Quick Links

Scherff and Co. will get a second stiff test Sunday vs. the Rams


Scherff and Co. will get a second stiff test Sunday vs. the Rams

A week after dropping the season opener to Miami, the Redskins continue their home stand on Sunday when they host Nick Foles and the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are coming off an overtime win against the Seahawks and are attempting to improve to 2-0 for the first time since the Greatest Show on Turf era in 2001, while Kirk Cousins and Co. will be seeking retribution for their embarrassing 24-0 loss to St. Louis last December.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast by Fox. On CSN, Redskins Kickoff begins at noon and Redskins Postgame Live starts at 4.

Here are Tarik’s five keys to the game:  

1-It was far from spectacular, but Cousins’ performance in last week’s 17-10 loss was one to build on. The Redskins jumped out to a 10-0 lead, dominated time of possession (38 minutes to 22), converted 42-percent of their third downs and, most importantly, were in contention late. But…there was one troubling trend that certainly bears watching: Cousins’ penchant for turnovers. The first interception was a poor decision that could have resulted in a pick-six. Interception No. 2 marked the seventh game (out of 15) in which he’s thrown two or more interceptions. It got him benched by Jay Gruden last year. And it will get him benched again this year.

2-Last week, the Redskins offensive line stared down Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. And the Dolphins blinked.  This week, Brandon Scherff and his teammates have an even more formidable challenge in Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. In fact, the Rams notched six sacks last week vs. the Seahawks. Donald, who was this week’s NFC Defensive Player of the Week, had two of them. Scherff said he expects to match up with Donald. Dating to last season, Donald has sacks in seven of his last eight games. Quinn, who also had two sacks last week, has notched double-digits in sacks each of the past three seasons. Quinn figures to match up with three-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams

3-The Redskins’ secondary, which is currently reeling from injury and suspension, will face a solid Rams’ passing attack that’s led by Foles (18 of 27 passing for 297 yards and a touchdown vs. the Seahawks). Two of the unit’s starters—cornerback Chris Culliver and safety Duke Ihenacho—are out. Culliver is serving a one-game suspension, while Ihenacho has landed on injury reserve with a broken wrist. Reserve corner Justin Rogers (plantar fasciitis) has not practiced yet this week and, as a result, is iffy. Culliver will be replaced by Bashaud Breeland, who is returning from a suspension of his own. Ihenacho will be replaced by special teams ace Trenton Robinson, who will be making his second career start. And Rogers, if he’s out, will be replaced by Will Blackmon, who was signed Tuesday. So, yeah, there are some concerns back there.     

4-Special teams. Well, they continue to be a problem for the Redskins. Last week, kicker Kai Forbath pushed a field goal attempt wide and ended up getting released. The Dolphins also returned a punt for a touchdown. Jarvis Landry’s 69-yard score marked the 10th special teams touchdown yielded by the Redskins since 2010 (which coincidentally is the last season the Redskins returned a punt or kick for a score.) And it doesn’t get any easier this week, not with Tavon Austin returning punts for the Rams. The reigning NFC Special Teams player of the week took one back 75 yards for a score last week. Austin has now returned a punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons. One more thing to keep an eye on: new Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins will be making his NFL debut.    

5-Injuries. The Redskins entered last week’s game relatively healthy. That is no longer the case. Star wide receiver DeSean Jackson is out with a hamstring injury. Ihenacho, as I mentioned earlier, is done for the season. Also among the injury concerns: tight end Jordan Reed (quad), rookie inside linebacker Martrell Spaight (concussion), nose tackle Terrance Knighton (rib), reserve offensive tackle Tom Compton (calf). Reed, Knighton and Compton were all limited in Thursday’s practice, while Spaight was held out. I’m expecting Reed and Knighton to suit up Sunday, but we should know their status for sure by Friday afternoon or Saturday.

Quick Links

Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

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.