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Need to Know: State of the Redskins, Week 11

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Need to Know: State of the Redskins, Week 11

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 16, three days before the Washington Redskins play the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes Benz Superdome.


Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences and open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Redskins @ Saints (11/9) 3
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 7
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 14

Quick Redskins news hits

The Redskins rounded out their roster by signing inside linebacker Zach Vigil. He was with the team all offseason and in training camp and the preseason so he is familiar with the defense.

State of the Redskins

Note: I have decided to abbreviate the State of the Redskins post and omit the stats. I will occasionally include them when I break this out into a separate post.

Top storylines

The injury bug continues to bite—It’s the old two steps forward, one step back scenario. The Redskins have most of their starting offensive line back but now two starters, RB Rob Kelley and ILB Will Compton, have been put on injured reserve. Maybe they can take another couple of steps forward this week if they can get DE Matt Ioannidis and TE Jordan Reed back. But the way this season is going it will be time for another shoe to drop.

Rushing game missing—The Redskins have not rushed for 100 or more yards in a game since the loss to the Chiefs right before the bye. Not surprisingly, they have been 2-3 in that stretch, with the wins coming against the woeful 49ers and in near-miracle fashion in Seattle. Like most teams, the Redskins need a sustained running game if they are going to have sustained success.

No home cooking—The Redskins’ loss to the Vikings dropped them to 2-3 at FedEx Field. That’s after going 4-4 there last year. It’s probably not a coincidence that the last time they played well at home when they went 6-2 in 2015, they made the playoffs. Yes, the visiting team jerseys in the stands are annoying but it’s up to the Redskins to play well enough to keep their voices out of it and put a compelling product on the field, and a compelling experience in the entire stadium, to make ticket holders feel they are getting great value and hold on to their tickets.

Record: 4-5, 3rd in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 0-3
vs. NFC: 3-4
vs. AFC: 1-1
Home: 2-3
Away: 2-2

Next three games

Sunday @ Saints—The Saints’ offense has remained strong while their defense has gone from awful to better than average. With Drew Brees as good as ever throwing the ball and running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara pounding the rock, this is the toughest game left on the Redskins’ schedule.

Thanksgiving vs. Giants—It’s easy to look at this as a game where the Redskins carve up the Giants, a team in utter disarray and without many key players. But the team and fans would be well advised to look at New York’s Sunday night win in Denver a few weeks ago and not write off their NFC East rivals.

Nov. 30 @ Cowboys—The Redskins go back-to-back Thursday nights for the first time ever. The Cowboys will be without Ezekiel Elliott, who won’t have a court hearing on his suspension being lifted until the day after this game. They looked bad without Elliott, and perhaps more importantly, left tackle Tyron Smith against the Falcons. We will see how they look in two weeks.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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In case you missed it

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The 2005 draft link that bonds the Redskins and Packers ahead of Week 3


The 2005 draft link that bonds the Redskins and Packers ahead of Week 3

Looking back at NFL Drafts can be a frustrating task for Redskins fans. Missed opportunities and botched picks litter the record books, though the organization has made plenty of good picks, too. 

This weekend marks an interesting intersection of past drafts and current reality when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers come to visit the Redskins and Alex Smith.

Way back, in the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. He was a major prospect and the consensus top pick in the draft coming out of an outrageous year playing under Urban Meyer at the University of Utah. 

Later that same draft, all the way down to the 24th pick, Green Bay took Aaron Rodgers out of the University of California Berkeley. At the time, the selection turned heads, as the Packers had future Hall of Famer Brett Favre at QB. 

The Rodgers pick turned out to be pretty smart, to say the least. Smith’s tenure in San Francisco had high points, but nothing that lived up to his lofty draft position. 

Rodgers and Smith have talked about being from the same draft class, and the two have developed a friendship off the field. 

“You know, he's a decent player,” Smith joked about Rodgers on Wednesday. 

“He and I [have] been around each other a lot of time now, always linked, pretty good buddies. Certainly, kind of I think follow each other's career from afar.”

Fair or not, Smith and Rodgers have been linked ever since that 2005 draft. Those weren’t the only two QBs taken that year though. 

The Redskins selected Jason Campbell out of Auburn with the 25th pick. If Rodgers had slipped just one more spot, maybe the Redskins take Rodgers instead.

Just to make one more connection, albeit an odd one, but Rodgers wasn’t even the only guy with that last name taken in 2005.

The Redskins selected cornerback Carlos Rogers with the ninth overall pick. Imagine if they took the QB with the slightly different last name. 



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Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Alex Smith finished the Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts by averaging 6.3 yards-per-pass attempt on 33 completions. Those numbers aren't particularly good, and while they're not bad either, it clearly did not produce enough opportunities for points in the home opener. 

The Colts defense had a lot to do with that too. Indianapolis deployed a soft zone coverage system, forcing the Washington Redskins to look underneath for short gains and eschewing many chances at deep shots down the field. 

That's fine when the team is able to run the ball well, like the dominant Week 1 win in Arizona. But when Washington can't run the ball, like the embarassing Week 2, the short passing game looks too conservative. 

"I mean I think every guy on the team, certainly every guy on offense went through the game and what plays could I have done differently to help us," Smith said Wedneday. "Could I have taken a shot here? You know, all week we talked about being patient. The way they play defense, be patient. Let the shots present themselves."

The shots rarely presented themselves. 

Smith did put two passes in positions for chunk gains, but Josh Doctson was unable to bring in a deep ball on the sideline, and later in the game, Paul Richardson could not corral a big gain over the middle. Neither drop was devestating, but a catch in either situation could have turned momentum in the game. 

Prior to 2017, Smith had a reputation as a quarterback that rarely went down the field. Last season, he disproved that with his best ever statistical campaign and a number of highlight reel plays down the field in the Kansas City offense. 

Redskins fans are starting to wonder if they got the 2017 version of Smith, or the earlier version. 

Truth is the sample size is much too small to determine that answer. In Week 1, Smith didn't need to air the ball out. In fact, he still tried, barely missing a deep completion to Richardson on a play flagged because the receiver was held. 

There are other factors too. The offensive line had a poor performance in Week 2, and Richardson played the game dealing with a shoulder injury. 

Still, there were times it seemed Smith had chances down the field he didn't take, instead opting for the safer check-down pass.

Running back Chris Thompson finished the game with 13 catches but for just 92 yards. Much of that production came late in the second half when the Colts had taken a substantial lead.

"In the second half, very apparent, I mean they were not going to let anything get over their head or get behind them. It was so soft. Hence, a lot of the underneath stuff was open," Smith said.

What version of Smith will show up Sunday against Green Bay?

Much of that will have to do with the offensive line and Jay Gruden's game plan. But plenty will be determined by Smith too. 

The veteran QB does not turn the ball over, which is a big bonus. The Redskins need points though if they're going to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.