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Preview: Redskins and Saints meet in a momentum-turning matchup

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Preview: Redskins and Saints meet in a momentum-turning matchup

Jay Gruden did not issue a ‘code red’ for the second time in three games.

But maybe he should have.

Because if the Redskins (3-5) are going to have any hope of making a move in the NFC East, it’s got to start Sunday against Drew Brees and the Saints (4-5). Why? Cam Newton and the undefeated Panthers will be waiting in Charlotte a week later.

“This is a big game for us,” Gruden said this week. “It’s a home game. We always stress our home games. We’re playing another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and an excellent Coach in Sean Payton. We have to come out fast.”

It’s also a pivotal matchup for the Saints, who boast the league’s No. 1 offense and its second worst defense. They’re coming off a 34-28 loss to the Titans.

“There’s a great sense our urgency at this point of the season,” Brees said, “because there’s no margin for error.”

Indeed, both teams have already used it all up.

Be sure to catch Redskins Kickoff on CSN Mid-Atlantic at noon and Redskins Postgame Live at 4.

Here are Tarik’s five areas/matchups to monitor:

1-It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but the Redskins’ run defense continues to be a significant problem for the Redskins. In the first four games of the season, they allowed an average of 78 yards per game. The last four? How about a whopping 187 per. Although there are many variables causing the repeated breakdowns, missed tackles have been a constant. Last week against the Patriots, ProFootballFocus.com credited the Redskins’ defense with a season-high 22. The Saints’ No. 1 running back, Mark Ingram, ranks 17th in yards per game (64.9) and has only one 100-yard game this season.

2-Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Redskins’ run game is not getting it done, eitherr. Over the past four games, here are the rushing yards totals: 51, 34, 50, 37. Not pretty. I fact, 172 yards marks the fewest in a 4-game span in franchise history. The previous low was 192 rushing yards back in 1961. This might be kinda obvious, but it’s tough to win if an integral part of your offense is performing at a historically bad rate. Gruden has said that Alfred Morris (3.3 yards per carry) and Matt Jones (three fumbles) will continue to split the workload but that he’s looking for better performance from the backs and an injury-ravaged offensive line, which now features exactly one starter from last season (Trent Williams). New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan-led defense, meantime, ranks 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (122.9) and 28th in yards per carry (4.7).  

3-In his first game back from a significant hamstring pull, wide receiver DeSean Jackson made very little impact against the Patriots, hauling in three passes (on six  targets) for 15 yards. Look for him to have a more productive day against a Saints’ pass defense that ranks 30th in yards allowed per game (292) and last in passing touchdowns allowed (24). “We do have high expectation for DeSean when he’s rolling,” Gruden said. “And we’ll get him rolling again. [Sunday] wasn’t his day; it wasn’t our day as an offense. But hopefully [against the Saints] we’ll see more balls flying his way and he can go get ‘em.”

4-There could be as many as three changes in the starting lineup. Center Brian de la Puente, signed on Tuesday, could replace Josh LeRibeus, who has struggled in run blocking and with shotgun snaps. It’s also possible, if not likely, at this point that Jeron Johnson will start at strong safety, replacing Trenton Robinson. Will Compton, meanwhile, could get the nod at inside linebacker, where Perry Riley’s performance has slipped and Keenan Robinson is nursing some nagging injuries. Compton posted a team-high 10 tackles against the Patriots.

5-Thursday marked the healthiest the Redskins have been in weeks. In fact, all 53 players on the roster participated in some capacity. Sure, that doesn’t make up for the key players lost to season ending injuries (Shawn Lauvao, Junior Galette, Duke Ihenacho, Adam Hayward and Niles Paul, to name a few) but it marks progress. “I had to re-read that a couple of times,” Gruden cracked after looking at the injury report. “It’s good to have a full group. You can practice a little longer, which is good. You’re not stressing out the guys who are healthy [because] they have to  take a lot of reps. It’s good to get some guys some rest but also get a lot of work in. That’s been a big benefit this week.”    

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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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.