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Redskins vs Saints Week 5 preview: A chance for the defense to prove it's very real

Redskins vs Saints Week 5 preview: A chance for the defense to prove it's very real

The Redskins come into Week 5 fresh off a bye and sitting in first place of the NFC East. Here's the thing, though, Washington 2-1 record looks good, but not great. 

Jay Gruden's team laid a complete egg in their lone loss, Week 2 to the Colts, so it's tough to assume too much about this team. The first halves against Arizona and Green Bay portray the Redskins as an elite football team, but the other 120 minutes this season has looked quite different. 

Are the Redskins for real? Can Alex Smith and the offense play at a crisp, productive level for a full game? Can the defense create turnovers against Drew Brees?

This is the week to find out. 

  1. Hot or not - Statistically, the Washington defense has performed like one of the best units in the NFL. Both in yards allowed and points allowed Greg Manusky's group has been impressive, but the trick with these Redskins is naysayers have plenty to point to as well. Arizona has been terrible, and the defense's dominant effort against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers can be dismissed because of the quarterback's knee injury. What's the truth? Is the Redskins defense, with beef up front and speed at linebacker, ready to shut down the Saints ground game? That will go a long way in determining the outcome in this game. New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara is tied for the NFL lead in TDs coming into Week 5, and oh yeah, the Saints will also get Mark Ingram back this week after a four-game suspension. Last season, he gashed the Redskins. 
  2. Spinning records - Drew Brees needs 201 pass yards to break the all-time NFL passing yardage record, currently held by Peyton Manning. As much as Redskins defenders don't want that record to fall, it probably will. Brees is averaging more than 300 yards-per-game this season and has an explosive weapon in WR Michael Thomas. In some ways, Washington would probably prefer a big game from Brees than from the Saints ground game. 
  3. Hurt or injured - A number of key components to the Redskins offensive attack come into the Monday night showdown nursing injuries. Trent Williams had surgery during the bye week, but is expected to gut through the pain and play in the Superdome. As Gruden said of Williams on the Redskins Talk podcast, "he's played with a lot worse." Josh Doctson's status, however, is much murkier. The third-year wide receiver didn't practice all week due to a heel injury and was walking with a boot on, per a source. Doctson hasn't made much impact this season - he has five catches in three games - and if he doesn't go Gruden said Maurice Harris will get the start. Prepare to see that Redskins fans. 
  4. The city that care forgot - The two biggest keys to the Redskins ground game don't have fond memories of New Orleans. Adrian Peterson signed with the Saints last season, but didn't get much playing time and had a public sideline spat with coach Sean Payton. He was traded to the Cardinals after just a few games. Chris Thompson broke his leg in the Superdome last season, and with his injury, the Redskins 2017 playoff hopes went down the drain too. Both players should be energized by a return appearance and the opportunity to exact some level of revenge. 

News & Notes 

  • Redskins average more than 33 minutes of offensive possession per game, good for 3rd in the NFL. 
  • Paul Richardson is averaging 11.2 yards-per-catch, good for 6th in the NFL. 
  • Through three games last season, Ryan Kerrigan had 2.5 sacks (and one interception). Through three games this season, he has none.
  • The Redskins have outscored their opponents 52-24 in first halves this season. The defense is only giving up an average of eight points in the first half this season. 
  • Matt Ioannidis has three sacks in three games.

They said it 

  • Jay Gruden on facing Drew Brees:  "Any time you play against a great quarterback with a history like Drew Brees, there is no lead safe. You have to continue playing offensively and defensively and special teams and the minute you give him a cracked door, they will kick it down."
  • Greg Manusky on facing the Saints backfield duo of Ingram and Kamara: "Two different guys, one is a speedier guy, one is a more downhill hit, strike and make sure he shuffles through the holes, but good football players."
  • Sean Payton on Adrian Peterson joining the Redskins: "I think it’s been a perfect fit really. When he was here, we still saw it. We still saw everything through the offseason into the regular season. The challenge for us became just the amount of touches with the number of backs we had, but I think it's a great match."
  • Alex Smith on Redskins second half struggles: "I don’t think you can ever expect to go out there and not score any touchdowns in the second half and win ball games, against anybody, certainly against good offenses and good quarterbacks like Drew [Brees]. Need to be better moving forward, need to learn from it, and grow from it absolutely."

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Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers say they won't have any fans for at least their first two home games this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Lambeau Field will not be the same without our fans' energetic support in the stands," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. "Given the extraordinary circumstances this year and the additional protocols in place, though, we determined it was best to take incremental steps to start the regular season. These two games will allow us to focus our attention on safely conducting games inside the stadium with all necessary participants."

That means there won't be any spectators for their Sept. 20 game with the Detroit Lions and their Oct. 5 Monday night game with the Atlanta Falcons.

Green Bay's third home game is Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Packers officials say any decision on whether to admit fans for that game would depend on the status of the pandemic, and that they'd consult with local health officials.

This announcement comes two weeks after Packers CEO Mark Murphy had said that any Packers home games this year would include no more than 10,000-12,000 spectators, if any fans were allowed at all.

All other public areas at Lambeau Field, including parking lots, the pro shop and the Packers Hall of Fame, will be closed during the home games that have no fans. The Titletown area surrounding Lambeau Field will remain open to the public, but no team-run, game-day activities will be planned.

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Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

As the Washington Football Team continues to ramp things up in training camp, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to officially name the team's starting quarterback.

However, for Team 980 radio host Kevin Sheehan, there's only one direction the team should go at the position.

"If he doesn't start September 13th against the Eagles, it's a major indictment on Dwayne Haskins," Sheehan said Thursday on Washington Talk & Friends.

In the QB room, there's Haskins, a first-round pick from a year ago that many expect to be the eventual starter. But Washington did trade this offseason for Kyle Allen, who has spent the past two seasons under Rivera and Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina.

Earlier this offseason, Rivera said that if there was no normal offseason program due to the coronavirus pandemic, Allen would have a "leg up" on Haskins entering camp. 

Despite all that has transpired the past several months, Sheehan doesn't want the odd, pandemic-riddled offseason to be an excuse as to why Haskins shouldn't be the team's Week 1 starter.

"I don't care what anybody says about the offseason, minicamps and OTAs missing and Kyle Allen getting traded for, [Haskins] has got to be the guy," Sheehan said. 

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Earlier this week, Rivera praised Haskins for how he's handled everything this offseason. He commended the passer for how much of the playbook he's already mastered, albeit that being less than three-quarters of it.

Rivera's ultimate decision for who the team's starter will be isn't just between Haskins and Allen. Besides those two young signal-callers, there's also another QB in the mix: veteran Alex Smith. The 35-year-old is currently on the active PUP list, but has been cleared by his personal doctors to return to football activities.

Smith's journey is remarkable. After nearly losing his leg (and maybe his life) from infections that occurred as a result of the gruesome leg injury he suffered in November of 2018, Smith has worked incredibly hard to return to football. 

Even if Smith does get the clearance from Washington team doctors, Sheehan doesn't envision a scenario where the quarterback takes a meaningful snap for Washington.

"I don't see Alex Smith taking anything other than, if he takes a snap on an NFL field, it'll be ceremonial," Sheehan said. "That's what I'm hoping for, too, but I hope he gets back to where he's cleared and then decides not to play."

RELATED: DOES ALEX SMITH MAKE SENSE AS WASHINGTON'S QUARANTINE QB?

When asked why he thinks Rivera has not come out and named Haskins the starter already, Sheehan explained that the second-year passer may benefit from believing he's in a competition.

On his radio show, Sheehan spoke to former Washington cornerback Shawn Springs, who happens to be one of Haskins' biggest mentors. Springs explained to him that Haskins may benefit from not being given the title of QB1 just yet.

"[Springs] really thinks that it's better if Dwayne perceives he's in a competition," Sheehan said. "Maybe Ron recognizes that, too."

While Haskins may not be the starter just yet, plenty of signs point towards the second-year passer being Washington's Week 1 starting quarterback. And that's exactly why Sheehan and many others in the D.C. area believe he is the best direction for the team to go.

"I think he's fearless," Sheehan said of Haskins. "This thing is not above him, it's not too much for him."

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