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The Redskins make the most out of their 'meaningless' mid-December game

The Redskins make the most out of their 'meaningless' mid-December game

The Redskins got a win over a team with a quarterback who has no business being in the NFL. They had to sweat it out through four last-minute plays from the edge of the red zone. Washington also had to survive three bad special teams plays and a sluggish offensive performance.

The state of the team is such that the OK performance represented a major improvement for the Redskins. They had lost their previous two games by a combined score of 68-27, never having a lead in either game. Against the Cardinals, they took the lead on their second offensive play and never relinquished it.

This is where the Redskins are, after going through a horrid rash of injuries (Trent Williams and Zach Brown, perhaps their best players on each side of the ball, were out yesterday) and losing “coulda, shoulda” games against the Chiefs and Saints.

The Redskins got something more out of yesterday’s win. They found a couple of players who might be able to help them out in 2018. Among them are one player who has been around a while and another who just arrived in Ashburn a few weeks ago.

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The relative old timer is defensive end Anthony Lanier. He has been with the team since making the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Lanier has spent more time on the inactive list and on injured reserve than he has playing. Going into yesterday’s game, he had three sacks, one pass defensed and no forced fumbles in 12 career games.

Against the Cardinals, Lanier had two sacks, he batted down three passes and forced a fumble. His first sack and the fumble were important because it set up the Redskins to take an early lead, something they needed after having been non-competitive in their last two games.

“Anthony Lanier showed up in a big way early,” said Jay Gruden. “Made a sack-fumble, had another sack and batted a couple more balls. It was great to hear Anthony Lanier’s name over the intercom a few times and see how far he has come along from a young rookie free agent. He is getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him.”

If you want to throw some cold water on Lanier’s performance, you can argue that the Cardinals had a weak offensive line before losing two starters in their previous game. Go right ahead. Still, it looks like Lanier, Matt Ioannidis, and a healthy Jonathan Allen could be the core of a solid defensive front next year.

You can’t say that the Cardinals’ defense is weak; going into the game they were No. 5 in the NFL according to Football Outsiders. It’s harder to dismiss the performance of running back Kapri Bibbs.

Unlike Lanier, who contributed throughout the game, most of Bibbs’ shining moments came in one drive. He has only been around for a few weeks, having signed to be on the practice squad on November 24 and getting elevated to the 53-man roster on December 12. All he had to do was learn the complex third-down back role, after injuries to Chris Thompson and Byron Marshall left the team scrambling.

Bibbs isn’t new to the league. He played in 13 games for the Broncos in 2015-2016 before they let him go. So he knows his way around a bit and that has helped him.  

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His big moment came early in the second quarter when he took a screen pass from Kirk Cousins, saw a lot of green grass and large men in burgundy jerseys, and dashed in for a touchdown to give the Redskins a 14-3 lead. At the time, it looked like the rout might be on. As it was, the score gave the Redskins enough of a working margin to hold the Cardinals at bay.

“Kapri [took] advantage of the opportunities that he got,” said Gruden. “He ran a great screen pass, weaved his way through traffic and got a touchdown. Drew another holding call on another screen pass, and had a couple of other catches for us that were quite significant. So happy for Kapri. Glad he got his opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Bibbs could stay around after this year. Thompson will be back from his broken fibula to reclaim the third-down job. But this year showed that it is worth considering keeping a backup to that position on the roster and Bibbs could be the ideal candidate.

So, the Redskins got a win that prevented a potential implosion, gave themselves a chance to finish at .500, and got good performances from two young players who can help them out in the future. For a mid-December game when the team has been eliminated from playoff consideration, that’s not a bad day.

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

 

 

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Why did Redskins choose Byron Marshall over Kapri Bibbs? Jay Gruden reveals his answer

Why did Redskins choose Byron Marshall over Kapri Bibbs? Jay Gruden reveals his answer

The Washington Redskins released running back Kapri Bibbs on Saturday, and in turn, made a decision to stick with Byron Marshall at the position instead.

The move leaves Washington with four backs on the roster: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. Green Bay moved quick to claim Bibbs off waivers, so the Redskins will not be able to sneak him back to their practice squad. 

Asked about the decision to release Bibbs, Washington head coach Jay Gruden explained the situation as he sees it (quotes via Redskins Talk podcast):

You know Bibbs is a good player. I didn’t release him because he’s a poor player. Perine right now is Adrian Peterson’s backup. That’s the way it is. We dress one 1st/2nd-down back throughout the game and that’s Adrian. Chris is our 3rd-down back and obviously 2nd-and-long get back on track back. The next guy I like to have is a backup to both of them kind of, and that’s Bibbs and Marshall. And Marshall, to me in preseason, showed a lot of flash, a lot of speed, he’s a little bit better on special teams although he missed the tackle the other day. 

There's a lot to take in, and some fans take exception to Perine maintaining his roster spot. Listening to Gruden and others at Redskins Park, that decision does not sound at all negotiable.

So the real competition was Bibbs against Marshall. 

"I decided Marshall’s skill set [is] something very intriguing," Gruden said. 

The numbers don't really back up that assertion, but a lot of that is because Marshall hasn't been able to stay on the field. 

Head-to-head

In parts of the last two seasons, Bibbs has been much more productive than Marshall, in large part because of durability. 

The Redskins signed Marshall off the Eagles practice squad in November 2017. He dressed in four games, rushing nine times for 32 yards and adding six catches for 36 yards, before a hamstring injury landed Marshall on the injured reserve, ending his season. 

With Marshall done, the team then signed Bibbs in December from the Denver practice squad. In three games, he piled up more than 200 total yards and a touchdown. 

Fast forward to training camp 2018, and it was clear Marshall was ahead of Bibbs on the depth chart. Marshall looked good too in the early going, before a knee injury landed him on the injured reserve list to start the season.

That created more opportunity for Bibbs, and he played well, especially for a long stretch while Thompson missed time with a rib injury. 

In 10 games this season, Bibbs rushed 20 times for 101 yards and three TDs. He also added another 13 catches for 102 yards and another TD. That's good for a 6.1 yards-per-touch average. 

The Redskins used one of their two injured reserve return designations on Marshall, and his first game back came against Houston in Week 10. In that game he had two carries for five yards, and more infamously, Marshall was the running back on the play when Alex Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg.

In four games since he's returned, Marshall has four catches for 30 yards and three carries for nine yards. He also returned two kickoffs in Jacksonville, averaging 15 yards-per-return. 

The stats don't really matter much now, as Marshall is on the team and Bibbs is in Green Bay.

Gruden picked the guy he believes has the higher upside, and if he can stay healthy, maybe Marshall will prove his coach right. 

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Jay Gruden admits Redskins should have activated Simmie Cobbs earlier

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Jay Gruden admits Redskins should have activated Simmie Cobbs earlier

Last week, the Redskins lost practice squad wide receiver Simmie Cobbs to the Saints even though Washington offered the undrafted rookie a deal similar to New Orleans. 

On Monday, 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden admitted that losing Cobbs stings a bit for the franchise. 

"It was tough because we had him in the building and he was progressing very well," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast.

"In hindsight, I probably should have activated him sooner, to be honest with you."

Credit Gruden for the honesty, and while Cobbs is an intriguing prospect, don't confuse him with Larry Fitzgerald quite yet.

It's possible he doesn't make the active roster this season for New Orleans, but at 6-foot-3 and with good hands, he is the kind of player that turns heads. 

It's easy to criticize the Redskins for rolling with low potential players on the wide receiver depth chart - veterans like Brian Quick and Michael Floyd - instead of giving the rookie a shot. It's also important to recognize that the Burgundy and Gold have been fielding a makeshift offensive line for weeks and juggling a number of other injuries, leaving the roster structure a bit of a mess. 

Even without Cobbs, Gruden pointed out the Redskins still have a number of young, intriguing WR prospects for 2019: Cam Sims, Trey Quinn, Robert Davis and Darvin Kidsy. Sims, Quinn and Davis are all on the injured reserve list while Kidsy is on the practice squad. 

The particular tough point with Cobbs is that the Redskins had an empty roster spot before their game against the Eagles. Gruden perhaps acknowledged that mistake, or even if the right time was at a different juncture, the coach didn't like losing the player. 

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