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Why can't the Redskins hold onto their early leads or momentum in second halves?

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Why can't the Redskins hold onto their early leads or momentum in second halves?

The Redskins barely survived their game against the 49ers on Sunday for a third win in their pockets. Based on the first half, it should have been a relatively clear path to victory. But it also could have easily gone the other way, like their almost-win against the Chiefs two weeks ago, which ultimately became their second loss. 

If there was a pattern in the two games, it was the Redskins’ inability to build on early success. Against the Chiefs, they led 10-0 in the first quarter and were outscored 29-10 the rest of the way. Sunday, the lead was 17-0 with 1:51 left in the first half. but after that, they were outscored 24-9.

In fact, the Redskins have built up double-digit leads before the other team got on the scoreboard in each of their last four games. They led the Rams 13-0 and the Raiders 21-0. In three of those four games — every one except for the Raiders game — the Redskins let the opposition move into at least a tie.

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I’m old enough to remember the preseason, when there was much handwringing over the offense getting off to slow starts. In five regular season games, the Redskins have outscored the opposition by 27-7 in the first quarter and 75-40 in the first half. (Everyone should now nod and say the preseason means nothing, and everyone will remember that right up until the first preseason game of 2018 kicks off).

But the Redskins apparently can’t stand the prosperity. They have been outscored 73-42 in the second half.

If you look at the numbers, a lot of the second-half drop off is about the running game. In the first half, the Redskins have rushed for 375 yards with a strong average of 4.8 yards per carry. After intermission, they have 237 yards and an average of 3.4 per attempt. It should be noted that Jay Gruden is not abandoning the run. They have run 79 times in the first half and 70 in the second — hardly a statistically significant difference on a fairly small sample size.

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The Redskins also become easier to run against in the second half. Opponents have 162 yards rushing with a 3.2 average in the first half and 237 with a 4.0 average after that.

It’s not as simple as that, of course. There are moments of defensive lapses — like when coverage broke down and former Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson was able to get wide open to catch a 45-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling C.J. Beathard, and when Alex Smith scrambled to his right and completed a pass that set up the winning field goal. The Redskins defense needs to play better in those moments.

The offense needs to perform better in the second half. That’s when the defense is supposed to be wearing down. The rushing average should go up, not down. The 49ers defense had been on the field for 68 plays when the Redskins recovered that onside kick. They should do better than three runs for six yards and a punt that gave San Francisco a last chance.

There is talk that the Redskins are a better team this year, and there are signs that they are. But if they don’t learn how to finish off their hot starts their record won’t show much improvement.

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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Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Joe Theismann wants Kyler Murray to have a "long, happy career" — as a professional baseball player.

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, the former Redskins QB was asked what he thought of Murray's choice to pursue his NFL dreams over his MLB dreams for now. He didn't hold back.

"I think that he should choose baseball," Theismann said. "I think that he would struggle in the NFL."

As of now, many mock drafts are projecting the Heisman Trophy winner to be selected in the first round. His believers see him as an electric option who's entering a league perfectly suited for his skillset. 

Theismann is not in that camp, though.

"I understand a lot of guys work from the 'gun. You're away from the line of scrimmage," he explained. "But, sooner or later, defensive coaches in this league are going to figure out how to keep you in the pocket. And if you can't throw from the pocket, or you can't see from the pocket, it's going to become a problem."

Murray's height, which Theismann touched on, is a main concern for those skeptical of how he'd handle life in the NFL. Of course, being in the 5-foot-9 range matters far less on a MLB diamond.

Theismann also thinks that the Oklahoma product will need to be in an offense with a strong running attack. That's something any rookie passer needs to succeed, and without one, Theismann isn't sure if Murray can carry the load on his own.

In the end, Theismann told NBC Sports Washington that Murray is "making a mistake" by setting his sights on the gridiron. He simply doesn't see things going well for Murray as a signal caller.

"I think in professional football, it'll be a real challenge and an uphill climb for him to be able to do the things that he wants to do and a team wants him to do," he said.

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2019 NFL mock draft: History shows cost for acquiring Kyler Murray within Redskins' reality

2019 NFL mock draft: History shows cost for acquiring Kyler Murray within Redskins' reality

Here comes Kyler Murray, maybe.

Maybe the NFL, that is. Yes, though the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback announced Monday he would enter the 2019 Draft. We still don’t know whether the Oakland A’s prospect ultimately chooses the gridiron over the outfield. The smitten professional leagues will do whatever is possible for that final rose from the high-profile athlete.

Let’s assume Murray has eyes on a football marriage. He will not have much say in choosing his other half on the team level. With April’s NFL Draft a ways off, it’s the mock draft world determining the 5-foot-9 passer’s destination for now.

The draft slot range extends from the top half of the first round to a Day 2 selection. Picking football with that rumored downside seems unlikely. Murray was the ninth overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft. Therefore we will ponder a world where the bullish win the day.

Among the mock draft’s currently projecting Murray high in the first round, ESPN’s via Mel Kiper Jr. and NBC Sports Washington’s from yours truly. Similarities between the mocks include:

  • Murray selected 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins
  • The second QB drafted after Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins
  • Three quarterbacks in the first round

Not that anyone in the DMV area needs a reminder, but the Redskins have the 15th selection and quarterback uncertainty. Plenty of time for debating remains on whether Washington should use its first on a QB (I lean no for now).

In these scenarios, Washington would miss out on the top two projected quarterbacks. The third QB named in the two mocks, Duke’s Daniel Jones, hears his name called late in round one. Missouri’s Drew Lock and West Virginia’s Will Grier are among the more prominent late first/second-round candidates.

Therefore if adding QB help in round one were the goal, the Redskins would shift focus to other prospects – unless they are love-struck with Murray or Haskins.

Quarterbacks tend to rise by draft day. It’s kind of a valuable position. Therefore sitting at 15 becomes risky if Washington wants one of the better options.

Free agency comes before the draft. At the moment, the Giants (6), Jaguars (7) and Dolphins are obvious QB landing spots. The Buccaneers (5), Broncos (10) and Bengals (11) could join such a list.

Here’s the potential cost for moving up based on recent teams originally selecting 15 or lower.

2018 

  • Cardinals trade 15, 79, 152 to Raiders for 10 (QB Josh Rosen)
  • Bills trade 21, 158 and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to Bengals for 12 (NT Vita Vea) and 187

2017

  • Texans trade 25 and a 2018 first-round selection to Browns for 12 (QB Deshaun Watson)

2016

  • Titans trade 15, 76 and a 2017 second round selection to Browns for 8 (OT Jack Conklin), 176

Based on the price Houston paid moving up 13 spots, the cost of jumping past the Giants and Jaguars assuming those teams stay put, for Haskins would require a massive outlay. Recall the bushel of high picks Washington sent St. Louis for the right to draft Robert Griffin III just to move from six to two.

However, the cost for moving from 15 ahead of 13 is not steep relative to the QB need – and the picks at Washington’s disposal.

The trades for Rosen and Conklin are most similar to each other and the Redskins’ situation. Tennessee paid a heavier price in 2016 going from 15 to eight than Arizona did with a move from 15 to 10 last season.

What’s noteworthy from the Washington’s perspective is the ammunition available. The Redskins have their original selections except for the fourth-rounder sent to Green Bay for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and sixth used to snag Adonis Alexander in the supplemental draft. In addition, projections show compensatory picks in the third, fifth and sixth round coming their way based on three of their 2018 free agents – Kirk Cousins, Trent Murphy, Ryan Grant – signing elsewhere.

While the Redskins have a lengthy list of needs, these extra selections allow for a tick more aggressiveness if interested. Washington could make the exact same Arizona trade from last season to jump Miami for Murray or another quarterback and still own seven selections including a first, second and third.

The Redskins would still have enough selections to tab a left guard, wide receiver, safety or whatever remained on the needs following free agency in the second or third round. That’s worth keeping in mind as this discussion lurches forward over next three months.

Before such decisions, the question is whether Murray chooses the NFL over MLB. The pining football world awaits your decision, Kyler.

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