-yard line.”
I might believe Gruden and the other coaches who talk of pooch kicking the ball if it wasn’t such a risky play. NFL coaches have a strong tendency to analyze things on a worst-case basis. What is the worst that can happen if your kicker pounds the ball through the end zone? They get the ball at the 25, five yards closer than they did before. Yes, there is a slightly better chance of scoring points on a possession that starts at the 25 compared to one that starts at the 20. But only slightly.

And while it's true that your kicker won't always be able to pound the ball and force a touchback Hopkins was able to do it 65 percent of the time last year. Those are pretty good odds.

What is the worst that can happen if you pooch kick it and try to pin them back? The other team could return it for a touchdown, or to deep in your territory where scoring points is virtually certain. One blown assignment or one missed tackle and you plan to try to gain five yards of field position is up in smoke.

Gruden and his NFL brethren are hesitant to go for it on fourth and one at midfield even though there is plenty of research to indicate that they should. Why? Because they would rather take heat for being overly cautious than get ripped for a failed fourth-down attempt that gave their opponent a short field to work with.

When it comes down to it, NFL coaches don’t like to gamble. Just like going for it on fourth down is gambling, pooching the ball on a kickoff when you have a kicker like Hopkins who is capable of kicking touchbacks.

Perhaps Gruden will occasionally have Hopkins boom it high and hope his coverage is solid just to make other teams think that he might. He also occasionally goes for it on fourth down in non-desperation situations. But I can almost guarantee that his default strategy on kickoffs will be to have Hopkins kick it as deep as he can. That also will be the standard procedure for nearly every other NFL head coach.

There is just no reason to believe otherwise.

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 21, 36 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one, starting today with the offense.

QB Alex Smith—The deal is done, and the Redskins have their man for five years at $22.2 million per year or, if they prefer, three years at $23.7 million per. It seems like most fans are behind him but there will have to be a few more wins than losses this fall for that to become permanent.

RB Samaje Perine—He got better as the year went on, averaging nearly a half yard per carry more in the last seven games compared to the first nine. But the 3.4 average per carry certainly did not stop both Doug Williams and Jay Gruden from talking about drafting a running back early.

TE Jordan Reed—According to reports, he is rehabbing well from the hamstring and toe injuries that severely limited him last year. Still, expect him to be kept in bubble wrap until training camp and even then, his action may be limited.

WR Josh Doctson—Did Kirk Cousins look away from Doctson too often, lacking the confidence in him to let him go get the 50-50 balls? Will Smith have more confidence in Doctson? The answers to those questions may determine if the third-year receiver breaks out in 2018 or he continues to tease with flashes of ability.

WR Paul Richardson—He’s capable of the acrobatic catch, which should be fun to watch. Richardson was good with Russell Wilson on the off-schedule plays, maybe he can do the same with Smith.

WR Jamison Crowder—I guess it’s fair to say he had an off year in 2017 but his receiving yardage only dropped by 60 yards from 2016. It will be interesting to see if they keep him in as the punt returner after he averaged 6.3 yards per return (23rd of 25 qualifiers) last year.

LT Trent Williams—The six-time Pro Bowler is still in the relatively early stages of recovering from surgery to the knee that kept him from practicing from about Week 6 on. Don’t look for him until training camp and even then, the early workload is likely to be light.

LG Arie Kouandjio—This is the one offensive position that remains up in the air. Kouandjio has shown some grit as a spot starter but I don’t think the organization views him as a 16-game starter.

C Chase Roullier—Shortly after Roullier got the starting job when Spencer Long went out injured, Jay Gruden said that Roullier would be the Redskins’ center “for a long time”. There is no reason to doubt that at this point in time.

RG Brandon Scherff—His concern no longer is trying to live up to having been the fifth pick of the draft. Scherff has to play well enough to justify his 2019 option-year salary, which will be in the vicinity of $13 million.

RT Morgan Moses—He had surgery to repair his ankles, which were an issue most of last season. Still, he didn’t miss a start. Like Williams, even if he’s ready for training camp, don’t expect to see a whole lot of him.

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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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 27
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 129
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 173

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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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