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Lack of pass rush? Jay Gruden sets the record straight

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USA Today Sports

Lack of pass rush? Jay Gruden sets the record straight

The Redskins only sacked Sam Bradford twice last Sunday in Arizona, and despite the dominant defensive effort in a 24-6 win, some Redskins fans worry about the lack of pass rush. 

For Jay Gruden, that isn't the case. 

"We do have to do a better job with our four-man rush getting more pressure but I think that will come," the head coach explained on the Redskins Talk podcast.

"Overall I think we were so aware of where David Johnson was, we wanted to make sure we kept him in check and then got to the passer a little bit later."

The last time Washington faced Arizona in 2016, Johnson went for more than 170 total yards and two TDs. He destroyed any chance at a Redskins win with a 13-yard run on a fourth down conversion in the second half that sealed the Cardinals victory.

Last Sunday, it was obvious the Redskins learned their lesson. 

The Redskins held Johnson to under 40 yards rushing, and almost more importantly, the skilled running back only had 30 yards receiving. Johnson is a dynamic back out of the backfield in the pass game, and Washington's defensive scheme clearly focused on keeping him controlled.  

Sacks don't always tell the full story, and they certainly don't in the Week 1 Redskins win. 

While Washington only brought Bradford down twice, they held him largely ineffective. He completed just 20 of 34 passes and managed only 153 yards passing with no touchdowns and an interception. Most important, Bradford averaged only 4.5 yards-per-attempt.

Ryan Anderson and Matt Ioannidis did get sacks on Bradford, but generally, the Cardinals statuesque QB was not harassed.

"We did have some plays when we pushed the pocket. On [Quinton] Dunbar’s interception, [Bradford] couldn’t step into the throw, and he sailed the ball and Dunbar got it," Gruden said. "There was some good push in the pocket."

Simply put, Bradford and the Cardinals offense could not get downfield, and that was because of the Redskins' defensive design. By and large, Washington rushed just four players in pass situations. That allowed the Redskins to deploy more cornerbacks, linebackers and safeties in positions to slow Johnson and limit Larry Fitzgerald working out of the slot position. 

It worked. 

"We pushed the pocket against Sam, just made him a little bit uncomfortable," Gruden said. 

In Week 2, the challenge shifts.

Andrew Luck and the Colts come to town. Indianapolis does not have a dynamic running threat like Johnson, and Luck can move around more in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. 

The Redskins defense will likely need to adjust, and that could mean more aggressive pressure up front. 

Regardless what the pass rush looks like against the Colts, don't think what happened in Arizona was from a lack of pressure. It was by design. 

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Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

The Redskins added some linebacker depth Saturday afternoon by signing former Texas LB Gary Johnson, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.

Johnson, 23, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs back in June following mandatory minicamp.

This signing immediately addresses a position of need as Washington's linebacker room is banged up. Reuben Foster was ruled out of the entire season due to a torn ACL he suffered in May, Josh Harvey-Clemmons is going through concussion protocol while strengthening an ailing knee, and Shaun Dion Hamilton is still questionable with a chest injury. 

In his two seasons at Texas, Johnson tallied 147 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and two pass breakups in 23 games.

Johnson took to Twitter to celebrate his latest opportunity in the nation's capital: 

Johnson's Twitter profile also features the statement "I Hate QB's & RB's."

It's fair to say the Redskins are always on the lookout for defensive guys with that mentality. 

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Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

The Redskins lost to the Bengals Thursday night at FedEx Field, but in the preseason, final results don't really matter. What matters comes in individual and group performances, particularly among first-team units.

In that vein, the Redskins starting defense looked strong against Cincinnati. Outside of some dumb and wacky penalty calls, the starting defense barely gave up any first downs. A number of players impressed on that group, so let's start with the stocks trending in the right direction. 

Stock Up

  • Montae Nicholson - The 96-yard interception return for a touchdown was an impressive display of playmaking ability and speed, but more than that, it was the culmination of a strong offseason and training camp. For the Redskins to be a Top 10 defense, Nicholson needs to be the hard-hitting stud that Washington fans saw glimpses of as a rookie in 2017. Last year was a lost season for Nicholson, who dealt with injuries, getting benched and legal troubles. 2019 is a new start, and so far, it looks quite good. 
  • Adrian Peterson - Not that a first-ballot Hall of Famer really needs preseason validation, but when Peterson ripped off a 26-yard run in the first quarter against the Bengals it became pretty obvious he's ready to go for 2019. And it's important too as second-year back Derrius Guice still isn't cleared for competition. 
  • Robert Davis - Another week, another long touchdown. If there's a handbook to show how to force your way onto a roster, Davis is reading from it. 
  • Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne - These dudes are beasts. 

Despite the good news, there was bad news too. Here's that list:

Stock Down

  • Samaje Perine - Five carries for one yard against Cincy. You read that right. That comes after a poor showing in pass protection in the preseason opener. Jay Gruden always sings praises of Perine but hasn't after the last two preseason games. Prior to Shaun Wilson's ankle injury, he seemed like a guy that could really push for Perine's roster spot. Could that be Byron Marshall now?
  • Paul Richardson - The speedster wideout missed the Bengals game, and the word from one Redskins coach was "he's hurt." Many players get held out of preseason action with slight injuries, stuff they would play through in the regular season. That's not the deal with Richardson. He needs to get right. 
  • Cole Holcomb - If you can't make the club in the tub, Holcomb needs to get back on the field. While he's not in actual roster danger because of the growing number of injuries at inside linebacker, Holcomb is dealing with an AC joint issue. Linebackers need their shoulders, and Holcomb missed a valuable opportunity against the Bengals with presumed starter Shaun Dion Hamilton already out for that game. 
  • Nate Kaczor - The Redskins new Special Teams coach is off to a rough start. In two preseason games Washington has already given up two punt return touchdowns, and against the Bengals, kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point and a field goal. Special teams are tricky in the preseason. In the regular season with 53-man rosters, starting players land on special teams. In the preseason with 90-man rosters, it's largely a collection of players that won't make the final roster lining up on special teams. Still, ugly start. 

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