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Some positions become clear, while others get murky at Redskins OTAs

Some positions become clear, while others get murky at Redskins OTAs

As the Redskins near the end of OTAs, the positions of strength become more and more clear. On the flip side, so do the weaknesses. 

For somebody entering a new offense, Alex Smith seems to have few problems picking up Jay Gruden's terminology and scheme. In fact, it seems like Smith already has the nuts and bolts of Gruden's West Coast system under control. 

Particularly, Smith seems to be in a comfort zone with wideout Jamison Crowder. The two connected on a few routes during Wednesday's OTA session. There was plenty of other action on the field in Ashburn. 

  • Paul Richardson worked very well in misdirection schemes while in Seattle, and it seems like Washington intends to do the same thing. On one red-zone drill, Richardson went in motion toward the short side of the field, and the defense shifted to the wideout. At the snap, Derrius Guice leaked out to the opposite flat, and Smith found the rookie runner for an easy TD. 
  • Speaking of Guice, any questions about his ability catching passes are over. Gruden said of Guice after the session "it's been very exciting" watching the rookie as a pass-catcher. 
  • One more Guice note - on one catch near the sideline in a red zone drill, he quickly jumped and re-planted his feet. It looked like he was heading to the sideline, and that's where the defender went, only when Guice landed and cut inside the defender fell to the ground. Guice's quick feet caused the Ashburn grass to tear a bit, only when the linebacker on the ground tried to point to the grass as the reason he fell, one player from the offensive bench yelled out, "It's not the field."
  • As much excitement as Guice continues to create, don't sleep on Rob Kelley. He's looked good. 
  • Jeremy Sprinkle got a lot of reps with the first-team offense.
  • The Redskins offense worked A LOT with a fullback. Gruden after the session: "It’s good for our defense also to see some reps with teams with a fullback, so we are giving them a good look at lead plays and power plays and all that stuff so they can prepare for it. It was also a chance for Elijah [Wellman] to make the team whether we need a fullback or not."
  • Not everything was good news. Third-string QB Kevin Hogan had a rough day. He held the ball too long in both full team and 7v7 drills and didn't look accurate when he did throw the ball. For the small chorus of fans that thought Hogan could push Colt McCoy for the backup job, think again.
  • Speaking of Colt, he again connected on a deep pass to Robert Davis. Those two appear to have found some rhythm. 
  • Rookie Troy Apke still has a lot to learn. On consecutive plays during red zone drills, he appeared to get caught inside as plays developed in the outside corner of the end zone, and both resulted in touchdowns. 
  • A strong offseason continues for Quinton Dunbar. Challenged repeatedly, Dunbar broke up a few passes and seemed to be in good position on others.
  • At one point, Gruden flashed his temper. the third-team offense got to the line of scrimmage slow and then a tackle jumped offsides. Gruden wasn't pleased, barked at the team to get back to the huddle, and the play got run again. Having watched Gruden run through the monotony of OTAs and non-pad practices for a few years, it becomes clear he's willing to be relaxed, but will not tolerate sloppiness. Similar scenes have unfolded in Richmond in the past. 
  • Last note - there is a lot of down time during OTAs. Typically, the quarterbacks break off in their own cloister while much of the rest of the team takes part in special teams drills. On Wednesday, the QB group often had a special guest: Josh Doctson. It seemed like every chance, Doctson worked with Smith on timing routes and ball location. That's exactly the kind of stuff that should happen in June. 

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Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

If the Redskins want to make a statement, Sunday marks a real opportunity. 

Washington, sitting at 6-3 and in first place of the NFC East, hosts Houston, a team that sits at 6-3 and in first place of the AFC South. Despite their records, neither team gets much consideration among the real Super Bowl contenders in the NFL. 

Like any NFL team, both the 'Skins and Texans have weaknesses. And unlike the top NFL teams, both the Texans and the 'Skins have a few warts, too. 

The team that best plays to their strengths will leave FedEx Field on Sunday at 7-3, almost assured of a playoff spot and no longer looking for a signature win. 

Going streaking

The Texans started the season bad, losing their first three games. Since then, Houston hasn't lost. Bill O'Brien's team didn't play last week, enjoying their bye in the actual middle of the season unlike the Redskins, but it's possible the layoff slowed the momentum.

When Houston last played, the Texans escaped Denver with a narrow, last-second victory. A six-game win streak is incredibly hard to come by in the NFL, and a seven-game heater is even harder to put together.

So. Much. Talent.

Not many teams can boast the type of elite talent like the Texans. The team has two possible future Hall-of-Famers in J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins both playing in their prime. Watt has nine sacks in nine games, and the Houston defense aggressively moves him around on the defensive line.

That means Watt will face up against Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, but also probably inside against right guard Tony Bergstrom. Charley Casserly described Watt against Bergstrom as a significant mismatch, and Washington will need to be creative to slow down the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

As for Hopkins, expect Redskins cornerback Josh Norman to travel with the athletic Texans wideout for much of the game. Hopkins is averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game, and has seven touchdowns in nine games. He will be a major part of the Houston attack. Oh yeah, we didn't even mention Deshaun Watson or Jadeveon Clowney.

Ground game

The Redskins and the Texans run the ball well. Washington ranks 10th in the NFL on the ground, averaging 121.2 yards-per-game. Houston ranks 11th, averaging 120.2 yards-per-game.

For the Redskins, however, the run game is their only means of offense. Their pass game ranks in the bottom third of the NFL, and in four of his last five games, Alex Smith has thrown for fewer than 180 yards. Weirdly, all four of those sub-200 passing yard games from Smith have resulted in wins for Washington.

The Texans throw the ball better, ranked 18th in the NFL, but aren't the type of dominant offense that the Redskins have struggled against (cough Atlanta, cough New Orleans).

Turn around bright eyes

Few things change NFL games like turnovers, and the Redskins' win last week in Tampa might be the best example. Washington got dominated in just about every offensive category, but the Bucs turned the ball over four times, and the 'Skins skated with a 16-3 victory.

At +4 in turnover margin, the Texans take care of the ball, but not like the +11 Redskins. Watson has thrown seven INTs this season. Not a lot, but four more than Smith. A huge part of the Redskins winning formula is protecting the ball and generating turnovers, and certainly Jay Gruden wants to replicate that on Sunday. 

They said it

  • Jay Gruden on the Redskins mindset in first place: "We're obviously not satisfied or sitting in the lounge chair with our feet up right now relaxing. We've got to get back to work and continue to work. We know there is a lot of football ahead of us, a lot of great teams come in here to play and we have to go there to play and we have to do better. We have to do better on offense and there's a lot more for us to get offensively and defensively for that matter. I'm glad that we're winning without a doubt."
  • Alex Smith on facing J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line: "They are one of the most disruptive fronts in football. I think when you just talk about just creating problems, penetration. They're all over the place. They obviously are really, really talented. They get up the field."
  • Texans coach Bill O'Brien on Redskins RB Adrian Peterson: "He is obviously one of the best to ever play the game. I mean, he's big, strong, fast, has got good vision, great cutting ability, very, very difficult to stop."

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The 1991 matchup between the Redskins and Oilers is the only game D.C. fans should think of when they hear Washington vs. Houston. 

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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