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Faced with a 'must win,' Redskins falter

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Faced with a 'must win,' Redskins falter

In summary: All week, Redskins players and coaches described Sunday’s game as a possible turning point in the season.

Well, after a humbling 21-13 loss to the last place Panthers, the 2012 campaign certainly turned. Just not in the direction Coach Mike Shanahan or his players would have hoped.

As a result, the Redskins enter the bye week 3-6, struggling on both sides of the ball and in serious jeopardy of seeing things spiral out of control in the second half.

“A must-win is a game that gives you a chance to play for a playoff spot,” Shanahan said. “At the midway point, when you’re 3-5, it’s going to be a must-win to get in the hunt. When you lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who is going to be on your football team for years to come.” 

“Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at,” Shanahan continued. “Now, we find out what kind of character we have and [which] guys keep on fighting the rest of the season.”

Indeed, Shanahan has much to evaluate following a defeat that ranks among the more disappointing of his two-and-a-half-season tenure in Washington. 

The Robert Griffin III-led offense moved the ball but failed to finish drives and was limited to 13 or fewer points for the second week in a row. The unit averaged 29.7 points per game after the first six games.

The defense didn’t fare much better.

They were burned by an officials’ inadvertent whistle early, then got torched by Cam Newton, who rushed and passed for a touchdown. The dual-threat quarterback hadn’t thrown and run for a touchdown in the same game in four weeks.

“It kind of sucks because now we have to sit on this loss for two weeks,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said, referring to the upcoming week off. “It hurts [because] at 3-6, you’re kind of on the outside looking in.” 

Turning point: Trailing 14-6 late in the third quarter, the Redskins got the break they needed – or so they though. Brad Nortman’s punt traveled only 14 yards and the Redskins got the ball at their own 40-yard line. 

But instead of climbing back into the game, they sputtered. Kory Lichtensteiger was whistled for ineligible player downfield, then Griffin was sacked by Charles Johnson. Griffin was sacked four times for a total of 29 yards lost. 

On the ensuing third and 20 from the Panthers’ 46, Griffin threw incomplete and the Redskins were forced to punt. 

Offensive play of the game: The Panthers led 7-3 late in the second quarter, Newton was nursing a bleeding thumb on his throwing hand and the visitors were facing a third and 10 when the Carolina quarterback tossed a 19-yard pass to Steve Smith, who was blanketed by cornerback Josh Wilson. 

Smith, however, leaped up over Wilson and made a spectacular catch in the end zone for a critical touchdown. The play was reviewed, but Smith was ruled to have gotten his left hand under the ball as he landed.

Defensive play of the game: The Redskins were behind 7-3 in the second quarter when they put together a 17-play drive that came down to a fourth and goal at the Panthers’ two-yard line. 

Griffin bootlegged to the right and followed his blockers. But Johnson (who else?) sought out the Redskins’ rookie and tackled him well short of the goal line.

Special teams play of the game: Kai Forbath’s 47-yard field goal in the first quarter was the first of two field goals for the Redskins’ kicker. The first-year player is now 8 for 8 since replacing Billy Cundiff four weeks ago and has consistently been one of the few bright spots in recent weeks.

Quote of the day: Panthers’ running back DeAngelo Williams on the Redskins’ homecoming celebration before the game: “I'm looking at the game day [program] and it says homecoming. I'm thinking to myself, ‘This is the national football league. Are you serious? Homecoming? Homecoming.' It’s not you tried to hide it. You blatantly put it on the front of the [program]. You want to talk about somebody fired up today. I was pissed. The whole team was. That was definitely motivating.”

Quote of the day, Part II: Griffin: “The media will say the record is what you are, but I just don’t feel like our record is what we are."

Injury report: Wide receiver Santana Moss sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter collision with cornerback Josh Norman. …Griffin had X-rays on his ribs after the game but told CSN Washington there were no broken bones.

Game ball: Newton gets it. The struggling Panthers’ quarterback completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards on eight carries and a score.

By the numbers: The Redskins were whistled for a season-high 13 penalties for 97 yards. Many came at the worst possible moments, including: Lichtensteiger’s ineligible downfield, London Fletcher’s roughing the passer and two pass interference infractions on Wilson. Each of Wilson’s penalties came on Carolina scoring drives.

“That’s what gnaws at you,” Shanahan said, “when you stop yourselves.”  

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the season

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the season

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

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 @TandlerNBCS.

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 22, 66 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins player one-liners, defense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on defense; the offense was up yesterday

Defensive line

—Even though he played just 159 snaps last year before getting injured, the experience that Jonathan Allen gained in the offseason and training camp last year will help him get off to a strong start this season. 

—​Daron Payne will improve as the season goes on but he should be of some help stopping the run, the team’s most glaring weakness, right off the bat. 

—​Matt Ioannidis could play his way into an early contract extension a year from now, something nobody saw coming a year ago. 

—Last year Anthony Lanier played a little over half a season’s worth of snaps and got 5.0 sacks so I’ll put his over/under for this year at 7.5. 

—I think many fans see “Redskins veteran free agent D-lineman” and associate “bust” but Stacy McGee played pretty well last year. 

—Will Tim Settle be in at nose tackle for the first snap in Week 1?

—The coaches would like to be able to keep Ziggy Hood on the roster, but injuries and other issues could make him a victim of the roster numbers game. 

Inside linebackers

—​Zach Brown struggled a bit before injuries forced him out of the last three games, but he still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. 

—The team re-signing Mason Foster in late January was a low-key but potentially very impactful move. 

—After getting cut and then returning in November last year, Zach Vigil probably will be employed with the Redskins for all of the 2018 season. 

—It will be interesting to see how much the Redskins try to get out of converted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons as a nickel linebacker this year. 

—The Redskins moved up in the sixth round to draft Shaun Dion Hamilton, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a regular role on defense before the season is out. 

Outside linebackers

—All Preston Smith needs to do to hit it big in free agency is add a few sacks to his 2017 total and get a few more takeaways. 

—​Ryan Kerrigan already got paid, he’s a few more good years away from making the Redskins Ring of Fame. 

—I predict that Ryan Anderson gets his first NFL sack in Week 2 against the Colts. 

—You usually think of outside linebackers rotating in when it’s the nickel defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pernell McPhee be a regular in short-yardage situations. 

Cornerbacks

—I think Josh Norman will the dancing in the end zone at some point this season; he is long overdue to get a pick six (or a pick of any sort for that matter).

—The first time I noticed Quinton Dunbar playing cornerback was when he lined up against Odell Beckham in 2015. 

—The success of the Redskins’ decisions to trade Kendall Fuller and to let Bashaud Breeland leave as a free agent will hinge mostly on how well Fabian Moreau plays in his second year in the NFL.

—Realistically, the Redskins can hope to get 10 or 12 good games out of Orlando Scandrick

—And because Scandrick is unlikely to be healthy for 16 games, the ability of Josh Holsey to step in when needed will be critical. 

—If the Redskins can get a few good punt returns and 75 snaps at nickel corner from Greg Stroman he will be worth the seventh-round pick they used to draft him. 

Safeties

—With a year in the defense under his belt, D.J. Swearinger is a candidate to make his first Pro Bowl. 

—After Jay Gruden compared him to Jordan Reed, there is a lot of pressure on Montae Nicholson to stay on the field and perform well when he is out there. 

—Even though he started eight games last year I think the coaches view Deshazor Everett as more of a special teams guy and situational defender than a safety they want playing 70 snaps a game. 

—​Troy Apke has a lot to learn and it remains to be seen if he can go from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL football player.

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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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 21
—Training camp starts (7/26) 66
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 80

The Redskins last played a game 142 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 110 days. 

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