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Redskins' D.J. Swearinger wants to show Texans 'what they missed out on'

Redskins' D.J. Swearinger wants to show Texans 'what they missed out on'

In 2015, the Houston Texans cut D.J. Swearinger. And even in 2018, the Redskins safety hasn't forgotten it. 

"It's fun going against my former teams, showing them what they missed out on," Swearinger said this week.

Houston selected Swearinger out of the University of South Carolina in the second round of the NFL Draft. For two years he played fairly well in Houston, but when the staff switched over from Gary Kubiak to Bill O'Brien, things went wrong according to Swearinger. 

"Kubiak let me be myself, let me do whatever as long as I played ball," he said. "O'Brien was a control guy: 'You can't do this. You can't do that.'"

After his release in Houston, Swearinger played in Tampa for a brief period before a good landing place in Arizona. He played well with the Cardinals, and parlayed that experience into a three-year contract with the Redskins in the 2017 offseason. 

Since he's been in Washington, Swearinger has been an ideal teammate and leader. He credits the hard times, stemming from being cut in Houston, to the role he plays now. 

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With four interceptions this season, Swearinger is tied for the No. 2 spot in the NFL and is a huge part of the Redskins 6-3 start. Playing Houston will mean a lot for the emotional defensive back, especially in a week where emotions seem to be running high. 

Josh Norman and Swearinger voiced frustrations with Redskins fans for not packing FedEx Field for home games. The crowd has booed at times this season, and as Swearinger sees it, "the boos are dumb to me. Very dumb."

Whatever the crowd looks like on Sunday, it's a big opportunity for Swearinger to play against Houston, and against O'Brien. The Texans coach praised Swearinger's work in the years since his release. 

"I think every player that comes into the league, no matter who you are, it is a tough transition from college to professional football and then on top of that you have a coaching change and things like that, that DJ had to deal with," O'Brien said. "I think a lot of players go through that and DJ has obviously done a great job of coming into Washington and really performing at a high level."

This season, Swearinger has played against two of his former teams in Arizona and Tampa. The Redskins won both, and as an outside observer, it seemed like the wins mattered greatly to the safety.

It's rare for a player as young as 27-year-old Swearinger to have already played on four teams. He gets that, and doesn't love it. Against Houston, he can get another win, and the most important one of his three former teams.

"It’s going to be exciting," Swearinger said. "It’s going to be my first time getting a fair chance to face the team that drafted me."

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The Redskins' offense is a mess on its opening drive and a total disaster coming out of halftime

The Redskins' offense is a mess on its opening drive and a total disaster coming out of halftime

A game-opening drive in the NFL represents a chance to capitalize on days of practice, film study and play-scripting by moving the ball and scoring points early in that week's contest.

A game-opening drive for the 2018 Redskins represents, for the most part, a chance for fans to show up a few minutes late if needed and still not feel like they missed much of anything.

Through 13 games this season, Washington's offense has generated two touchdowns on their first possessions and punted on the other 11. Seven of those possessions have been three-and-outs, which is a very discouraging number considering a lot of the plays they're running are, in theory, what Jay Gruden and his staff feel most confident in.

Those clunky starts are a major factor in the team ranking 26th in the league in first quarter scoring at 3.7 points per game.

The group is getting worse as the year progresses, too. The initial drives in their past seven games have all ended with Tress Way kicking the ball to the opponent. The last time they first took the ball and scored points was Week 7 at home against the Cowboys.

Still have an appetite for some painful stats? Perfect, because the Redskins are awful coming out of halftime.

Their 13 possessions to begin the third quarter have resulted in one field goal, two turnovers and 10 punts. The 'Skins' offense has had 13 chances to come out of the locker room after resetting and making adjustments from the first half of action. Those 13 chances have added up to three points.

Let's repeat something: The Redskins are awful coming out of halftime. The dreadful beginnings to the second half help explain why only the Cardinals are averaging fewer third quarter points (1.8) than Washington (2.2) so far this season.

As a whole, the offense has been a struggle for the Burgundy and Gold week in and week out. And, sure, you can blame some of those struggles on the injuries that have broken down the O-line and quarterbacks.

So you can put a fraction of the abysmal first and second half opening-drive production on the injuries, too. But only a fraction.

The vast majority of the blame should be directed toward the players and coaches. Whether it's the former not executing or setting the effort back with penalties, the latter not being creative enough or attentive enough to come up with a better plan, or a horrific combination of the two, the team is stumbling far too often when it should be at its most prepared.

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Zach Brown 'surprised' by 1st half benching, calls run fits 'Day 1' knowledge

Zach Brown 'surprised' by 1st half benching, calls run fits 'Day 1' knowledge

When the Redskins sent their defense out to the field to start the game against the Giants on Sunday, Zach Brown did not take his usual spot at linebacker. Rookie Shan Dion Hamilton did instead. 

"I was surprised but the coaches made a decision I guess," Brown said after the game. 

Brown missed practice time last week with an illness, and Washington head coach Jay Gruden said after the game that's why Hamilton got the start. Brown clearly did not like the decision and posted a message on his Instagram voicing his frustration before the game. 

The results were bad too, as the Giants ran for more than 150 yards in the first half. That type of yardage did not completely hinge on Brown not being on the field, obviously, but it was a noticeable difference in team speed. Hamilton did notch seven tackles before going down with a shoulder injury. 

Of the run struggles, Gruden said that a number of players suffered "missed fits." That means a player wasn't in the right spot for the defensive scheme, and one player missing a fit can impact the whole defense. 

"It's stuff you work on in practice, but at the same time, it's certain things you should know," Brown said. "You should know how to fit, it probably was a Day 1 play that we ran. At the same time, you got to execute the call."

The Redskins offense never produced at a high level this season, even when Alex Smith was healthy. In turn, it's not that weird for the offense to continue to struggle as their quarterbacks and offensive linemen suffer one injury after another.

Defensively, however, things are weird. 

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's unit looked like one of the best defenses in the NFL during the first half of the season. Then, things fell apart. It hasn't been a byproduct of injury either. 

There aren't any answers on the demise of the Redskins defense. Coaches and players can't understand why simple mistakes keep happening, and Brown's comments explain it well. Guys are missing Day 1 techniques, and the execution just isn't there. There seems to be much more under the surface, but so far, that information is staying there. 

What happens next? Brown said the team has to look at Jacksonville next week. 

"You just got to move on from this game. We got beat, and we got beat bad. We just got to move on to the next game," he said. "We just got to make sure we're on point."

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