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Redskins seek to turn around turnover differential

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Redskins seek to turn around turnover differential

Through the season’s first three games, the Redskins rank second in yards allowed, third in rushing yards permitted and sit eighth in points yielded.

But there’s one key statistic on defense where Head Coach Jay Gruden says he needs to see significant improvement: takeaway total.

The Redskins’ defense has recovered one fumble and is one of only three teams yet to intercept a pass. Washington and Jacksonville are the only teams with just one takeaway.

When combined with six giveaways on offense (four interceptions and two fumbles lost), the Redskins own a minus-5 differential. Only the Colts, at minus-7, have a worse differential.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Gruden said, asked why the defense has struggled to force takeaways. “We’re not getting enough pressure when the quarterback is throwing the ball. If we’re not going to get pressure, we have to get some hands in the throwing lanes [and] tip some balls.”

The Redskins are tied for 21st in sacks with four and are tied for 29th in passes defended with seven.

“We’re stopping the run fairly well,” Gruden added. “They’re doing a lot of good things, but we’ve just got to figure out ways to get the ball out, get them into some third-and-longs and then bring the pressure. Have our four-man rushes get [to the quarterback] a little more consistently. [Ryan] Kerrigan, [Trent] Murphy, Preston Smith, [Jason] Hatcher—those guys—we have to do a bit better job with the pass rush. But we’ve got to give them a chance to rush, also.”

Kerrigan agreed with his coach's assessment. 

“We got to try to force more turnovers,” he said. “We kind of have to force the issue a little bit more and not sit back and say, ‘Let’s play it safe here.’ We’ve only [forced] one turnover in three games. I think we’re a minus-5 overall in the turnover battle, and that’s not going to get it done.”

Kerrigan, the team leader in sacks and forced fumbles a year ago, has half a sack and one forced fumble so far. 

“Personally, you have to win your one-on-one matchups more,” he said. “If I win my one-on-one matchups with the O-linemen more, and get to the quarterback quicker, then I have a chance to get the ball out of the quarterback. Then the ball is bouncing on the ground; it can be our ball. Who knows what will happen? And those 50-50 balls, balls that get deflected at the line of scrimmage, [we need] to start coming down with some of those. We just have to make it happen.”   

“I’ve been close a number of times,” Kerrigan added, referring to sacks, “but close doesn’t cut it.” 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins rookie Crowder gets his feet wet

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Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 24, two days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Smith will need support for the Redskins to be successful early

There are high expectations for new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. He needs to replace Kirk Cousins, who was one of the league’s most productive passers over the past three years. Smith, of course, has been a solid performer himself. Since 2015, the first year that both were starters, Cousins has passed for more yards but primarily because he attempted 225 more passes. Their adjusted yards per attempt and passer ratings over that time are nearly identical. 

Smith will be expected to be at peak production right out of the box. With 151 starts in 12 NFL seasons, he knows what is expected of him as the leader of the offense. 

However, he may have another issue, one we’ve seen from him before. He was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs following the 2012 season. Smith got off to a rocky start in Andy Reid’s offense. In the first seven games, Smith threw seven touchdowns and four interceptions, posting 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt and a passer rating of 79.2. 

After that, he got rolling. In the final nine games, he threw 16 TD’s and three interceptions and improved his adjusted yard per attempt to 7.5 and his passer rating to 98.7.

Will it take him that long to pick up the Redskins offense? 

It needs to be noted that the Chiefs went 7-0 during the Smith’s bad start. They were able to support him with a running game that went over 100 yards every week (121 per game average) and a defense that didn’t allow over 17 points in any game and let up single-digit point totals in three of them. 

Looking at the history of the last three years, the Redskins would have more trouble winning if their quarterback was struggling as much as Smith was in his early Chiefs days. In fact, during Cousins’ three years as the starter, the Redskins went 2-17 in games where he posted a passer rating of 90 or lower. 

In his five seasons with the Chiefs, the team went 17-17 when Smith posted a passer rating of lower than 90. While that may say something about the relative abilities of the two quarterbacks to scuffle to a win when things aren’t going as well as planned, it says much more about the teams surrounding Smith and Cousins. 

Unless the Redskins’ defense and running game improve significantly—and that’s certainly possible—they won’t be able to prosper in wins column if Smith needs an extended adjustment period to get comfortable in Jay Gruden’s offense. 

He has a chance of doing so, based on the 2017 performances of the pass defenses he and the Redskins face in the first half of the season. In terms of pass defense DVOA, the Redskins face only one that ranked in the top 10, the No. 5 Saints. Also above average were the Panthers (10th) and the Cardinals (11th). Five of the opponents were in the lower half including the Cowboys (18th), Falcons (19th), Giants (20th), Packers (26th), and Colts (32nd). 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Sent out as the Caps were holding on to a fourth-quarter lead over Columbus.

Timeline  

Today’s schedule: Pre-draft press conference with Doug Williams at Redskins Park, noon.

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 17
—OTAs start (5/22) 28
—Training camp starts (7/26) 93

The Redskins last played a game 114 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 138 days. 

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O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

We are nearing the start of the NFL Draft, less than three days to be exact, and right now there are a ton of names circling around whom the Washington Redskins should take at No. 13.

You’ve probably read countless mock drafts at this point (if you haven’t or need another here is ours), and there’s one thing that is consistent: nothing.

So let's concern ourselves less of ‘who’ and exactly what each player will bring to the Redskins.

There are very few evaluators of talent better than the NFL Network’s Charles Davis, so he got to talk with J.P. Finlay and Mitch Tischler on the latest edition of the Redskins Talk podcast.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST WITH CHARLES DAVIS HERE

He broke down EVERYONE that Washington could be taking at No. 13 overall. If you don’t have time to listen (which we highly recommend that you do), here are some of the highlights:

“This could be a wild first night,” said Davis. “All of these different trade scenarios are out there right? My experience has been that most of that calms down as we get closer. There’s a lot of discussion and chatter about it, but we don’t usually have it.”

REDSKINS NEEDS:

“At 13, when you’re really down to it, Mitch I think you had said to me even before we began ‘O-line, D-line man, let’s talk O-line, D-line,’ and I think that is the perfect place for this Washington team.”

VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON

“If Vita Vea from Washington somehow is sitting there at 13, and the idea that you could go up there and put him a line and get Jonathan Allen back from last year, I think that’d be a great place to go. This is a top-10, top-5 talent in this draft that possibly could still be around at 13.”

“When we’re talking about the people that are in our business, the talking heads that people kind of go to and kind of get held accountable for their mock drafts… you don’t really see Vea in any consistency in the top ten.”

“Eleven is kind of the breakpoint for him.”

MAURICE HURST, DT, MICHIGAN

“I like him. I don’t know that I like him quite that high.”

DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA

“I like Payne, better than Hurst, but again I don’t know about quite that high.”

“The medical, you can’t help it when you’re talking about a heart. You can’t help but be a little bit concerned. Now he has gotten clearance, that has come through, but we all know that each team is going to do it’s own research and got to decide how comfortable they are with that.”

QUENTON NELSON, OL, NOTRE DAME

“I doubt he is falling to 13, because if somehow he falls to eight to the Bears and if the Bears don’t run up to the podium and plug him in, I’d be stunned.”

ORLANDO BROWN JR., OT, OKLAHOMA

“Normally when you have a combine and you have some things that you have some questions marks on, normally you have some balancers. Orlando Brown had zero balancers. Everything was historically bad.”

WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP

“Now Will Hernandez has had about as good a postseason as an offensive lineman can have.”

“This kid Hernandez has become a massive road grater, quicker than you would think, better pass protector and he did all of this on an 0-12 team last year. So he is another guy to keep an eye on, especially if as you said they are able to move back.”

DERRIUS GUICE, RB, LSU

“I’d be surprised at 13.”

“Get back to 19 and then I think Guice is in play at 19. If that indeed is the runner that they like. I think the running back renaissance is real.”

JOHN KELLY, RB, TENNESSEE

“I think this John Kelly kid from Tennessee is a really good runner. He had a little trouble off-field last year, missed a game because of all that, but this kid runs hard, plays hard, he’s not Alvin Kamara… but this kid is more of a pure running back than Kamara is, he’s just not a bulky guy.”

TRADING BACK

“They’re in a tough spot because of the number. We’ve got all of this stuff now.”

“That’s a tough one, because if I’m Dallas and I want to come up and get my guy [Calvin Ridley], I don’t need to come up as high as 13 anyway, if you really think about it.”

BILLY PRICE, OL, Ohio State

“He’s a really good player. The kid played guard, he played center. Price is a really good technician. 44 a possibility? Possibility. Before the injury he was going late-first, early second.”

This is only scratching the surface of what the expert talked about. Get the full experience and listen to the full podcast.

MORE DRAFT COVERAGE:

- SEVEN ROUND REDSKINS MOCK DRAFT

- ODDS ON FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS