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Five observations from the Redskins victory over Carolina

Five observations from the Redskins victory over Carolina

Here are my five key observations from the Redskins 23-17 win over the Panthers.

1. Good start

For the second straight home game the Redskins scored a touchdown on their fourth play from scrimmage. Against the Packers it was a conventional four-play drive. Today it was three and out, recovery of a fumbled punt, and 22-yard TD pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. The Redskins stretched the lead out to 17-0 midway through the second quarter before the Panthers got on the board. After doing nothing in New Orleans, it was the solid start the Redskins badly needed.

2. Alex Smith still sputters

While the Redskins started off well, Smith was erratic through the first half. He was good on 10 of 18 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Smith certainly had his good moments, hitting receivers for some key first downs during the Redskins first-half scoring drives. He also had some passes that were way off the mark, even when he apparently had time to throw. Late in the first half the Redskins got good field position after a punt from deep in Panthers territory. But after an intentional grounding flag the Redskins were moved out of field goal range.

Smith continued to flounder in the second half. After the Redskins moved into Carolina territory with their first possession of the third quarter, he threw third-and fourth-down passes late and inaccurate. He did hit a few passes in the drive that sealed the game for Washington but overall his day was spotty.

3. Inconsistent Offense

The offense took quick advantage of breaks, scoring in one play after recovering fumbled punt. 

They got a 64-yard drive with a variety of runs and passes on third possession, capped with a two-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson. Then, things stalled. Well, they didn’t fall apart down entirely. They could start drives but they had trouble finishing. Several drives stalled in Panthers territory, forcing them go punt, go for it on fourth or, early in the fourth quarter, a 56-yard field goal.

The one constant was running back Adrian Peterson. He rolled for 97 yards on 17 carries, consistently gashing the Panthers defense for solid gains. While Smith was cold, he kept the offense afloat.

4. Defense gets the takeaways

The defense contributed two takeaways in the second quarter and Josh Norman had a hand in both of them. He picked off his first pass in 19 games and later he forced a fumble. The second turnover led to a field goal to put the Redskins up 17-0.

After that, however, they let Cam Newton get rolling and the Panthers got a touchdown and a field goal to make it a one-score game at 17-9 entering the fourth quarter. After a Redskins field goal, they let Newton and the Panthers march right down the field for a touchdown and two-point conversion to pull Carolina within a field goal.

The defense needed one more stop to clinch the game after a field goal made it 23-17. The Panthers easily drove into the red zone. On fourth down and five from the 16 with 38 seconds left, Newton’s pass fell incomplete and everyone was able to breathe.

5. The pattern continues

You know it’s your day when you get three takeaways and your kicker bombs one from 56 yards out after the other team has made it a one-score game. It seemed like a back-and-forth game, but the Redskins held the lead from the get-go. The Redskins continued their up-and-down pattern, winning after a bad loss for the second time this season. They can’t continue this pattern if they are going to contend for the playoffs. But they could only win one game today and they got it done.

They will have another chance to build an actual winning streak next week against the Cowboys.

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How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

There's a solid formula to land on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and a rookie quarterback can play a big role. Last year, HBO picked the Cleveland Browns, and much of that was to showcase No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Three years ago, HBO did the same thing with the Rams and Jared Goff. 

This year, the No. 1 overall pick landed on a team that can't be shown on Hard Knocks, as Kyler Murray will play for new coach Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. Teams with coaching changes are ineligible for the show, as are teams that made the playoffs the previous season. 

Well, the Redskins didn't make the playoffs last year and didn't make a coaching change. What other QBs were taken in the first round?

The New York Giants took Daniel Jones with the sixth pick, and the Redskins took Dwayne Haskins at 15. 

Hmmm.

For years, the idea of the Redskins on Hard Knocks seemed far fetched. Team president Bruce Allen is not particularly fond of the media or inside access for television cameras. Allen comes by that honestly, his father Hall of Fame coach George Allen liked to practice in complete secrecy. Like father, like son. And as much as HBO and the NFL can force a team to do Hard Knocks, if the team doesn't want to be a part of it, the access can be very limited. 

So, has that changed? Maybe. 

Oddsmakers have established the Redskins as the betting favorite to land on the show, with the Oakland Raiders and the Giants just behind them. Both the 'Skins and Giants have rookie QBs, but the reception around each rookie has been quite different. While generally, Washington fans are very excited about Haskins, the New York crowd seems non-pleased with Jones. 

The NFL rarely does things that upset the Giants, and in an offseason of turmoil for Big Blue, it's hard to see the team wanting the increased scrutiny of the documentary show. Between trading Odell Beckham, drafting Jones at six, and a series of odd quotes about Eli Manning's future, New York GM Dave Gettleman has become a national punch line. It seems highly unlikely Giants ownership wants their GM on national television, especially in an unguarded format like Hard Knocks, and usually, when Giants ownership wants something, they get their way. How many cold weather cities have hosted an outdoor Super Bowl again?

There's also the Raiders. 

Jon Gruden would be a star because he already is a star. The team traded for Antonio Brown, who is also a star. The Raiders would make great television.

But wouldn't they rather go on Hard Knocks next season when the team moves to Las Vegas? How glitzy is that? There won't be a coaching change — Gruden is armed with a 10-year contract — and the team should be better as their three first-round draft picks will have a year of experience. The Raiders on Hard Knocks in 2020 seems like a slam dunk. 

The Lions and 49ers are also options, but less appealing. Detroit is a perennial also-ran, and San Francisco lacks sizzle. 

So back to the Redskins. 

The team would be appealing for HBO. Washington has a huge fan base across the country, and the television network is already familiar with the team's Richmond training camp setup. In 2015, HBO chronicled the Houston Texans' training camp, and that included a trip to Richmond for joint practices. Everybody remembers that trip. 

But if the Redskins didn't want Hard Knocks before, why is this time different? Oddsmakers think things have changed, and digging in, maybe they're right.

By all accounts, the 'Skins had an excellent 2019 NFL Draft. They added their quarterback of the future in Haskins, and aggressively traded back into the first round to grab Montez Sweat, a potential beast of a pass rusher. The team also signed Landon Collins this offseason to an $84 million contract, and have pieces in place for a Top 10 defense. Offensively, Adrian Peterson is going into the Hall of Fame and second-year RB Derrius Guice should return from a knee injury to push for carries. 

Maybe, just maybe, the Redskins are willing to let HBO inside their walls because they want to brag a little bit. 

In the weeks after the draft, Allen did appearances on ESPN's First Take along with a host of national radio interviews. Stephen A. Smith interviewing Bruce Allen was wildly unexpected, and it corresponds to a noticeable increase in accessibility with the Redskins front office boss. Allen has conducted more media availabilities this offseason than he had in the previous two years combined. 

For all the talk of dysfunction that gets thrown around at Redskins Park, the reality is quite different. At least on the football side. The team did fire a number of high ranking business executives late last year after employing them for less than a season. That was an ugly scene.

On the field, however, things have been fairly steady for years. The team is aggressively mediocre in the Jay Gruden era, which is more stable than the franchise has been for the last 25 years. And Gruden would be hysterical on Hard Knocks, along with Rob Ryan and Jim Tomsula. 

Maybe going on Hard Knocks will change the perception around the team that owner Dan Snyder calls all the shots. Maybe going on Hard Knocks will get fans excited for the Haskins era, and get those fans to buy tickets. FedEx Field was noticeably empty last year. Maybe none of it happens too. 

Despite being the betting favorite, it is far from certain the Redskins land on Hard Knocks later this summer. But there are reasons to believe maybe this could be the year. 

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Redskins Depth Chart 2019: Position-by-position preview

Redskins Depth Chart 2019: Position-by-position preview

Coming off a 7-9 season and a disastrous situation at the quarterback position, the Washington Redskins look to move forward and improve next season.

After the Redskins made a splash in the draft by drafting hometown talent Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State and star end Montez Sweat out of Mississippi State, the team looks like they are on their way to do great things next season.

Here's is the outlook of each position coming into the 2019 season for the Redskins.

Defensive Line

Out of all the positions on the 53 man roster for the Redskins, the defensive line looks to be the best part of the team.

Led by Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis, the trio combined for 21.5 sacks and they are all under 25.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

Edge Rushers

Even with the team having Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson and Montrez Sweat, this position could give the Redskins some trouble coming into the 2019 season.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS EDGE RUSHERS DEPTH CHART

Linebacker

Reuben Foster can keep his act together and play well with former teammate Shaun-Dion Hamilton, the linebacking position should be in great shape for Washington this coming season.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS LINEBACKER DEPTH CHART

Cornerback

The question is do you pay Josh Norman the $15 million he's owed or do you use it on other resources.

The problem with that is there is not much on the depth chart after Norman so the Redskins are better off cutting the check to Norman.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS CORNERBACK DEPTH CHART

Safety

The Redskins made a splash in the off-season in this position when they signed Landon Collins from the Giants to a $45 million contract. The Redskins are hoping that Collins can duplicate his 2016 performance in New York when he made the NFL's All-Pro Team.

The only question at this position can Collins match well and play with the third-year pro, Montae Nicholson.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS SAFETY DEPTH CHART

Quarterback

The main questions about this are can 1) Can Case Keenum return back to that season he had in Minnesota where he led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game and 2) How will Dwayne Haskins perform during practices and the preseason.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS QUARTERBACK DEPTH CHART

Offensive Line

The offensive line is not bad but it is not great. Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff are some of the games' best at protection and clearing space. Beyond that, however, the team needs work in the other three positions on the line.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS OFFENSIVE DEPTH CHART

Running Back

The Redskins running back position seems to be in good hands with Adrian Peterson. The 34-year-old showed last season that he still has something left in the tank as he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and more than four yards-per-carry in 16 games played. Behind Peterson, the Redskins have Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love, and Samaje Perine. 

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS RUNNING BACK DEPTH CHART

Wide Receiver

A big question mark falls here for this position for the Redskins in that no receiver last season caught more than 45 passes or two touchdowns. The team lost Jamison Crowder to the Jets this offseason and declined Josh Doctson's fifth-year option, which means he could be out the door next season. The Redskins appeared to fill the void by drafting Terry Mclaurin out of Ohio State and Kelvin Harmon out of NC State but that might not be enough to help the team this season at this position.

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH CHART

Tight End

The Redskins come into this season with two solid players that have question marks at tight end in Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. The concern about both players is that both of their gameplay has declined in the recent years and are due most of $19 million that is to be paid out to the position. 

READ JP FINLAY'S FULL ANALYSIS ON REDSKINS TIGHT END DEPTH CHART

Offseason Dates and Roster Change Deadlines

Mid-May: Redskins rookies attend rookie minicamp
Mid-May to Mid June: Redskins OTAs
Late July:Training Camp opens up
August 1: Preseason Starts with Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio
August 8-11: Preseason starts for the rest of the league
August 31: Rosters are cut from 90 players to 53
September 5: Regular Season kicks off the 100 anniversary season