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Behind enemy lines: What the Patriots expect from the Redskins

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Behind enemy lines: What the Patriots expect from the Redskins

With the Redskins traveling to New England to take on the undefeated Patriots, we caught up with CSN New England Patriots reporter Phil Perry. Below is a Q&A on what Jay Gruden and Washington should expect from Tom Brady and company.

1) What's the Patriots weakness? Banged up offensive line? How can the Redskins try to exploit it?

The Patriots offensive line has seen better days health-wise. It's actually been incredibly banged up going all the way back to training camp. On Sunday, there's a chance you see just one player who started on the line for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX: Sebastian Vollmer. But he's not even at a position he's all that accustomed to. When starting left tackle Nate Solder went down against the Cowboys in Week 5, swing tackle Marcus Cannon took his spot. Cannon played 11 snaps against the Colts before getting hurt himself. That forced Vollmer to go from right tackle to left, where he's been very good considering the circumstances. But the resulting domino effect has second-year man Cameron Fleming at right tackle. He was on the practice squad a few weeks ago. He's held up well enough over the course of the last two weeks, but he could have a significant challenge on his hands if he's matched up with Ryan Kerrigan on the defensive left. That's one matchup I've got my eye on this weekend. The Patriots interior is hurting, too. Both rookie fourth-round picks -- Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason -- are dealing with knee injuries. Jackson's already been ruled out, and Mason hasn't played in two weeks. Veteran Ryan Wendell filled in for Jackson last week, but now he's doubtful with a knee injury of his own. Reinforcements may arrive in the form of Bryan Stork this week, but last year's starting center has been on short-term injured reserve for the first eight weeks. He's eligible to come back for the first time this week. The question is, if he's activated, where will he play? Undrafted rookie David Andrews has played every snap at center thus far this season and has been more than serviceable. Given all the injuries at guard, Stork could wind up there. The only problem? He hasn't played anything but center since his sophomore year at Florida State. If the Redskins want to disrupt Tom Brady, they'll have to do it by bringing pressure without blitzing. I'm not sure they'll be able to do that, but thanks to the wave of injuries on the Patriots line, they've picked a pretty good time to try.

MORE REDSKINS: WHO NEEDS TO BALL OUT VS NEW ENGLAND 

2) The Redskins skill players should be their healthiest of the season, with Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson on the field. Will Kirk Cousins and the Redskins be able to move the ball against the Pats secondary?

If you look at the numbers, the Patriots are firmly in the middle of the NFL pack when it comes to passing defense. They rank 16th in the league in yards allowed per game (249), and they're 12th in the league in yards allowed per attempt (7.1). That may give Gruden and Cousins cause to be optimistic, but this matchup seems to fit exactly what the Patriots like to do in the secondary. Start with Jackson. Against those types of deep threats, Bill Belichick typically wants to make sure he defends against the big play at all costs. That might mean playing with Devin McCourty (or the team's next-best free safety Duron Harmon) over the top with Logan Ryan defending underneath. Oftentimes the obvious double-team seems to be enough to discourage quarterbacks from even trying to beat it. (The Patriots famously frustrated Indy's TY Hilton twice last year with slot guy Kyle Arrington underneath and McCourty over the top.) On the other side of the field, the Patriots have had enough confidence in their No. 1 corner, Malcolm Butler, to run around with an opposing team's No. 2 wideout without much safety help. It's been an up-and-down year for the Super Bowl hero -- he's allowing a quarterback rating of 110.4 when targeted, according to Pro Football Focus -- but he's a very good athlete with impressive catch-up speed, and the coaching staff feels like he has shutdown traits. Seems to me like Pierre Garcon will be his assignment this week. Reed is kind of a different breed of tight end compared to the ones the Patriots have faced this year so I'm interested to see what the Patriots do with him. They've usually had strong safety Patrick Chung shadow guys at that position since he's good in short-area coverage and a strong tackler. We could see McCourty match Reed as well. His skill set may make him a good counter for the physical characteristics that make Reed look like a receiver at times. If McCourty finds himself in the box against Reed, expect Harmon to be the over-the-top defender on Jackson. 

3) With the Redskins at 3-4 and a double digit underdog, do the Patriots players really view this game as a threat? 

What Patriots players have said this week is what they say every week. Their focus is singular. This week's opponent has good players. Those players are capable of making big plays. Every week. Same thing. Every week. But you know what? I think they believe it, even when they say it before a game that seems like it will be as lopsided as this one. It starts with their coach. In their world, inside the walls of Gillette Stadium, the message gets drilled into their heads that if they don't do their jobs, bad things will happen. Their preparations got started this week a little bit early after playing last Thursday, and once they got going, you can bet they were swimming in Kirk Cousins highlights and Dashon Goldson's greatest hits. Belichick has done a very good job over the years of not allowing his team to fall into traps. He keeps them focused and on edge, and from what I've seen this week, he's done it again. So to answer your question: Yes, they see this game as a threat. At the moment. Give it a quarter or two, and their opinions may be changed. 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Various sources

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Sprinkle as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

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

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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