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Need to Know: Looking back at Packers, ahead to Cowboys

Need to Know: Looking back at Packers, ahead to Cowboys

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 22, two days before the Washington Redskins go to play the Dallas Cowboys.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Jay Gruden news conference and player availability 11:35

Days until: Redskins @ Cardinals 12; Redskins @ Eagles 19; Panthers @ Redskins 27

Injuries of note
The team did not practice on Monday but by NFL rules they had to issue a hypothetical injury report saying who would have practiced if they had held one.
Out: LS Sundberg (back)
Limited: DE Chris Baker (hamstring), WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), LB Preston Smith (back)

Looking back, looking ahead

The Roman god Janus was the god of both beginnings and endings. He was depicted with two faces, one looking forward, the other looking back. Since we’re on this very short week today’s Need to Know will combine both the final look back at the Packers game and the first look ahead to Dallas. So welcome to the Janus edition of Need to Know.

Last look at Redskins-Packers

A quality win: It’s clear that the edition of the Packers that the Redskins beat on Sunday was not a great one. They sit at 4-6 now and with another round of division games to go plus a trip to Seattle left on their schedule they may not finish at .500. But the Packers are still one of the best organizations in the game, Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best player at the most important position in sports, and Mike McCarthy really is, as he said himself, a “highly successful NFL coach”. It still is a quality win for Washington.

Redskins D gets it done its own way: I posted a poll on Twitter asking for grades on the Redskins’ win. Many respondents downgraded their evaluations because of the play of the defense. Look, folks, giving up 24 points to Aaron Rodgers is a good performance. Not a great one, but a good one. Despite their struggles the Packers have put 24 or more on the board in seven of their 10 games. They held the Packers to three and outs in their first three possessions. And they got a takeaway to end any realistic hopes of a Packers comeback. That was a good performance by this defense. Those of you looking for the 1985 Bears to take the field dressed in burgundy and gold are going to be sorely disappointed.

Knocking out a sour taste: Nobody came out and said that this game was redemption for the loss to the Packers in the playoffs last January. Clearly it couldn’t really be full redemption because it wasn’t a playoff game. But for Kirk Cousins, for one, the game did have a little extra meaning. "As a competitor, we certainly had a sour taste in our mouth walking away from the game last season,” he said. “When we watched the film, we felt like there were plays to be made that didn’t get made. I think tonight you saw what we felt we were capable of doing last January and just didn’t get it done.”

First look at Redskins-Cowboys

Second time around with Dak: On Thursday Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has his first game in his second go-around through the NFC East. Joe Barry has now seen Prescott against his defense in addition to having nine other games of tape on him. If he has flaws, now is the time they will start to be uncovered. I don’t think the rookie is all of a sudden going to turn into an interception machine but Barry almost certainly will change things up on Prescott. For example, I doubt that Prescott will have wide open passing lanes on third-down plays like he did in the game in Washington. They will look to get players out there clogging things up to make it as difficult as possible on the Cowboys’ QB.

No rookie wall for Zeke: The Redskins “held” Ezekiel Elliott to 83 yards rushing back in Week 2. Since then he has averaged 121 yards per game with five games of 114 yards or more. But he has cooled off a bit recently, averaging “just’ 100 yards per game with only one game with over 100 yards. Is he hitting a rookie wall with 10 games under his belt? His 97 yards last Sunday against the Ravens, the league’s top rushing defense coming in, says probably not. Keeping Elliott under control will be a challenge.

Run or pass and score: The Cowboys defense looks solid at first glance, ranking fifth in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. But then you look a little deeper and you see that their offense, which ranks No. 1 in time of possession and keeps the D off the field, is partially responsible for the solid showing of the defense. If you look at their defense per play you see that they are 23rd in overall yards per pay, 21st in yards per rush and 17th in yards per passing play. If the Redskins are going to win, they must maximize every possession and, as they did against the Packers, turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns, not field goals. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence that the Redskins defense will hold the Cowboys to much less than Dallas’ average of 28 points per game. If the Redskins offense continues what it got rolling Sunday night and get their score into the 30’s they have a very good shot at getting the win.

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10 Questions for Training Camp: Want better offense? Get better play from the tight ends

10 Questions for Training Camp: Want better offense? Get better play from the tight ends

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

Over-simplification can be dangerous, but at the same time, some problems boil down to a root cause. 

The Redskins play-action pass game looked bad in 2018, and if you listen to head coach Jay Gruden, much of that might have hinged on the ability of his tight ends to run block. 

Back in March Gruden opened up about some of his team's offensive struggles in 2018 and the coach pointed out that his tight end rotation varied greatly on if the team was going to run or pass. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis tended to come off the field in clear run situations, while Jeremy Sprinkle didn't get many snaps on pass plays. 

As the season went on, that became obvious for opposing defense. 

"Your tendencies are probably through the roof when you throw, that's what we're trying to guard against," Gruden said at the NFL League Meetings. "We got to figure out ways to be balanced in all personnel group settings and make sure that's really what we're studying in the offseason and moving forward how we can adapt our running game to make sure we have the equal amount of runs in each personnel group with each person in that group."

Sure those quotes are a few months old now, but nothing has been done to change the personnel. Reed, Davis and Sprinkle populate the tight end depth chart, and it doesn't seem likely there will be significant change to any of the three player's game. 

Based on that, something else must change. 

The Redskins either need to adapt their run style to something where Reed and/or Davis can be on the field. Or use Sprinkle more in the pass game.

Neither of those options seem particularly likely. 

What could happen is less two tight sets for the Washington offense, and less dependency on that look. 

In his remarks from March, Gruden hinted that the Redskins could deploy their 11 personnel more often, going with three wideouts and one tight, instead of two tight ends on the field. That would require health and productivity from the Redskins wideouts, which hasn't happened in the last two seasons. 

In a way, the discussion of a blocking tight end is very much an oversimplification of the Redskins 2018 offensive woes. The team ranked 29th in the NFL in points scored, and obviously, that lack of production did not stem from one position. 

At the same time, however, the lack of a tight end that can run block and show up in the pass game creates a series of other problems. The team can't always run with their best receiving threats on the field, they can't pull off play-action because the run threat doesn't always emerge, and all of that snowballs. 

The little things add up in the NFL. Just ask Jay Gruden. 

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Derrius Guice shares workout video amid reports swirling about his health

Derrius Guice shares workout video amid reports swirling about his health

Many Redskins' fans became increasingly worried over the weekend about the health of running back Derrius Guice after a report came out that he suffered a hamstring injury during his rehab process from an ACL injury he suffered last August.

The report questioned Guice's availability for the start of Redskins' training camp, which begins on July 25.

In response to the report, Guice tweeted: "I don’t listen to the noise. I know what’s going on with me." He has since deleted his Twitter account.

But Guice is still an active user on Snapchat, and took to the platform on Monday to share footage of himself working out. The second-year running back shared video taken of him performing a number of drills, many of which required him to change direction quickly and test his hamstring, as well as his knee.

Guice even captioned one of the videos "Hamstring who," with several eyes emojis attached to the caption. Based on his caption, Guice does not appear to seem concerned that this latest report will affect his status for the upcoming season.

Prior to his ACL injury last August, Guice showed plenty of promise during training camp and the preseason. 

At this point, Redskins fans just want Guice to be healthy and ready for Week 1 and showcase the talent that earned him an All-SEC honor at LSU.

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