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If the 4-2 Redskins can improve on offense in these three areas, then watch out

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If the 4-2 Redskins can improve on offense in these three areas, then watch out

The Redskins (4-2) are perched at the top of the NFC East and have wins in-hand over conference foes from Green Bay, Carolina and Dallas. That's all very important and means they're in a sweet spot as the halfway point of the season nears.

With that being said, for this team to keep that division lead and also begin to feel like it can be one that not only makes it to January but does damage in January, there are a few key areas on offense they really must improve in. 

Let's take a look at three such areas.

Area No. 1: End-of-half execution

The Redskins' last two wins came down to a defensive stand near their end zone and a field goal that very satisfyingly, but very fortunately, smashed off a FedEx Field upright.

Those finishes may not have been so close, however, if the offense did a better job executing at the end of the first and second half.

Against the Panthers, Alex Smith and the offense started a drive on the visiting team's 33-yard line with 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

So, the QB could've thrown the ball to Jay Gruden on the sideline, a fan in the upper deck or Trent Williams' shoe Dustin Hopkins would've had a 50-yard field goal attempt at the very least.

Instead, Smith was docked 10 yards for intentional grounding,  a penalty the group couldn't overcome. Eventually, Tress Way had to punt. No points.

Against the Cowboys, Smith and Co. began a possession with a minute left on their own 25-yard line after a touchback and armed with all three timeouts. They advanced the ball to Dallas' 44 by the time the clock reached 21 seconds, but the QB then tossed three straight incomplete passes.

With wind being a factor, Gruden chose to go with a Hail Mary instead of a Hopkins FG attempt on fourth down and, for the second week in a row, no points were added to the scoreboard when they very well could've been. 

That's not to mention Smith's questionable scramble in the fourth quarter that nearly gave Washington's rival the break it needed to send the contest to OT.

On Wednesday, the signal caller acknowledged those "missed opportunities" and that they need to be fixed. With the way this campaign's unfolding, this squad needs to capitalize on as many scoring opportunities as possible, and that starts with them being sharper on those precious possessions when the clock's trickling down.

Area No. 2: First down play variation

Adrian Peterson has probably been the 2018 Redskins' biggest difference-maker, so as long as he's healthy, Gruden really can't go wrong when it comes to giving Peterson the ball. But perhaps Gruden could be a little less predictable about when he decides to get No. 26 and the other running backs involved.

On 169 first downs this year, Washington has called a run play 100 times and a pass play 66 times (to go along with three snaps that ended in a scramble), according to NFLsavant.com. That equates to a 59/41 run-pass ratio.

That makes the Redskins one of just 11 teams in the NFL that runs more on first down than they throw, and their split is right up there with the Seahawks for most severe in pro football. 

What's behind those numbers? 

"I think Adrian has been doing a pretty good job of getting some yards on first down," the head coach said Wednesday. "And I think we've had some opportunities to throw the ball but when we are in a lead like we had then, we've had success running the ball so it’s nice to stick to it sometimes."

"I think the intent here is to be a physical football team," Gruden added.

For much of his tenure, Gruden has been criticized for throwing too often, so this shift in philosophy is refreshing and, for the most part, effective. Peterson and the O-line can set the tone, the ground game allows them to own the time of possession fight and it also makes second and third downs easier.

Still, though, as opponents pick up on this tendency, mixing in a few play action calls after a fresh set of downs could be the way to pick up some chunk plays the Redskins so badly need and also get Smith going a little more. Gruden doesn't need to totally readjust because, again, the approach has them at 4-2, but changing that ratio just a bit could pay off. 

Area No. 3: Finishing in the red zone

There are some areas in football where a 50-percent success rate is excellent, like on third down. On the other hand, there are areas where getting it done half the time is discouraging, such red zone TD rate.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, they have the discouraging 50-percent rate going right now.

The burgundy and gold have only scored six on half of their trips inside the 20 thus far, which ranks them 24th in the NFL.  

That rate won't climb unless Smith picks it up, starts delivering more accurate throws and feels more comfortable in the pocket. He could also use some help from guys like Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, two pass catchers who were supposed to dominate near the goal line but who, so far, have just one TD between them.

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Kendall Fuller will be more confident and versatile this time with Redskins, but he's still hungry

Kendall Fuller will be more confident and versatile this time with Redskins, but he's still hungry

Kendall Fuller isn't that interested in rewatching his interception that clinched a Super Bowl victory for the Chiefs this past February. He's well aware of how special of a moment that highlight was, of course, but the defender has already largely moved on.

"You grind and work to make sure that's not the last play you're remembered for," Fuller told a group of Redskins reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.

This week will include plenty of similar calls featuring the free agents that Washington has signed so far, but for Fuller, his session wasn't meant to welcome him. Rather, it was a reintroduction, as he's set to return to the franchise that drafted him in 2016.

According to him, he's coming back to the Burgundy and Gold as a more well-rounded pro.

"I think the first time was me just trying to figure myself out, find myself," he said. "Now, just knowing my game more, knowing my strengths and weaknesses, just bettering that confidence."

The 25-year-old explained that the possibility of becoming a Redskin again first occurred to him during the Combine, when his agents and the organization had some initial conversations about making it happen. Eventually, his agents buzzed him when the team made its offer, which came late on the first day of the league's tampering period.

"I told them, 'Say less. Let's do it,'" he recalled.

As for why he opted to come back instead of head elsewhere, he acknowledged being local again mattered, yet it was far from the lone factor in his choice.

"So many reasons," Fuller said. "Coach Rivera and the coaching staff there. Their relationship with the players and seeing how they develop guys. Seeing the corners that they have in [Carolina] — (James) Bradberry, Donte Jackson — seeing their film the last couple of years. And being at a place that's home, that I've had some success, that I enjoyed the first few years I was in Washington."

While with the Chiefs, Fuller lined up all over their secondary, acting as an outside corner and even a safety in addition to his role as a slot corner. That kind of versatility is why his name is now inked on a four-year, $40 million contract.

Naturally, many have wondered how the Redskins will choose to use him moving forward. Due to the consequences of Coronavirus, Fuller himself isn't currently sure. He doesn't appear that concerned, however.

"I'm just excited to just show my talent, just knowing that I can play anywhere on the field at a high level," he said.

In addition to increased on-field responsibilities, Fuller developed a better mindset in 2018 and 2019 in Kansas City. That'll certainly happen after going to the AFC title game one year and winning it all right after that.

And much like Thomas Davis did on Tuesday in his respective conference call, Fuller sounded focused on bringing that approach to the Redskins as they attempt to become relevant with Rivera. 

"It was almost like we felt like we put way too much work in day in and day out starting from OTAs, it wasn't an option of us not going to the Super Bowl," Fuller said of his stint with the Chiefs. "That just starts from day one when we're in the building."

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Santana Moss has a fantastic story about a time Sean Taylor blasted him at practice

Santana Moss has a fantastic story about a time Sean Taylor blasted him at practice

Back when Santana Moss was a star for the Redskins, the pass catchers and defenders had an agreement that the two sides would "protect each other" in practice.

That meant that the team's most important players would only thud during drills and live reps, as opposed to full-on hit each other. One day, though, someone apparently violated that rule, and Moss was on the wrong end of it.

"I remember going for a ball across the middle, and the way I landed — I was hit from behind — and the way I landed, I landed on my face," Moss told NBC Sports Washington recently. "I assumed I had to be hit pretty hard."

Moss was the franchise's best weapon for the majority of his tenure with Washington, so he was quite surprised someone would have the gall to deliver such a blow to him during a midweek session. Then, he figured out who did it.

"I got up, and it was Sean," Moss explained. "So, I'm like, 'What the hell?' I threw the ball down and I pushed him. And he was like, 'Come on, 'Tana, it was all chest.' And he laughed, because he knew I was going to be hot."

The wideout was extra hurt that Taylor, his very close friend, turned out to be the hitter in question. Taylor, however, maintained he didn't actually get that physical on the play. But Moss remained eager to get his hands on some video proof so he could prove the safety was wrong.

"I rushed to get back to meetings because I wanted to see how he hit me," Moss said. "Folks were trying to tell me, 'Whatever you felt was different from what we saw.' And I got into the meeting room and the guy didn't even try to touch me. He basically was trying to go over my head for the ball and my back touched his chest, but that's just how hard of a guy he was."

Afterward, Moss went to apologize to Taylor. Moss felt like he had been blasted, but the tape showed that the collision was more of a simple bump in the end.

"He wasn't even mad that I was mad at him," Moss remembered. "He almost laughed about it."

Moss wasn't the first receiver to not enjoy an interaction with Taylor in the middle of the field, and he definitely wasn't the last, either. Happy 37th birthday, Sean.

NBC Sports will be featuring Sean Taylor in an episode of their new podcast series, Sports Uncovered, which will be available on all podcast platforms in June.

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