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Redskins-Bucs: Will Cousins and Co. respond to 'code red' warning?

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Redskins-Bucs: Will Cousins and Co. respond to 'code red' warning?

When there are only 16 games on the schedule, each one is important. Still, some are bigger than others.

Sunday’s meeting between Redskins (2-4) and the Buccaneers (2-3) falls into that category, and Coach Jay Gruden acknowledged as much when he labeled it a “code red” situation for his team.

With a win, Kirk Cousins and his teammates will remain in the NFC East mix and, just as important, enter the bye week feeling good about the direction of the season. A loss, on the other hand, would mark the Redskins’ third in a row, fourth in five games and changes could be in the offing.

So, yeah, it’s not really overstating things to call this a ‘must win’ …even if it's only Week 7.  

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-The Redskins’ focus this week has been fixing a run defense that started the season hot before taking two huge steps back. Indeed, the unit limited opponents to 78 yards per game on the ground through the first four weeks. The last two weeks? Almost 200 yards per game. The key to turning it around, according to Gruden and defensive coordinator Joe Barry, is being gap sound, tackling better and avoiding chunk plays. Jets running back Chris Ivory had runs of 54 and 32 yards last week, while quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick scored on a 18 yarder up the middle. “We’ve let a couple [plays] get away from us and that can’t happen,” Barry said. Bucs running back Doug Martin, meantime, has rushed for 106 and 123 yards, respectively, in his past two games.

2-On the flipside, the Redskins’ ground attack has faded in recent weeks. In fact, it mustered only 51 yards and 34 yards, respectively, in losses to the Falcons and Jets, both times averaging about two yards per carry. Gruden blamed the downturn on a number of factors. “It’s a combination of things, and it just hasn’t been good enough,” Gruden said. “Our run blocking hasn’t been good enough. Our recognition of where the holes are, at times, hasn’t been good enough. We haven’t broken many tackles.” The good news is Matt Jones appears to be on track to play after missing last week’s game with a toe injury. The bad news is Alfred Morris, the No. 1 back, is averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per attempt (tied for 41st).  

3-Overall, the Redskins’ injury situation should be better than it was last week in the Meadowlands, where six starters were forced to sit out. Jones, as I just mentioned, is expected to return. So are left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed. A source confirmed to CSN Mid-Atlantic.com late Thursday that both players have cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol. The other three starters—wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and cornerbacks Chris Culliver (knee) and DeAngelo Hall (toe)—are not expected to play. The team will designate each injured player as probable, questionable, doubtful or out on Friday afternoon.  

4-One of the more confounding issues this season has been the Redskins’ struggles coming out of halftime. They’ve been outscored 46-3 in the third quarter and, if you include drives that started in the third quarter but ended in the fourth, the disparity jumps to a ridiculous 78-3 (h/t Rich Tandler). Gruden met with his coaches on Wednesday to discuss the issue. “We’ve had the lead five of six times [at halftime],” Gruden said. “The issue is there and it’s been talked about. When we get to halftime against Tampa Bay, hopefully it will be with a lead and we’ll make some positive adjustments and guys will come out ready to play.” One problem has been turnovers. In fact, five of the team’s 11 have been committed in the third quarter.

5-Gruden has said Cousins will remain the Redskins’ starter for several more weeks as the staff continues to evaluate his progress. Still, Cousins needs a strong performance following a pair of poor performances (including four interceptions) in the back-to-back losses to the Falcons and Jets. If you’re Cousins, the last thing you want to do is have a third straight stinker and give Gruden and his assistants a week off to contemplate making a change. Through six games, Cousins is 31st in passer rating—one spot behind Bucs rookie Jameis Winston and just ahead of Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. “I’d love to go out there and have a great game and go into the bye week feeling good about what we’re doing,” Cousins said. “But the Buccaneers are going to come in here, and they have a plan, too. So it’s going to be a great challenge. And it’s a great opportunity.” The Bucs’ Gerald McCoy-led defense is allowing 29.6 points per game. So, indeed, there will be opportunities to put up points.                 

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201