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Need to Know: Answering fan questions—Crowder, resting Reed, and respect

Need to Know: Answering fan questions—Crowder, resting Reed, and respect

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, September 29, three days before the Washington Redskins play Chiefs in Kansas City.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden press conference and open locker room after practice, approx. 2:45  

Days until:

—49ers @ Redskins (10/15) 16
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (10/23) 24
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 30

Answering your Redskins questions

I got this question from a number of you. I chose Andrew’s because he is one of my early-morning Twitter pals and a top-notch meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Richmond. I think that they are improved from last year with the additions on defense. They could improve more if Kirk Cousins can get things going with Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. But they are not going to hold an offense like the Raiders have to 128 yards with Cousins completing 80 percent of his passes for over 350 yards every week. So what it looks like now is that the Redskins have jumped up a notch or two, from the middle of the pack into a spot somewhere in the top dozen or so. If that’s your definition of “good” it seems that they are there.

You apparently didn’t listen to me and JP on our #RedskinsTalk podcast this week. With a player like Reed, you don’t “rest” him when he can play. You only get 16 games and teams don’t generally let a player who is healthy enough to participate sit, especially one who has the impact of Reed. I thought Spaight played well.

I’m not sure what Brown has done to deserve “more of a go”. He has played well in the preseason the last couple of years but almost always late in the game when the last string was in the game. In both of his regular season looks, against the Bears last year and Sunday against the Raiders, he was in against tired defenses who were on the wrong end of a blowout. Don’t get me wrong, I like Brown but I have to say I just don’t get all of the calls for him to start or get more carries. The Redskins are in the top six in the NFL in rushing attempts, yards, and average per carry. It’s not like the Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, and Chris Thompson aren’t getting the job done.

Gruden said on Sunday that they have no plans to make a change. Crowder went for two years without losing a fumble on punt returns and the coaches see no reason to pull the plug on him now. A third muff in the next few weeks might change their minds but for now, Crowder is the returner.

One thing—consistency. So far this year they have played, in order, a poor game, a solid game, and a great game. They need to make the bad games the exception and play solid games week in and week out with the occasional great effort thrown in there. If the Redskins want that respect they can’t lose a division game at home unless they go on the road and win the return match. And it will take some time. People still remember what happened at the end of last year so perceptions are not going to turn around very quickly.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)
Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster
Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons
On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 position outlook series

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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10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

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USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

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. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

Right or wrong, fans blamed Shawn Lauvao for much of the Redskins struggles on the offensive line last season. Pro Football Focus backs up the fans, as Lauvao landed a -19.1 grade, among the worst in the NFL at the guard spot. 

It's worth pointing out that Lauvao was playing hurt during much of his nine starts before getting shut down for the season just before Thanksgiving. In fact, injuries have probably been the biggest issue for Lauvao in his four seasons with the Redskins. 

In four seasons in Washington, Lauvao has never played a full 16-game slate. Last year he played just nine games, and in 2015 he only played three games. 

That points to what may be the bigger issue for the Redskins: offensive line depth. Last season was wild with the grotesque number of injuries Washington sustained up front. It seems almost impossible for the team to have that many injuries again.

Still, the Redskins lost Arie Kouandjio for the year in the offseason. Kouandjio played better last year than Lauvao, and having both men in Richmond would have provided real competition. 

And that might be the biggest question: Neither Lauvao or Kouandjio represent a difference maker at left guard, yet the team did little to address the position. 

All offseason, the Washington brass walked a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The organization believes strongly in the players they already have, and outside of signing Paul Richardson and re-signing Zach Brown, the team had a quiet offseason. The Redskins struggled to run the ball the last few years, and still, the team did not look to upgrade at LG. 

It's important to note that the Redskins have two All-Pro caliber offensive linemen in Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff. Morgan Moses is a plus at the right tackle spot too. The team likes Chase Roullier at center too, and they tried to add depth in drafting Geron Christian in the third round and bringing back swing tackle backup Ty Nsekhe as a restricted free agent. 

Left guard will be a question, and it's hard not to think that it will be the weakest position on the O-line. Should that submarine the group? It shouldn't. What if Lauvao gets hurt?  Then things get quite tricky.

For the Redskins, however, the expectation might be that the line needs to perform as a unit, and with talent like Williams and Scherff, that should cover up any weaknesses.

Time, and health will tell if that plan works. 

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