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Before we forget, one strange turn in Redskins preseason opener

Before we forget, one strange turn in Redskins preseason opener

Looking back at the second half of the 2016 season, the Redskins running back depth chart became quite clear: Rob Kelley started, Chris Thompson served as third down back, and Mack Brown claimed the RB3 role. 

With the addition of Samaje Perine in the 2017 draft, some questions emerged about that depth chart. One of the biggest questions was what would happen to 2015 third round pick Matt Jones. 

It's a well told story by now, Jones started the 2016 season as the unquestioned starter. A series of fumbles and reluctance to play special teams landed him on the bench, and inactive for the second half of the year. 

With that backstory surrounding the running back position, watching what backs got carries, and when they got them, had extra meaning in the preseason opener against the Ravens.

The entire Redskins run game looked bad. The stats back that up, as the team ran 18 times for 39 yards, and average of just 2.2 yards-per-carry. Kelley started, unsurprisingly, but then things got interesting. Perine came in next, followed by Thompson.

All three have spots on the 53-man roster, but Perine had an up and down day to be kind. He dropped a pass and fumbled a handoff, while at times looking lost in pass protection. In truth, he looked like a fourth round rookie taking his first ever snaps in the NFL. Perine's final stat line: 6 carries for 15 yards. Not one to remember, but also not one to worry about. 

After Perine and Thompson came Jones, not Brown. Jones looked the least effective of all the Washington backs, running 3 times for -1 yards. 

Eventually, in the fourth quarter, Brown got in. He had 4 rushes for 13 yards, including a 9-yard gain that looked close to a big run. 

After the game, speaking with reporters, Redskins coach Jay Gruden explained that running backs coach Randy Jordan makes the decision on what runners get what work and when in the preseason. A few Redskins players expressed confusion that Brown did not enter the game until after Jones.

One thing to consider: It seems highly unlikely Jones will begin the regular season on the Redskins roster. He has asked to be released or traded, but with new NFL rules that call for just one series of roster cuts after the fourth and final preseason game, Washington is in no hurry to placate the deposed starter.

If the team played Jones earlier in a way to showcase him for other teams possibly interested in acquiring his services, the big back did himself no favors. It's also worth pointing out that if fans and media can read the writing on the wall that Jones will get his release, other NFL teams probably know that too. Why make a trade when Jones might hit the street in a few weeks?

The Redskins are likely to carry four running backs on the roster, with one inactive on game day. Despite the order of playing time in Baltimore, those four project to be Kelley, Thompson, Perine and Brown. 

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 23, six days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles, 8:30 pm, ESPN

Days until:

—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 13
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 31

Final report on injures of note:
Out
: CB Josh Norman (rib),
Questionable: OT Trent Williams (knee)CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle),
See the full injury report and analysis here

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The first time these teams met, both scored defensive touchdowns. Ryan Kerrigan got the first Redskins points on the board with a pick six of Carson Wentz in the second quarter. With a minute and a half left, Fletcher Cox wrapped up the game for his team with a 20-yard return of a very controversial fumble. The difference tonight could well be a defensive or special teams score.

—In that game, the Redskins never let the Eagles get any sort of running game going. The Eagles rushed for 54 yards, the second-lowest total for a Washington opponent this year. And they had 24 attempts (2.4 yards per) so it wasn’t as though they didn’t try. The Redskins could use another strong effort against the run this time as well.

—I examined third downs in the first look at this game a few days ago. Since then, this was bought to my attention.

Third downs could be a fatal flaw for the Redskins. The Eagles’ ability to convert third and long situations was a key to them being able to survive without much of a running game in the opener. The Redskins need to hold the Eagles to 40 percent or less on all third downs and to 25 percent or less on third and long. And they will have to do it without Josh Norman, their best defensive back.

—In the first meeting, the matchup of the Redskins’ offensive line and the Eagles’ defensive front went decidedly in Philly’s direction. Washington rushed for just 64 yards and Kirk Cousins was sacked four times. There were plenty of concerns about the line, especially RT Morgan Moses, who gave up two sacks, and RG Brandon Scherff, who gave up four total pressures. Those two and the unit as a whole have been better since that game. The Redskins’ front will need to win that battle this time around.

Prediction: A Week 7 game is not really a must-win when you have a winning record. There is a lot of season left to be played. But if the Redskins are going to take the next step and stay in the thick of things for the ideal playoff seeding, they need to take this one. This year in the NFL, just when everyone thinks they have things figured out something happens to flip the script. Everyone now figures that the Eagles are the best team in the NFC and perhaps the best in the NFL. They are ripe for an upset.

Redskins 24, Eagles 20

Season prediction record: 2-3

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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Trent Williams needs knee surgery eventually, but the timeline has many factors

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Trent Williams needs knee surgery eventually, but the timeline has many factors

PHILADELPHIA — Arguably the Redskins best player, all of the NFL knows that Trent Williams can still play at a high level while dealing with injury. 

How long Williams can play though injury seems the more important question though as reports emerged the left tackle will need knee surgery at some point. That could come in the next few weeks, or as Redskins fans hope, perhaps at the end of the season.

Currently playing with a torn medial patella-femoral ligament in his right knee, the six-time Pro Bowler has not practiced since sustaining the injury three weeks ago in Kansas City. He was able to gut out a strong performance last week against the 49ers, and is expected to do the same Monday night against the Eagles.

One factor that might be pushing Williams to play with such a damaged right leg is that backup tackle Ty Nsekhe is also out after having surgery on his core muscles. 

MORE: REDSKINS WEEKLY MVPS FOR EVERY GAME THUS FAR

Nsekhe is expected back relatively soon, but the timeline remains murky. When he can come back, perhaps Williams will reconsider his options. 

Surgery for the torn MPFL will leave Williams with a five or six-month recovery. 

It's obvious the Redskins' offense is best with Williams on the field. Nsekhe, however, proved a capable backup last season when Williams served a four-game suspension. 

Without Nsekhe, the Redskins would go to veteran T.J. Clemmings should Williams be unable to play. Nsekhe has not played since a Week 3 win over Oakland. The Redskins added Clemmings to the roster in early September, after their fourth preseason game. He spent the last two seasons with the Vikings. 

For now, the Redskins will continue to hope Williams can play through the pain.

"Trent is a tough guy, so we will see how it works, see how feels tomorrow and go from there," Jay Gruden said of Williams on Saturday. 

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