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Need to Know: Final pregame thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

Need to Know: Final pregame thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 14, seven days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking points

Here are my final thoughts on today’s game between the Redskins and Panthers. 

Update: Crowder and Thompson reportedly out

Overnight, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that both Chris Thompson (ribs) and Jamison Crowder (ankle) will miss today’s game. Thompson being out will mean that Kapri Bibbs will be the third-down back and Samaje Perine will back up Adrian Peterson. Bibbs can handle the runs and passes on third down just fine but keep an eye on him in pass protection. 

Crowder’s absence will give Maurice Harris his second consecutive start. He filled in for Josh Doctson on Monday night against the Saints and he caught three passes for 47 yards. 

Get pressure on Cam

According to the crew at ESPN NFL Matchup, the Panthers keep Cam Newton well protected. He has been pressured on only 19.6 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest percentage in the NFL. It should be noted that four games is a small sample size and that only one of their opponents so far is in the top 20 in the NFL in sack percentage. 

Of course, the Redskins aren’t near the top of the league in sack percentage either, ranking 18th at 6.1. They may not increase that much against the Panthers since Newton is hard to bring down. He has been sacked seven times this year. Getting him off of his mark and forcing incompletions and turnovers (he has thrown three interceptions) could be just as effective as sacks in slowing down the Carolina offense.

Impact comebacks for Panthers?

Much is being made of Panthers LB Thomas Davis and TE Greg Olson playing for the first time this season. Davis is back after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Olson is returning from a broken foot. Both players were with the Panthers in training camp so it’s not like they are coming in completely cold. But I wonder how much impact the 35-year-old linebacker and 33-year-old tight end will have after their layoffs. It’s not as though the Redskins can ignore either player but if one or both players takes a majority of the snaps it could be an advantage. 

An opportunity for the offense?

Over the past few years, the Panthers’ calling card has been a top-10 defense. They don’t have one of those so far this year. Since giving up eight points to the offensively-challenged Cowboys in Week 1 they have given up 31, 21, and 31 points. Football Outsiders has them ranked 26thin defensive DVOA after they were seventh last year. Looking at the more conventional stats, they allow 7.5 net yards per pass attempt (27th) and 4.6 yards per rushing attempt (25th). 

Will the Redskins continue the pattern?

Going back to Week 16 of last year, the Redskins have not just alternated wins and losses, but they have gone from looking like a quality team one week to a train wreck the next. After last week’s calamity, they are due for a good performance. 

But just being due doesn’t guarantee anything. The Redskins need to straighten out their communication issues in the secondary (since apparently, they didn’t nail that down in the first week of OTAs like they should have). Alex Smith needs to get back to being the quarterback he was against the Packers when he threw for 11 yards per pass attempt. Preston Smith needs to show up. Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson need to be healthy enough to put together some semblance of a running game. 

I’ve been bullish on the Redskins in my prediction this season. I have picked them to win three of their four games (I had them losing to the Packers). I’ll give them one more week to prove that my positive outlook on the 2018 Redskins is justified. 

Redskins 24, Panthers 20

The agenda

Today: Panthers @ Redskins 

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 7; Redskins @ Giants 14; Redskins @ Eagles 50

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Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

The reboot is almost here. 

The second edition of the XFL, the infamous football league brought to you by WWE founder Vince McMahon for a memorable, combustible one-year run in 2001, begins play in February. It is a second chance for the league and for the players who’ve joined, including former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones is the quarterback for the DC Defenders, Washington’s newest pro franchise that will play its home games at D.C. United’s Audi Field. The first game isn’t until February 8 after the NFL’s season concludes with the Super Bowl, but the organization opened its offseason camp at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor facility on Thursday. The debut is just over two months away. 

“I love it. It’s pretty cool to be part of something that’s going to be a first, a historical moment of the return [of the XFL] and to be in [the D.C.] area,” Jones said. “Hopefully not just me, but this team can leave a lasting impression.”

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the Defenders will make on a crowded winter sports scene with the NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards playing and the World Series champion Nationals starting their title defense just across the street from Audi Field in April just as the XFL plays its final two games and its two playoff rounds. 

Jones, of course, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 when he came off the bench to replace two injured starters and led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big 10 championship game and two more in the college football playoffs. He started seven games in 2015 as a redshirt junior, but lost his job and turned pro after that season. 

Part of the appeal of the XFL is to get another shot at an NFL opportunity. Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and made his debut in a game late that season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and spent that year on the practice squad. Jones was with the Seattle Seahawks this summer and again cut from the practice squad in September.  

“My focus is strictly on the XFL and the DC Defenders, nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said. “I do have long-term goals and aspirations, but all of them consist of being a better player and teammate to this franchise and this organization.”

Pep Hamilton is the head coach and general manager of the Defenders. Quarterback at Howard in the early 1990s, Hamilton has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL and was most recently the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at Michigan. 

That drew a laugh from Jones, who was going back and forth with Hamilton to set up a meeting after the Defenders’ roster was announced. Hamilton still has a home in Ann Arbor so that’s where Jones, the ultimate Ohio State guy, had to go. 

“Right around the corner from the University,” Jones cracked. “So I had to drive past the Big House every freakin’ time I’d go up there. Monday through Wednesday I’d have to go past there.”

Jones laughed and said he was driving through campus one day and saw some players he recognized wearing Michigan gear. He yelled out the car window “O-H!” and sped past them cackling. Every workout Jones makes sure he has his Ohio State cleats on and Hamilton wears his Michigan shoes. 

Jones, Hamilton and the rest are all on the same team now, though, and it will take lots of repetitions throughout the offseason for players from colleges all over the country to come together and form a cohesive group. There isn’t much time. Walk throughs and team meetings began this week and continue into next week. Then come OTAs next weekend and finally a two-day minicamp on Dec. 16-17. 

“This is going to be interesting,” Jones said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I sense a great buzz. We did a couple of appearances and some meet-and-greets with the fans and I was shocked by the response that we got and how excited people are around the city. It’s football all year round.” 

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Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

A week ago, many Redskins fans were not familiar with the name Nate Orchard. But after No. 54's exceptional performance in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina, he's turned into a feel-good story in an otherwise tough season in Washington.

As many Redskins fans know by now, Orchard was signed just days before the Week 13 game. Due to injuries to linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, as well as Ryan Anderson being ejected, Orchard was forced to play meaningful snaps towards the end of Sunday's victory. He finished with a sack, recovering a fumble, and two tackles for loss in the win.

The former star on HBO's Hard Knocks while he was with the Cleveland Browns had worked out for 10 (!!) teams this season, but none chose to sign Orchard until Washington did last week. It makes sense why he was so emotional postgame.

So, how was Orchard spending his time before joining the Burgundy and Gold? 

Orchard, who spent most Mondays and Tuesdays this season working out for NFL teams, was installing windows in Utah a few days during the week, according to 106.7 The Fan.

"A typical week for me, I would leave for a workout Monday, get back Tuesday night," Orchard said on 106.7's Grant and Danny"Wednesday morning, I'd hit the gym early, then go and install windows from 7 [o'clock] until about 3 [o'clock], then come back to my family and rest up. [I would] repeat that Thursday and Friday."

Orchard admitted that he questioned whether he should continue to train and wait for a call, but says his wife encouraged him to stay motivated and continue to workout.

They say hard work pays off, and Orchard's whirlwind of a season thus far ended up being very rewarding for him this past Sunday.

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