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Redskins OTAs to-do list: Offensive line looks to improve run blocking

Redskins OTAs to-do list: Offensive line looks to improve run blocking

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Offensive line to-do list

Tandler: While the coaches love to talk about competition at every position there isn’t much here. Perhaps Arie Kouandjio will push Shawn Lauvao for the starting job at left guard but Lauvao is still a strong favorite to start Week 1.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty for Bill Callahan’s group to do over the next month. For one thing, they need to improve their run blocking. While over the course of the season they were adequate as the running backs gained an average of 4.5 yards per carry, ninth in the NFL, but they didn’t get it done down the stretch. They averaged under three yards per carry in three of the last six games. The Redskins went 0-3 in those games when a win in any of them would have gained them a playoff spot.

They are limited in what they can do because of the no-contact rules during OTAs and minicamp. But they can work on gelling as a unit. Callahan will undoubtedly have his group staying out late after practice is over (he even held an overtime session in rookie camp) and get them to refine their footwork, hand use, and other techniques they need to perform at peak efficiency when they put the pads on.

Finlay: Looking at data provided by Pro Football Focus, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses ranked as the top three run blockers on the Redskins in 2016. No surprises there: Williams and Scherff earned Pro Bowl honors last season and Moses found himself getting a five-year contract extension. Elsewhere on the line, the data doesn't look as good. Lauvao and Spencer Long both rated as a negative in the run game. Long is still learning his center spot, but Lauvao simply must be better.

One overlooked area that could help the Redskins run game: better blocking from the tight end position. Rookie Jeremy Sprinkle could immediately provide a boost. At 6-foot-5 and 252 lbs., Sprinkle will be the biggest tight end on the roster and he's coming from the University of Arkansas that focused very much on the run game. Sprinkle should come in for the Redskins jumbo package, when the team deploys three tight ends, and could spell Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis in other run situations. 

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Redskins leave Philadelphia with more injuries than they came in with, somehow

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Redskins leave Philadelphia with more injuries than they came in with, somehow

The Redskins went into Lincoln Financial Field somewhat banged up. They left in worse shape than they were when they arrived.

The most significant injury seemed to be to guard Brandon Scherff. Coach Jay Gruden said that he had an MCL injury and that he will get an MRI on Tuesday. He left the game late in the third quarter and did not return. Scherff rarely takes plays off and the feeling is that he could have a significant injury. He headed to the team bus to the airport with a brace on the knee.

OT Trent Williams came into the game with a patella injury in his knee and he aggravated it late in the game, missing the Redskins’ last couple of possessions. He did not practice all week to rest the injury. We will see as the week goes by if the injury will allow Williams to continue to play.

OT Morgan Moses sprained both ankles and he returned to the game after each injury. He undoubtedly will be very sore tomorrow and we will see how he recovers.

MORE: FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM A DISCOURAGING LOSS

The other reported injuries were more minor in nature, although they could cost the players some games. CB Fabian Moreau had a hamstring strain and he left the game. OLB Preston Smith, who has been one of the team’s best pass rushers this year, left the game with a groin strain. He attempted to return but he had to go back out. CB Josh Holsey had a chest contusion and he returned after going to the locker room to be examined.

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.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' discouraging 34-24 loss vs. the Eagles

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' discouraging 34-24 loss vs. the Eagles

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 34-24 loss to the Eagles:

The Redskins have to keep the hammer down—They scored the first time they had the ball and then they had a few empty possessions. Washington took a 10-3 lead but the Redskins then got into the cycle of short, ineffective offensive possessions getting their defense back on the field too soon. The way Carson Wentz is playing, if you give him enough chances you will pay for it.

They won’t win if they don’t run—The running backs carries 14 times. Sure, the game got away in the second half, reducing their opportunities, but the rushing game was an issue throughout. In the first half they had a pair of third and ones and a third and two and they passed all three times. All three were incomplete, which led to the issues in the first item here. If the Redskins have a balanced offense they have a shot at beating almost anyone. If they don’t run the ball enough the odds are against them.

MORE: REDSKINS OFFENSIVE, DEFENSIVE MVP FOR PHILLY GAME

Redskins fans have the Cleveland Browns to thank for 10 years of Wentz—The Browns played Moneyball and traded the rights to draft Wentz to the Eagles. Like just about everything the Browns do, it didn’t work out. Now the Redskins, Giants, and Cowboys will pay for the Browns’ mistake for years to come. That run out of the pack of rushing linemen was both amazing and critical. It turned a punt back to the Redskins, who were down by seven, into a first down and an eventual touchdown.

The defense needs to get itself off the field—It’s easy to blame the offense for the problems with possessing the ball. But the defense could do its part, too, by getting itself off the field. At times, it feels like the Redskins’ defense is better than it has been in years but they gave up touchdown drives of 81, 80, 80, and 75 yards. At some point you have to show you’re better and get a takeaway or just make a stop to get off the field. Until then, the group has not improved in a meaningful way. I should note that the injuries have something to do with it, for sure. Dunbar did not play poorly but they pay Josh Norman $15 million per year for a reason.

There is a lot of season left to be played—The Redskins are 3-3 and two games away from the midway point to the season. They would have to rely on an Eagles’ collapse to win the NFC East but it’s entirely possible that they could. All but one other second-place team has three losses and the Redskins get their shot at the Seahawks in a couple of weeks. Fans have every right to feel frustrated after this loss but it’s not the end of the line. There still is plenty for this team to play for. Some of the injured players aren’t coming back but if they can round into reasonably good health in the next few weeks they still have a lot that they can accomplish.

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.