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What to watch for: Redskins turn to short passing game instead of runs

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What to watch for: Redskins turn to short passing game instead of runs

The Redskins ran the ball 37 times against the Dolphins, the most they had run the ball during a competitive game during the Jay Gruden era (they did run 42 times during the blowout of the Jaguars in Week 2 last year). But only 11 of those rushing attempts came in the second half with the game within one score the entire time. That drew some fire from fans saying that Gruden abandoned the running game, which was working very well, with Alfred Morris rolling for 4.8 yards per run.

But CBS put up an interesting graphic during the fourth quarter charting Kirk Cousins’ 10 passing attempts starting with the four-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed just after the two-minute warning. Here it is:

Note the emphasis on the short passing game. If the defense is expecting you to run the ball, the normal way to counter this in a West Coast offense is to go to the short passing game. After Morris’ first carry of the second half went for minus-2 yards, Gruden tried the short passing game some. Short passes to fullback Darrel Young and wide receiver Jamison Crowder gained nothing and the Redskins punted.

The next possession it was short left to receiver Pierre Garçon for six and then Cousins hit Reed for the 25. An attempted screen to tight end Derek Carrier lost a yard, then a series of penalties pushed the Redskins out of field goal range.

The Redskins ran three times on their next possession, which was marred by penalties. The ensuing punt was the one that Jarvis Landry took to the house and the Redskins trailed the rest of the way.

They ran once in their first possession after the punt return and also tried a lateral to Andre Roberts, who misplayed the ball. That resulted in a fumble charged to Cousins that fortunately went out of bounds.

In their final series, the Redskins ran three of the nine plays with Morris gaining seven and 13 yards on the first two carries. But when he was caught for a loss of one on first down from the Miami 23 with three minutes left, the running game was pretty much out of the picture.

I have said that the Redskins probably should have run the ball more often in the second half. But note that some passes can have the same effect as runs and they are used as a change of pace. That’s what Gruden did here and it likely will be part of the game plan all year long.

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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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