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Week 6 Panthers vs. Redskins: Picking up the pieces in Washington

Week 6 Panthers vs. Redskins: Picking up the pieces in Washington

Young children should not hear the truth about certain things in life, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Maybe the real odds of winning one of those oversized stuff animals at the local county fair. 

The truth can just be too harsh for young children. 

Well, the truth might be too harsh for Redskins fans too after an abysmal loss to the Saints last Monday night. The game in New Orleans was embarrassing, a new low point for a team with a number of low points during the last decade. 

Still, and listen closely because this might be hard to fathom, there's a lot of football left this season. The Redskins remain firmly in the hunt in the NFC East. 

Washington is 2-2 on the season, and a win against the Panthers would give Washington a chance to catch their breath against the "cloud" of controversy encompassing the organization since the Monday night loss. Problem is winning isn't easy. 

  1. Been a long time - The last time the Redskins beat the Panthers, Jason Campbell was quarterback and Twitter had just been invented. That was 2006. Cam Newton hasn't lost to the Redskins in four tries, and he's been quite good in those contests. Washington has lost on the road, and at home. It's easy to say the Panthers play a more physical style than the Redskins, but that seems overly simple. Remember too, the 'Skins usually struggle to win two games in a row, but they often play well coming off a loss. 
  2. Can't be that bad - The Redskins secondary struggled immensely against the Saints. Drew Brees set a new NFL record against Washington, becoming the all-time passing yards leader in league history and throwing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Washington's group was bad, but the good news is Cam Newton and the Panthers pass game has not been nearly as explosive. Coming into Week 6, Newton averages just 210 yards passing per game. Twice this year, Newton has thrown for less than 200 yards. Defensively, the Redskins have allowed under 230 yards-per-game through the air. 
  3. To your health - Washington is dealing with a number of injuries to significant players, starting with running back Adrian Peterson. The future Hall of Fame running back told reporters last week he separated his shoulder during the loss in New Orleans, and was spotted during the week with a heavy wrap on his knee. Peterson is expected to play on Sunday, but the receiver position is not nearly as certain. Josh Doctson missed the Saints game with a heel injury, but was back at practice this week. Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson missed time though. Early returns in a Redskins uniform show QB Alex Smith needs as many weapons as he can get, and it's hard to know how many of those will be on the field, and fully healthy, on Sunday. 
  4. All or nothing - In two wins this year, Washington has run the ball well. In two losses, the 'Skins run game has been terrible. Maybe there's a correlation? For years, the Panthers have been one of the toughest NFL squads to run the ball against. Carolina is giving up nearly 95 yards-per-game on the ground. The truth might be that the Redskins are borderline desperate for this win, and their offensive line has the talent to get push against most defenses. Will that be the group that shows up against a Top 10 rush defense like Carolina? 

They said it

  • Alex Smith reacting to the Saints loss: "You want to be real with yourself. I think every guy in there has got to look at themselves in the mirror and be real with themselves, things they have to get better at, need to get better at to help this team and we all have them. If you do that and then you do move on. It's one game."
  • Carolina coach Ron Rivera on facing the Redskins: "I think they are a good football team. I think they are very well coached. I think Jay [Gruden] does a great job with them."
  • Greg Manusky on facing Cam Newton: "He can do it all. Slide in the pocket, big frame guy, you've got to make sure you get bodies around him. He can scramble for a first down. He's a force and he always has been when he got in the league and we've got to go out there and make sure we win the game."
  • Josh Norman on his television aspirations: "I've been Hollywood since I came out my mother's womb."

News & Notes

  • Fabian Moreau  ranks second in the NFL in forced fumbles.
  • Alex Smith has not thrown for multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games since Week 16 and 17 of the 2015 season. 
  • In four starts against the Redskins, Cam Newton has nine passing touchdowns and no interceptions. 
  • With the Week 4 loss in New Orleans, Jay Gruden fell to 1-7 on Monday Night Football. 

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New Redskins RB JD McKissic wants to 'create a hazard' for opposing defenses

New Redskins RB JD McKissic wants to 'create a hazard' for opposing defenses

The Redskins signed running back JD McKissic with a pretty specific role in mind, but the wide receiver turned runner might have bigger designs than just being a third-down back. 

"I love to run between the tackles," McKissic said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "I want to create a hazard for the defense."

That's great, but it's not why Washington brought in the fifth-year back out of Arkansas State. In college, McKissic played wide receiver and played it well. In four seasons for the Red Wolves he caught 289 passes for nearly 3,000 yards with 11 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had more than 100 catches and 1,000 yards.

He was a very legitimate receiving threat in the Sun Belt Conference, but in the NFL, that just wasn't in the cards, particularly at 5-foot-10 and 195 lbs. So he switched to running back and has stuck in the league since 2016, when he signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. 

Now in Washington, McKissic is focused on being a running back but won't let his roots go. 

"I will always feel like I'm a receiver just because I've done it my whole life," he said. "I never want to lose my receiver ability. I feel like it's kept me in the league to do something different. That's what sets me apart from a lot of other guys."

In new Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner's scheme, receiving ability has a lot of value for a running back. Throwing to backs has always been a staple of the Turner offense, even when Scott's father Norv Turner ran it throughout the 1990s and 2000s. It's a way to create mismatches against the defense and get more defensive backs on the field, which can in turn open up more room to run the football. 

McKissic spoke with Turner about the offensive plans and liked what he heard. 

"The running back position is very important to him," McKissic said of Turner. "He mentioned Christian McCaffrey had 100 catches [in 2019]. He told me I'll get a couple but I won't get that many."

Last season in Carolina, McCaffrey cooked.

He didn't just catch 100 passes, McCaffrey caught 116 passes. He accounted for nearly 2,400 yards of total offense through the air and on the ground, and that was with Norv and Scott Turner running the offense. 

Now, to be clear, McKissic isn't McCaffrey. Last year with the Lions, McKissic caught 34 passes for 234 yards and accounted for about 440 yards of offense.

There will be a similar McCaffrey role available in the new Redskins offense though. 

Of the Redskins running backs under contract, and there are a lot, McKissic has a similar body type to McCaffrey and is best known as a pass-catcher. There will be competition for that job, and the position group has a lot of options. As far as third-down back though Adrian Peterson is unlikely to be in the running, which leaves McKissic, Derrius Guice and Bryce Love. The Redskins also signed Peyton Barber this offseason but the former Bucs running back has never been much of a pass-catcher in his four-year career. Guice and Love are coming back from significant knee injuries, so McKissic could have a leg up on the competition, and he's certainly the only back that used to play receiver.

When new Redskins coach Ron Rivera took over the top job in Washington, he promised competition at every position on the field. By adding two free agent running backs to a group that already included Peterson, Guice and Love, Rivera's got plenty of heat in the backfield. 

"That's what's it all about, competition man," McKissic said. "We understand the business, we know the game."

While he said he's "honored" to be in the same group as Peterson, the best way for McKissic to make an impact is through the air. 

"I got to keep my route running up. I can't let them forget that I was a wide receiver."

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Why it was a 'no brainer' for Sean Davis to sign with Redskins and join Landon Collins

Why it was a 'no brainer' for Sean Davis to sign with Redskins and join Landon Collins

Sean Davis spent his first four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he always stayed up to date on the happenings of one other team. 

That would be the Washington Redskins, the safety's favorite team growing up. Davis grew up in Prince George's County, just a 20-minute drive from FedEx Field, where the Redskins play their home games. He stayed local for college, starring for the University of Maryland. When he was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2016, it was Davis' first time leaving the DMV area.

Davis became a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason, and the Redskins had a much-needed hole to fill at free safety. So when the opportunity came up for Davis to sign with him hometown team, the safety was not going to pass the chance.

"It was a no brainer, honestly," Davis said on a conference call Wednesday. "The opportunity to come home and play for the Redskins, it was a no brainer. It was a really easy decision. Just glad to be a part of the organization."

The chance to play for his hometown team certainly played a role in Davis' decision to sign with the Burgundy and Gold, it was not the only reason by any means.

Davis fits nicely within the Redskins defense, and has experience playing multiple positions in the secondary. The safety is extremely versatile, a trait that new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera has prioritized with many of the team's free agent signings.

"I just like being on the field," Davis said. "I feel like I can play any position you really want me to. If I'm on the field, I feel like I'm going to make an impact on the defense."

In Pittsburgh, he did just that. As a rookie, Davis played a little bit of cornerback and both safety positions. He was the Steelers full-time starting strong safety in 2017 before moving to free safety in 2018.

Davis feels that his experience playing multiple positions, similar to new Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller, allows him to understand the defense better as a whole.

"Just bouncing around, I feel like it's evolved my game," Davis said. "[It] gave me a better understanding of the defense and how all the positions work together and how we feed off each other."

While the 26-year-old admitted he does feel more comfortable playing closer to the line of scrimmage, he cited his range, speed, and athletic abilities as the reason he's able to be successful at the free safety spot. 

Davis will be asked to play free safety with the Redskins, pairing on the backend with highly-talented safety Landon Collins, whom the Redskins inked to a lucrative six-year deal last offseason. Sticking at free safety is something Davis is excited about.

"I'm looking forward to being the deep guy, being the one that everyone has to depend on, be the last man of defense," Davis said. "[Moving to] free safety two years ago, that really helped my game and my overall skill set."

The Maryland product mentioned that tackling is something he prides himself on, and a sure-tackler is something the Redskins defense will highly benefit from.

"Open-field tackling, that's one of the hardest things in football," Davis said. "That's one thing I pride myself on. Each year, I've missed less tackles. So I'm just looking forward to improving my game each and every year. The best is yet to come."

The new Redskins safety duo has yet to meet in person, but Davis is eager to get to work with his new partner on the backend of the defense.  Although Collins is expected to play closer to the line of scrimmage with Davis as the last line of defense, both of them have experience at each safety position. The duo's versatility is something Davis thinks will benefit the Redskins greatly in 2020.

"Defenses are evolving, and we have to be able to play both safety [positions]," Davis said. "Being versatile is another thing that helps us. I'm looking forward to meeting Landon and working with him."

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