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EL-BASHIR: For Redskins, 2nd half schedule allows for some playoffs hope

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EL-BASHIR: For Redskins, 2nd half schedule allows for some playoffs hope

“Everything we want is still in our grasp,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said afterSunday’s 27-10 loss to the Patriots.

“It’s just one game,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry reassured players as they trudged off the field in Foxboro.

And they’re right. Getting blown out by Tom Brady and the defending champions, as unsightly as it was at times, didn’t end the competitive portion of the Redskins’ season, nor did it count for more than one ‘L’ on their record.

It did, however, narrow the Redskins' margin for error. They’re now 3-5 at the midway point of the season, with Drew Brees and the Saints (4-5) coming to Landover on Sunday.

“If we don’t play better, then nothing is in our grasp,” Gruden said Monday afternoon, asked about his message to the team this week. “We’ve got to make sure that we turn up the heat a little bit, challenge these guys, try to get more out of them as coaches. Hopefully, we play better because we are right in the thick of things, as far as the division is concerned.”

MORE REDSKINS: HOW TO FIX THE RUN GAME 

If you’re ready for a few paragraphs of unbridled optimism, here’s a heaping dose of it.

Assuming 8-8 or 9-7 will be good enough to take the decidedly mediocre NFC East then, yeah, a playoff berth is certainly within the Redskins’ grasp.

In fact, the second half of their schedule seems quite favorable when compared to their division rivals’ remaining slates.

Of the Redskins’ eight remaining games, only two of them are against opponents with winning records (at Carolina and vs. the New York Giants). The combined records of their opponents are 31-34. 

The Giants (5-4), meantime, face four teams with winning records down the stretch, including three division leaders (vs. New England, vs. Carolina and at Minnesota). The combined records of their opponents are 37-19.

The Eagles (4-4), on the other hand, face three teams with winning records, including two division leaders (at New England and vs. Arizona). The combined records of their opponents are 33-32.

(For the purposes of this discussion, I’m leaving out the 2-6 Cowboys. They’re done.)

Now for a dose of reality. 

For the Redskins to have any hope, they’ve got to engineer a midseason turnaround in a number of critical areas. Among them:

  1. They’ve got to fix the ground attack. Much has been made about the running game’s struggles over the past month, but there has been little change in the bottom line. Overall, the Redskins have averaged only 43 yards per game over the past four contests. That’s not just bad, it’s historically bad.  
  2. They’ve also got to stop the run better, too. Like a lot better. Including the 161 yards gained by LaGarrette Blount and the Patriots, the Redskins have allowed a whopping 187 yards on average the past four games. Their record is 1-3 in those contests. That’s no coincidence.
  3. They also need more production overall from the Kirk Cousins-led offense. Through eight games, they’re averaging just 19.8 points per game. Only Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit and San Francisco are averaging fewer—all of whom are .500 or worse.   
  4. And, finally, they’ve got to find a way to eke out a win (or two) on the road—a feat they’ve mustered just once in the Gruden Era. They face road tests at the Panthers, Bears, Eagles and Cowboys down the stretch.

That’s it. Just those four not-so-insignificant things.

Sound like a long shot? It probably is. Almost as long as the Redskins’ odds of actually making the playoffs. But there’s a chance. And right now that’s what Gruden and his players are clinging to.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.

 

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NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

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AP Images

NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

The NFL is not eliminating kickoffs altogether for the 2018 season. But at the NFL spring meetings in Atlanta, Ga., owners did agree to make significant changes to the third phase of football.

The NFL's new kickoff rules begin with having five players on each side of the ball (previously they could line up six on one side). Also, they cannot line up more than 1-yard from the restraining line, which is the line where the ball is placed on the tee. This prohibits the kickoff team from getting a running start downfield. 

At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line numbers and at least two players lined up between the numbers and the hash mark. In years past, three players had to be lined up outside the inbounds line with one outside the yard-line number. At least eight players need to be in the 15-yard "setup zone," leaving three players outside of the "setup zone." Before, all kickoff return players had to be behind their restraining line. These changes will place players closer to where the ball is kicked in order to reduce speed and the amount of space on the play. 

Wedge blocks are no longer allowed. Players who were initially lined up in the "setup zone" are the only ones who can now come together for a double-team block. In the past, only 2-man wedge blocks were allowed and could take place on the field anywhere. The purpose of this change is to limit the possible blocking schemes by the kickoff return team. 

No player on the receiving side of the ball can cross the restraining line or block in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line until the ball is touched or hits the ground. Before, the receiving team could move past their restraining line and block as soon as the ball was kicked. This change gets rid of the "jump-set/attack" block.

Finally, a ball will be considered dead if it's not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone. In the past, the ball was dead once it was downed in the end zone by the receiving team. This change means there's no requirement for the kickoff returner to down the ball in the end-zone. 

If that was a lot to dissect, check out the video below. 

In addition to new kickoff rules, ejections are now reviewable. In March, a rule passed that officials can make an ejection after a replay, but not they can also undo an ejection after a replay. 

The league also adjusted the official language for Use of a Helmet rule. 

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