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Where are we? The state of the Redskins going into the 2014 season

Where are we? The state of the Redskins going into the 2014 season

We’ll start this weekly look at where the Redskins stand by glancing at where they finished last year and a look ahead at what’s coming.

2013 Record: 3-13, fourth place in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 0-6
vs. NFC: 1-11
vs. AFC: 2-2
Home: 2-6
Away: 1-7

Rankings

Offense (yards/game): 9
Defense (yards/game): 18
Point differential: -144
Passer rating offense: 76.1 (23rd)
Opp passer rating: 96.1 (27th)
Yards/rush attempt: 4.8 (3rd)
Opp. yards/rush attempt:
 4.0 (13th)

2013 Offensive MVP: Pierre Garçon broke the team record for receptions in a season with 113. He was the one consistent target for Robert Griffin III, who would have been in a world of hurt without Garçon. Honorable mentions go to left tackle Trent Williams, who continues to evolve into one of the best in the game, and running back Alfred Morris, whose encore season highly productive if not as spectacular as his rookie year.

2013 Defensive MVP: For the first time since his rookie 2009 season Brian Orakpo hit the elusive double-digit sack total. He finished with 10 and got his first career interception and touchdown on the same play with a 29-yard return against the Bears. Honorable mention for DeAngelo Hall, who had two pick sixes and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Top three storylines:

The debut of Jay Gruden—After toiling in the Arena Football League and in the UFL, Gruden gets his shot at the big time at the age of 47. He is known for his creative offensive schemes and he seems to be a good fit for the job. But we won’t know for a while if he will be successful.

Griffin’s struggles—The Redskins’ quarterback seemed hesitant and indecisive at time in training camp and it carried over into the preseason games. He is learning a new offense in addition to adjusting to Gruden’s fiat that he has to become more of a pocket passer and less of a running quarterback. It’s a work in progress.

Attacking on defense—The team surprisingly decided to retain Jim Haslett as the defensive coordinator. The spin is that he will be able to do things his way without interference from former coach Mike Shanahan. The more aggressive scheme showed some fruit in the preseason as the team recorded 13 sacks. But that doesn’t mean anything now that the games count and we will have to see how it works out.

First three games

Sunday @ Texans (2-14)—Washington opens up against the only team that finished 2013 with a worse record. But Houston has plenty of top-notch players like wide receiver Andre Johnson, $100 million defensive end J. J. Watt, running back Arian Foster, and top draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.

Sept. 14 vs. Jaguars (4-12)—The Jags have improved to the point where they can’t be taken for granted (not that a team that went 3-13 should take anyone lightly). For some reason they will start Chad Henne at quarterback and leave top draft pick Blake Bortles, who looked very ready to play from what we saw of him in the preseason.

Sept. 21 @ Eagles (10-6)—The headline will be the return of DeSean Jackson. The most important dimension here, however, is the need for the Redskins to show that the can play with their division rivals after two mostly uncompetitive games against them last year.

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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 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!