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Strong finishes not part of Redskins' recent history

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Strong finishes not part of Redskins' recent history

The Redskins finished the first half of their season with a 3-5 record and in last place in the NFC East. One of the primary reasons they have a losing record is that their defense has allowed 227 points, tied for the second-worst performance in the NFL.

Naturally, the Redskins hope to improve substantially in both areas for the second half of the season. If they want to make a run at a playoff spot they will have to go 6-2 and hope that other teams falter enough so that 9-7 will get them in on tiebreakers. And if they are going to do that, it would help to cut back the points scored against them to something closer to the NFL average, which is about 185.

If they accomplish either one of those goals, however, they would be bucking some pretty strong historical trends.

Let’s look at the record first. The Redskins have finished each of the last four years with identical records of 2-6. That spans the two years of Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan’s two seasons.

You have to go back to 2005, the second season of Joe Gibbs II, to find a Redskins team that had a winning record in the last eight games of the year. That team went 5-3 in the second half of the season, matching the record they had in the first half. That 10-6 record got them a wild card playoff berth.

The Redskins have not followed up a losing record in the first half of the season with a winning record in the second half since 2001. That year Marty Schottenheimer’s team went from 3-5 in the first half (after an 0-3 start) to 5-3 in the second.

The last time they went 6-2 in the last half of the season was in 1989.

As far as points given up, the Redskins’ opponents have scored more points against them in the second half of the season than they did in the first in each of the last five years. The last time they improved was in was in 2007 when they went from giving up 160 points in the first half to 150 in the second.

The last time the Redskins made a substantial improvement in points allowed, one on the order of what they would like to accomplish this year, was in the 2001 season. They gave up 193 points in the first half of the year and 110 in the second.

This isn’t to say that the Redskins have no hope of improving this year. It doesn’t mean that they are doomed to going 2-6 again and to giving up over 200 points. After all, only a handful of players who were part of the 2-6 collapse in 2008 are still on the roster. And with RG3 behind center, they have an asset they have not had in decades.

But losing in November and December seems to be ingrained in the team’s culture and unless can buck the trend they are headed for more disappointment.  

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Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.

You can listen to Gruden’s full comments on Scherff in the video above.

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially one like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

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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Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

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Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 20, three days before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences, open locker room, after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 9
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 16
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 34

Injuries of note:
Not practicing
: OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Ty Nsekhe (core muscle)
Limited: CB Josh Norman (rib), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle), OLB Ryan Anderson (back), S Stefan McClure (knee). OL Tyler Catalina (concussion protocol).
It was encouraging that Breeland and Norman practiced although Jay Gruden noted that they both took place only in individual drills. See the full injury report here.  

First look at Redskins vs Eagles

Number that pops out—LeGarrette Blount, who had a career average of 4.4 yards per carry coming into the year, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, fourth in the NFL. Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be a lumbering power back. The key to stopping him is the same as it always has been, getting the north-south runner to go east-west. The Redskins did a solid job against him in Week 1, limiting him to a 3.3-yard average on his 14 carries.

The clutch gene?—Carson Wentz is the MVP favorite right now and the thing is that his stats are very good but not very impressive. He ranks 10th in net yards per attempt, 25th in completion percentage, eighth in yards per game, and seventh in passer rating. But he gets it done when it counts. Seven of his 16 touchdown passes have come on third down. His passer rating of 130 on third down is 10 points better than the second-best in that category, a guy named Tom Brady. As a result, the Eagles get first downs on 53 percent of their third-down passes, also best in the league.

Third down passing the key—The Redskins allow conversions on 35.7 percent of third-down passes, 16th in the NFL. If this game ends up with third downs near the Redskins’ season performance they will be in good shape. If the Eagles convert half of their third downs or more, the visitors will be in trouble.

Protecting Kirk Cousins—The Eagles have 14 sacks on the year. They got four against the Redskins in the season opener so they have 10 in their five games since. Their leading sacker is Brandon Graham, who has four on the season. Two of those came in the opener so he has two in the other five games. He will again be lined up against Morgan Moses, who had one of his worst games since becoming a starter against Philly. If Moses plays as well as he has since Week 1 Cousins could have time to have one of his usual big games against the Eagles.

Yes, Ertz is a pain— This is kind of hard to believe but Zach Ertz, who has been in the league since 2013, is third all-time in tight end receptions against the Redskins with 54. He’s behind only Jason Witten and Jackie Smith and ahead of Jeremy Shockey, Mark Bavaro, and Jay Novaeck. Ertz has played nine games against Washington; Witten has played 28 and Smith played 27. So if it seems like Ertz is always a thorn in the Redskins’ side, it’s because he is.

Potpourri: Wentz is the Eagles’ second-leading rusher with 133 yards on 32 carries . . . The Eagles have the third-best special teams DVOA in the league. On punt returns, they are averaging 16 yards per and giving up an average of 5.6 yards. That’s a lot of hidden field position.

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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From the locker room

Josh Norman talking about how it felt when he put some stress on his broken rib during practice on Thursday.

Posted by Rich Tandler on Thursday, October 19, 2017

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