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Game Preview: Giants at Redskins

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Game Preview: Giants at Redskins

What: Giants (7-4) vs. Redskins (5-6)

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

One of the enduring images from the forgettable first half of the Redskins’ season was Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz performing a celebratory salsa in the end zone in the waning moments of the teams’ Oct. 21 meeting.

Moments earlier, Cruz had raced through the heart of Washington’s secondary and hauled in a 77-yard, game-clinching touchdown without so much as being touched by a defender. As a result, certain victory had been snatched from the Redskins’ grasp.

“We were supposed to win that game,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said this week. “The good thing is we get another opportunity, and we’re still right in the mix.”

Indeed, the NFC East rivals meet again on Monday Night Football in a pivotal matchup for both teams. A Redskins’ win would catapult them back into the race for the division and wild card. A Giants’ win, however, would give them a commanding three-game division lead with four games left to play.

"We understand where our record is and what we have to do," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Our goal is to win the NFC East, and to do that, we have to play well."

And like the teams’ first encounter, big plays – both for and against – will be paramount for the Redskins, who will be hosting their first meaningful game in December since 2007.

Obviously, the defense must eliminate long plays from scrimmage for Eli Manning and Co. Another touchdown like Cruz’s – or Dez Bryant’s 85-yarder on Thanksgiving – could, in fact, end the Redskins' season.

On the other side of the ball, Washington’s offense will aim to extend a recent run of producing long, game-changing plays. In the past two games – season-saving victories over the Eagles and Cowboys – Robert Griffin III has thrown a team-record eight touchdowns. Four of those passes have come from 49 or more yards out. He had only two such scoring passes the previous nine contests.

New York’s defense, meantime, ranks 25th in passing yards allowed per game (253) and 30th in yards per reception (12.8). So the opportunity to go deep should be available to Griffin and his resurgent corps of receivers.

“We’re hitting things that we weren’t hitting earlier in the year,” Griffin said this week. “We’re able to do things were weren’t able to do [because] our receivers are playing at a high level. We’ve [also] added some elements to the passing game that make us more dangerous, so they’ll prepare for that and we'll see what happens.”

Here are the other storylines the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring throughout the game:

1-Rookie running back Alfred Morris needs only 18 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Only 10 running backs in franchise history have reached the plateau and it’s only been done 22 times by a Redskin. Morris would also become the first to accomplish the feat since Clinton Portis in 2008 and only the second rookie.

2-Takeways, as always, will be “crucial,” according to nose tackle Barry Cofield. In each of the past two victories, the Redskins defense has forced three turnovers. In the losses to Steelers and Panthers, the unit forced none.

“It’s definitely not a coincidence. For me, our two worse losses were the Pittsburgh and Carolina games,” Cofield said. “That’s a stat Coach Shanahan put in front of us. Turnovers can cover up out shortcomings on defense and are something that can propel the offense.”

3-Although Pierre Garçon lined up for only 29 of the offensive snaps against the Cowboys, the wide receiver’s contributions were undeniable. He had four receptions for 86 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown.

“It helped me to be more comfortable and more confident,” said Garçon, who added that his foot injury continues to improve and that he’s learning to cope with – and perform despite – the discomfort. “It’s getting better; there’s progress.”

4-Milestone watch: If London Fletcher’s ailing left ankle allows him to suit up, as expected, he’ll extend his league-leading consecutive games streak to 236. …If Griffin rushes for 65 yards, he’ll break Cam Newton’s record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback (706). …An interception for DeAngelo Hall would be his 40th and make him one of only six active players with as many. ...The Redskins will be seeking to end a 10-game losing streak at home on Monday night.

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that hit the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side but since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact, there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball, but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat, the whole offense will be harder to defend.

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

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

Tandler on Twitter

My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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