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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Quarterbacks

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Quarterbacks

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Quarterbacks

Additions: Alex Smith (trade), Kevin Hogan (trade)
Departures: Kirk Cousins (free agent)

Starter: Smith
Other roster locks: McCoy
On the bubble: Hogan

How the quarterbacks compare

To the rest of the NFL: Smith was an MVP candidate for much of last year. Even though he didn’t finish as strongly as he started, he still finished in the top three in the NFL in completion percentage, interception percentage, passer rating, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. However, those were career-best numbers for him and we don’t know if he can repeat them, especially going into a new offense. It’s fair to say that he is in the top 12, perhaps in the lower part. Nobody gets excited about McCoy, but he is a solid backup. Overall the Redskins are in the top 10 to 12 at the quarterback position compared to the rest of the league. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Many fans were delighted to see Kirk Cousins head north to join the Vikings. Others believe letting Cousins go spells doom. The thing is, both sides have valid points to bolster their arguments. But it’s academic now; he is gone and Smith, who is four years older with a much longer track record, is here. If he an upgrade or a downgrade from Cousins. Again, there is solid data to support both viewpoints. I tend to think that Smith will be slightly more effective in 2018 than Cousins was last year, given that it was easily the worst season of the three in which he has been the starter. 

2018 quarterback outlook

Biggest upside: It’s difficult to talk about much in the way of upside when both of the quarterbacks who are likely to make the roster are well over the age of 30. Hogan is on the bubble and if he does make the team he could be interesting to watch. He’s 26 and he does have eight NFL games with the Browns under his belt including one start. With Smith locked into Washington for at least the next three years, nobody is looking at Hogan as starter material. However, if he impresses in camp he could get himself into a position to take over for McCoy as the primary backup in 2019.  

Most to prove: Smith has been around a long time and has made the Pro Bowl three times and he has yet to play in the Super Bowl. While a single player does not win a Super Bowl or, for that matter, lose a playoff game, many view a title as the best way to validate their careers. Smith himself mentioned this in his introductory press conference in March. This may or may not be the organization to do it with but he has a few years left to give it a run. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie quarterbacks on the roster.

Bottom line: Jay Gruden was able to get a lot out of Kirk Cousins after he made him the starter in 2015. Cousins threw for over 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as the starter. The Redskins needed him to play well in order to win. When Cousins had a passer rating of 90 or better in a game, the Redskins were 20-6; when his rating was below 90, they went 4-17. While they may have improved defensively this year, they still will need Smith to play well for the Redskins to win. And since Smith’s contract essentially makes it impossible to move on from him before he’s played here three years, the one whose job is on the line is Gruden’s. 

Quote-unquote

Gruden on Smith: "He still has got to learn the terminology, so you have got to be careful. Sometimes you assume you’ve been in the league a long time and he went to Utah – he’s very, very smart – you throw too much at him. We still want to control our pace but there’s really not a lot we can throw at him that he has not seen."

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series

 

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The five key plays in the Redskins’ win over the Panthers

The five key plays in the Redskins’ win over the Panthers

Every play in an NFL game is important but some matter to the outcome more than others. Here are the key plays in the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers.

1. Q1, 10:41 — Tress Way punts 51 yards to CAR 21, D.J. Moore to CAR 22 for 1 yard (Shaun Dion Hamilton). FUMBLES (Hamilton), RECOVERED by WAS-Jeremy Sprinkle at CAR 21. Sprinkle to CAR 22 for -1 yard. 

The Redskins did not get off to a promising start on offense as they went three and out on their first possession and punted. Panthers rookie D.J. Moore fielded the punt and tried to find some running room. He found Hamilton, who stripped the ball away and Sprinkle pounced on it.

It only took one play for the Redskins to cash in as Alex Smith found Vernon Davis wide open—as in nobody else in the picture open—for a touchdown to put the home team up 7-0. 

2. Q1, 8:50 — Alex Smith pass short middle to Jordan Reed to WAS 45 for 7 yards 

The Redskins were looking to add to their lead on their possession following the Davis touchdown. On third and eight at their own 38, Smith threw for Reed in the middle of the field. The pass was high and inside, forcing Reed to jump, reach back and stab the ball with his right hand. It was a true one-handed catch because he never touched the ball with his left hand. 

The only thing Reed did wrong on that play was to signal for a first down. It was short, but Smith got the first with a sneak on the next play. Some Adrian Peterson runs and a 21-yard pass from Smith to Davis helped get the Redskins down to the two-yard line. On third down from there, Smith found Paul Richardson for a TD to make it 14-0.

3. Q2, 11:32 — Cam Newton pass short middle to Moore to WAS 37 for 17 yards (Josh Norman). FUMBLES (Norman), RECOVERED by WAS -Mason Foster at WAS 33. 

Norman got his first interception since 2016 earlier in the second quarter but the offense couldn’t do anything with the possession. The next time the Panthers had the ball, Newton went to Moore on a crossing Pattern. He had some running room and it looked like the Panthers would advance well into Redskins territory. But as defenders converged on Moore, Norman reached in and stripped the ball out. “He never saw me coming,” said Norman. Foster recovered, and the Redskins drove for a field goal to go up 17-0. 

4. Q4, 13:43 — Alex Smith sacked at CAR 46 for -6 yards (Julius Peppers). FUMBLES (Peppers), recovered by WAS-Trent Williams at CAR 46. Williams to CAR 38 for 8 yards.

The Panthers had rallied to make it a one-score game at 17-9. On third and seven from the Carolina 40, Smith was immediately swarmed by the pass rush. The ball popped out and it fell into the hands of Williams to the left of the scrum. Going on sheer instinct, Williams headed upfield. Starting from six yards behind the line of scrimmage Williams rumbled eight yards for a net gain of two. That’s not much but it was enough to have Jay Gruden send Dustin Hopkins into the game to attempt a 56-yard field goal. The boot just made it over the uprights and Hopkins’ career-long kick had the Redskins up by two scores at 20-9. 

5. Q4, 0:38 — Cam Newton pass incomplete short right to Jarius Wright.

After the Redskins kicked a field goal to go up by six, Newton led a final drive that kept everyone on edge. Starting with 3:15 to play, Newton was sharp, completing six of seven passes for 50 yards to move the Panthers from their own 16 to second and five at the Washington 16. The Washington defense finally stiffened, and Newton’s next three passes fell incomplete. The last one went harmlessly to the ground, not particularly close to Wright or any other receiver. The Redskins and their fans could finally exhale and celebrate. 

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Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down vs. Panthers

Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 15, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking points

Here are the players who saw their stock go up against the Panthers on Sunday and others who saw their stocks drop. 

Stock up—A few days ago, CB Josh Norman was a penny stock. He had mixed up assignments in the blowout loss to the Saints and take a ton of criticism after the game, much of it warranted. During the Panthers game, he was a blue chip. Norman got his first interception in 20 games and he forced a fumble. There is still a lot of season to be played but for now, at least it’s good to be Josh Norman.

Stock down—They won the game and that’s the quarterback’s main job. But for the second straight game, Alex Smith did not play up to his $18.4 million cap number. He passed for 163 yards. At times you really wondered where he was throwing the ball and/or to whom he was throwing it. They were able to win thanks to Adrian Peterson’s rushing and three takeaways. To Smith’s credit, he protected the ball well and it should be noted he was without favorite targets, Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder. Regardless, it was not a sharp performance by Smith. 

Stock upPeterson came into the game with an injured ankle, knee, and shoulder. Not only did he fight through the pain, he thrived. Six days after he rushed for just six yards against the Saints and sat out most of the second half, he picked up 97 yards on 17 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Peterson did rip off a 19-yard run but mostly it was three yards here, six yards there. It was what the Redskins were expecting when the signed him. 

Stock down—With Thompson out, Kapri Bibbs had his big chance to show what he can do. He didn’t do much. Bibbs, who was promoted from the practice squad earlier this season, picked up 11 yards rushing on two carries and he caught one pass for six yards. There were some high hopes for Bibbs among Redskins fans. For today, he didn’t live up to them. 

Stock up—I know that Daron Payne didn’t make a ton of plays and his streak of games with at least one sack ended at two. But he was part of a defensive front that held Christian McCaffrey, who came into the game averaging 82.3 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) and 5.2 yards per attempt, to 20 yards on eight attempts, a 2.5 per carry average. And he made a remarkable play, which is becoming routine for him, when he made the tackle on a tight end who had taken a screen pass well outside of the numbers. He’s a special talent and his stock will continue to rise. 

The agenda

Today: Open locker room 11:30; Jay Gruden press conference 3:00 

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 6; Redskins @ Giants 13; Redskins @ Eagles 49

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