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

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

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 8, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.  

Talking points

Here is my last look at tonight’s game between the Redskins and Saints. 

Run the ball but don’t rely on the run

I’m hearing a lot of talk that the key will be for the Redskins to run the ball and control the clock, keeping Drew Brees on the sideline. Well, I heard a lot of that before the game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. And the Redskins won by 14 despite having a two-minute disadvantage in time of possession and running 11 fewer offensive plays than Green Bay. Yes, they also got 166 rushing yards, so the ground game helped. But they need to score however they can, whether the drive takes two minutes like their first TD drive against the Packers did, or six minutes like their second one did. 

Get off to a fast start

The Redskins have outscored the opposition 49-10 in the first halves of their two wins. Getting off to a fast start will be even more important tonight. That Superdome gets loud when the Saints are rolling. The visitors won’t have to jump out two a two-touchdown lead. Last year, the Redskins kept the fans nervous with an early D.J. Swearinger interception and by taking first-half leads of 10-3 and 17-10. They didn’t get really loud again until, well, you know when. 

It’s better if Josh Doctson (questionable, heel) plays

Whenever I tweeted an update about Doctson’s injury I got replies saying that it didn’t matter, the 2016 first-round pick hasn’t done much this year anyway. And it’s true, Doctson has barely made a dent with his five receptions for 48 yards. 

But it is a mistake to say that the Redskins are better off without him. If Doctson's out, the Redskins would have to get by with Maurice Harris, who has 12 career receptions, Brian Quick, who had six catches last year, and Michael Floyd, who has had just a couple of weeks on the field to learn the offense. It’s a matter of depth and the Redskins don’t have much at the wide receiver position without Doctson. 

A strong finish?

As I have noted a few times this week that the Saints’ pass defense is not very good. They allow more yards per pass attempt (9.6) than Brees gains per pass attempt (8.0). You have to think that Alex Smith will be able to take advantage of this. And I think that the Redskins’ secondary, in the top five in key defensive metrics, will contain Brees. By that I mean he won’t go off for around 400 yards like he has twice this year.

If the game unfolds like that, it will come down to two things. First, can they contain Alvin Kamara, who is averaging 153 yards from scrimmage per game? And can they finish what they start? They weren’t able to do either last year and they saw a big lead melt away. Will things be different this year? 

I think they will. I’m calling the upset. 

Redskins 31, Saints 27

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The agenda

Today: No media availability 

Upcoming: Panthers @ Redskins 6 days; Cowboys @ Redskins 13; Redskins @ Giants 20

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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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