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Redskins must clean up mistakes to navigate tough road ahead

Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins must clean up mistakes to navigate tough road ahead

The Redskins are a team that could use a break. They aren’t going to get one any time soon.

It could reasonably be said that the game they played Sunday against the 3-3 Cowboys was their best chance to get a win before Thanksgiving. Their current two-game losing streak could well stretch to five games if they don’t put things back together in a hurry.

Next up for the Redskins is a trip to Seattle and I don’t have to explain what a tough task that will be. They then return home to play the Vikings, who will be coming off of their bye week after four straight wins. Next up is a trip to New Orleans and a Saints team that has won five straight after stumbling to an 0-2 start.

Thanksgiving brings the Giants to FedEx Field and perhaps an easier game, although fans would be well advised to recall the 2016 season finale when a Giants team with no incentive to play well came in and knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs.


In order to compete with anyone, from the hot Vikings to the slumping Giants, they have to do two things. For one, they have to get healthy. Whether the injuries are an “excuse” for losing to the Cowboys or if they are a legitimate “reason” for the defeat (you can make the case both ways), this team needs to get some of its best players on the field to beat the better teams on its schedule.

But they could get everyone healthy and if they make the mistakes they made on Sunday they will not win many games. Some penalties and dropped passes were critical. They turned the ball over three times and had a field goal blocked, leading to two touchdowns and two field goals. That’s 20 points in a game they lost by 14. At full strength, the Redskins are not good enough to win while giving away points in bunches like they did on Sunday. When two players on your offensive line are making their first NFL starts, one of your top corners is out, and so on, the task becomes nearly impossible.


Perhaps the injuries are partially to blame for the negative plays. Maybe the experienced Dustin Hopkins would have adjusted better to a snap and hold that were less than perfect. It’s possible that the strip sack of Cousins early in the second half doesn’t happen if the five top O-linemen are in. But they are not the only team in the NFL getting nailed by injuries and some of them are managing to avoid giving games away.

We will get word from Jay Gruden Monday on the new and old injuries and track the progress of those via the practice reports through the week. But there are no reports that will tell us if the Redskins will avoid making killer mistakes in Seattle. They could get healthier and still lose if they don’t clean up the mistakes.  

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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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.