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State of the Redskins, Week 7—Defense remains on a roll

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State of the Redskins, Week 7—Defense remains on a roll

Here is where the Redskins stand in Week 7 of the NFL season.

Record: 4-2 2nd in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 2-1
vs. NFC: 2-1
vs. AFC: 2-1
Home: 2-2
Away: 2-0

Rankings and changes from Week 6

Offense (yards/game): 387.2 (5th, +6 from last week)
Defense (yards/game): 366.5 (21st, +6)
Points for: 142 (15th, +1)
Points against: 142 (18th, +1)
Passer rating offense:  90.3 (18th, no change)
Opp passer rating: 89.6 (14th, +4)
Yards/rush attempt: 4.8 (4th, +11)
Opp. yards/rush attempt:
 5.0 (32nd, no change)
Weighted DVOA (Football Outsiders): 8.5% (11th, +1)
Playoff chances per FO: 45.9%, +16.5% from last week

Trending the right way: After averaging 7.0 yards per rushing attempt against the Eagles the Redskins are now fourth in the NFL at 4.8 per attempt on the season. That’s over a full yard better than their 2015 average of 3.7 per carry.

Trending the wrong way: The rushing defense is not getting any better. The Redskins remain dead last in the NFL giving up 5.0 yards per carry to the other team.

Top three storylines:

Three headed monster—It’s too early to proclaim that the Redskins’ trio of running backs are something special but Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, and Robert Kelley are looking pretty good. Jones is on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards but he needs to watch out for Kelley taking too many of his carries. Meanwhile, Thompson is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and is on pace to rush for more than 300 yards.

Shutting them down—The Ravens scored a touchdown on their opening drive against the Redskins defense and they haven’t allowed one since. If you go back to the second half against the Browns that’s one touchdown in 10 quarters of play. The “fire Joe Barry” crowd has been very quiet lately.

Chink in the special teams armor—The Redskins’ special teams have been outstanding for the most part but they suffered a crucial breakdown in allowing a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown. Sure, the penalty on Vernon Davis put them at a disadvantage but they have to get off the blocks and make the tackle. One return alone isn’t an issue as long as they tighten things up from here on out.

Next three games

Sunday @ Lions (3-3)—The Redskins once went for 30 years, from 1968 through 1997, without losing to the Lions. Now the Lions have won three in a row against Washington. Detroit also has won its last two games. The last time the Redskins beat Detroit Jim Zorn was in his first year as the head coach. Nobody should expect a walkover for the visitors.

October 30 vs Bengals (2-3) in London—While the Bengals are still a quality team this game does not seem quite as daunting as it did when the matchup at Wembley Stadium was announced. The Cowboys steamrolled them on Sunday. Despite a pretty good arsenal of weapons Andy Dalton has just five touchdown passes in five games.

November 13 vs. Vikings (5-0)—How did the Vikings get to 5-0 without their starting quarterback and Hall of Fame running back? Let’s start with them being plus-11 in turnover margin. They have at least one takeaway every game and they have only turned it over once. Minnesota has more return touchdowns (4) than rushing TDs (3).

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to spend send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110 but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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!