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After a shaky start, Redskins defense shuts down the Saints


After a shaky start, Redskins defense shuts down the Saints

The Redskins defense got off to a rocky start against the Saints on Sunday. For a while it looked like both teams would hang up scores in the 40’s.

New Orleans scored its first touchdown the first time it had the ball following a 70-yard run by Mark Ingram. Two possessions later the Saints scored again on a 60-yard bomb from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks. After three possessions the game was tied at 14 and the Saints had 160 yards of offense with 67 yards passing and 93 on the ground. It looked like one of those shootouts was brewing, where the last team with the ball wins.

But the Redskins defense put on the clamps after that. For the last 39 minutes of the game, Brees passed for just 134 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Ingram was injured in the first half and played sparingly the rest of the way. C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower, and Ingram rushed for 65 yards in the last 39 minutes.

“It’s a matter of them stepping up,” said Jay Gruden of the defensive turnaround. “Like I said, the pass rush was solid enough where it made Drew a little bit uncomfortable, then guys made some plays. We were fortunate with a couple. I think they dropped one on third down and they dropped another we got for the pick. It’s good to see our guys flying around the ball making some big plays.”

The turnaround came from making some solid tackles, tightening up the defense around the Saints receivers, particularly Cooks, and the big plays that Gruden noted.

There was one play that stood out. After trailing 27-14 at halftime, the Saints took the second-half kickoff and they were threating to make it a one-score game. They moved steadily down to the Washington 31. Hightower gained nothing on third down. Sean Payton decided to go for it on fourth and one. Spiller went up the middle and was stuffed. Chris Baker and Kedric Golston got credit for the stop but it really the entire defensive front.

“I think that was a huge play,” said Gruden. “A lot of momentum swing there.”

The Redskins took the ball, drove for a field goal to go up 30-14 and the rout was on.

Early in the fourth quarter, Brees threw a pass for Marques Colston. It bounced off of the receiver’s hands and into those of safety Dashon Goldson. He had a clear field in front of him and he easily rolled in for a touchdown to put the Redskins up 44-14.

Perry Riley got the final interception and he did it in style. Brees went deep down the left sideline for tight end Ben Watson. Riley was with Watson step for step and gained inside position on him. Watson could see that the play was not going to end well so he tugged on the back of Riley’s jersey, drawing a flag. No matter, Riley made a juggling interception as he went to the ground. For a player who has come under considerable fire for his coverage skills, it was a good moment. 

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10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?


10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

It might be hard to remember now, but there was a week late last season for the Redskins where most informed people considered Kevin O'Connell on his way out. The talented young quarterbacks coach was being pursued by Chip Kelly to be offensive coordinator at UCLA, and the smart money suggested O'Connell would take the job. 

Except he didn't. 

O'Connell decided to stay with the Redskins and continue to work on Jay Gruden's staff. In turn, Washington promoted O'Connell to passing game coordinator, a new title that likely means much more involvement in game-planning. 

Working for Gruden comes with some perks. Sean McVay ran the offense for Gruden for a few seasons and landed a prime head coaching job with the Rams. McVay has plenty of his own talent, but throughout the NFL, Gruden's offense is widely respected. 

How will O'Connell's influence shape things this fall?

Consider that he deserves some credit for Kirk Cousins improved play out of the pocket in 2017. Now combine a coach that schemes plays for QBs on the move with new Washington passer Alex Smith, a strong runner and serious athlete, and this offense could look much more mobile in 2018. 

Gruden still has the final call on gameday, but O'Connell's voice will matter this year, more so than before. Bill Callahan and Matt Cavanaugh retain their roles and prominence in the offensive game-planning, for sure, but as Washington imports more run-pass option plays and QB movement, know that O'Connell is playing his part. 

Things will look different with Alex Smith running the Redskins offense than they did with Kirk Cousins at the helm. 

Just remember, O'Connell didn't turn down a job in Hollywood for no reason. 



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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 17, nine days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass catchers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass catchers are up. They are roughly ranked 2017 receiving yards, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teams and quarterbacks

Julio Jones, Falcons—Somehow the perception is that he had an off year in 2017 even though he still had 1,444 yards receiving. His touchdowns were down; his total of three TDs was a career worst for a full season. Still, he’s a beast to try to cover and even if you have him perfectly covered he can still make the catch on you. 

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Despite working with some shaky quarterbacks, Hopkins has managed to gain over 1,100 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. He is a highlight show regular and his 13 touchdowns led the league in 2017. 

Michael Thomas, Saints—The third-year player doesn’t have high name recognition outside of New Orleans and maybe fans of the other NFC South teams. Defensive coordinators certainly don’t sleep on him. Thomas is as consistent as they come, posting nine games with 80 or more receiving yards last season. 

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals—I keep wondering when he will show signs of his age (he’ll be 35 before the season starts). He didn’t last year, posting 109 receptions despite the fact that his quarterbacks were an aging Carson Palmer plus journeymen Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. 

Mike Evans, Buccaneers—At 6-5, he is able to physically beat most cornerbacks. Evans will turn 25 just before the season starts and he got a five-year, $82.5 million contract extension. He is worth every bit of it. If Jameis Winston gets a big contract (something that is up in the air right now), he owes a good chunk of it to Evans. 

Best of the rest: T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Davante Adams, Packers; Alvin Kamara (RB), Saints; Zach Ertz (TE), Eagles

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 9
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 23
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 46

The Redskins last played a game 198 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 54 days. 

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