When the Redskins open the preseason Thursday in Buffalo, a number of players who are engaged in position battles will get their first chance to make an impression.Incumbent kicker Graham Gano is one of them.Through two weeks of training camp, Gano has acquitted himself well as he attempts to fend off Neil Rackers, the veteran signed this offseason to challenge him. Gano and Rackers both are unofficially 16 for 19 in the three head-to-head field goal competitions thus far.But, as Gano and special teams Coach Danny Smith conceded this week, practice means relatively little when determining which kicker makes the 53-man roster. It really will come down to what transpires during the teams four preseason contests, beginning with the Bills.Thats what separates everybody; its execution under pressure, Smith said Thursday in his first public comments since training camp began. Were going put them in those pressure situations and see who executes the best.Smith said his biggest challenge as a position coach will be to ensure that both Gano and Rackers get equal opportunity to show what they can do. To accomplish that, Smith said he plans to have the player who kicks a field goal or point after to also take the ensuing kickoff, as to simulate a normal game routine.On Thursday, Gano will go first if the Redskins kickoff to start the game, Smith said. If not, it will depend on which kicker finished the first half.By the end of the four exhibitions, Smith said it will be obvious to everyone which kicker has the edge.Its going to be on production, solely, Smith said.Gano would seem to have the advantage entering the preseason. At 25 years old, hes 10 years younger than Rackers. Hes got the stronger leg and is familiar to the coaching staff after spending the previous three seasons in Washington.That said, Gano connected on 75.6 percent of his field goals, which ranked 29th in the NFL. That number, of course, was negatively impacted by five blocked attempts.I met with the coaches and they said there wasnt anything I could do anything about it personally, Gano said of the blocks. You dont want blocks at all. But last year, thats the past.Smith declined to say what exactly went haywire on so many attempts in 2011. He did, however, concede that there was plenty of blame to be spread around, beginning with him.We had a lot of issues, to be honest, Smith said.If Gano is going to retain his job, Smith said he wants to see more consistency and focus.Day in and day out you got to do it, Smith said. Just because we do it for a couple years doesnt mean we have it. As a coach in this league, you get new coaches and they get their first contract and they think they arrived. I dont think they arrived until you get another contract. Its the same with a kicker.As for Gano, he said hes not feeling any additional pressure because he used to fighting for his job in camp.But he also said he likes his chances.Im feeling pretty good, Gano said. Im starting to hit my stride and Im looking forward to Thursday.
Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.
Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:
"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."
All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.
Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.
Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.
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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 before the team heads to Richmond.
No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?
No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact.
Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.
So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field.
DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)
That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve.
Can Guice do that?
The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game.
The bigger key is opportunities.
How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.
If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too.
Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games.
Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.
One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December.
The line can't be that beat up again, right?
Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?
If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018.
One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams.
Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight.
The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.
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