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Need to Know: Norman vs. Fitzgerald looks likely for Redskins on Sunday

Need to Know: Norman vs. Fitzgerald looks likely for Redskins on Sunday

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 30, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 11; Panthers @ Redskins 19; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 24

Injuries of note:
Not practicing
: TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle)
Practicing: LS Nick Sundberg
There was no injury report issued after the abbreviated practice on Monday. The statuses above are based on media observations from the early part of practice. An official practice report will be issued on Wednesday.

First look at Redskins vs. Cardinals

Do the numbers lie? The Cardinals are first in total defense in terms of yardage but teams have put up 30 points or more on them four times (compared to the much-maligned Washington defense, which has allowed 30-plus just twice). They have allowed five return touchdowns so that’s not on the defense. And they have held opponents to single-digit scores three times. Still, despite the ranking, I see this is a good defense but not a powerhouse.

Palmer on the decline: Carson Palmer was an MVP candidate last year. This season his performance has taken a precipitous drop. He averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt in 2015, tops in the NFL. This year he’s at 7.1 yards per pass, 18th in the league. His passer rating last year was a sterling 104.6. This year it’s 83.3, 26th in the league and lower than the ratings of the likes of Cody Kessler and Trevor Siemian. Last year he led the league in five statistical categories; this he he’s the leader only in yards lost on sacks. The Redskins can’t sleep on him but it seems that they will be free to focus more of their defensive assets on stopping RB David Johnson.

Johnson on the rise: As much as Palmer has been a disappointment the second-year back has been everything they hoped he’d be and then some. Johnson is on pace to rush for 1,350 yards and to catch 80 passes for another 900 yards. But he has been in something of a slump for the last month, averaging just 60 rushing yards per game with only one 100-yard effort. Of course, he and the Cardinals are looking at this game against the Redskins and their bottom-dwelling rushing defense as a chance to get Johnson rolling.

Another tough No. 1 WR: In his late twenties and early thirties it looked like Father Time might be catching up with Larry Fitzgerald. But now it’s apparent that the he went from 2012-2014 without a 1000-yard receiving season because he was catching passes from the likes of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Drew Stanton and not because he had lost it. He thrived last year as Palmer had his big season and Fitzgerald has maintained his productivity this year even as Palmer has slumped. It’s almost certain that Josh Norman will follow him from side to side; Fitzgerald has 78 receptions, no other receiver or tight end has more than 31 catches.

Desperation setting in for the Cardinals: I touched on this in a post yesterday but the fact that this is the Cardinals’ last stand can’t be overemphasized. They do have talented players such as Fitzgerald, Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson, DT Calais Campbell, and S/CB Tyrann Mathieu. These are not just Pro Bowl players; they are annual contenders to be named first-team All-Pro. It’s a dangerous team and the Redskins need to be ready to play.

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Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 21, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Looking at a few different topics this morning:

—What was going to be a normal, ho-hum Tuesday preseason practice at Redskins Park will now be on hyperdrive thanks to the addition of Adrian Peterson. After mostly ignoring the Redskins for most of the offseason the national media will turn out in force to chronicle the arrival of AD. Yes, it’s AD as in All Day as I was reminded by several Sooners on Twitter in the past few days. I suppose that now that he’s here I’d better get it right. 

Derrius Guice underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL yesterday (see his tweet below). I haven’t heard but I assume that someone will say that the surgery was a success. Looking at a recovery time of about nine months, Guice could be ready for the start of OTAs in mid-May. But given how cautious this organization tends to be with injuries during the offseason program, we may not see him on the field until training camp. 

—Speaking of injuries, there were over a dozen players who were not participating in practice on both Saturday and Sunday. As I noted here a couple of days ago Jay Gruden has become very tight-lipped when it comes to giving out information on injuries. And teams are not required to give out any injury information at all during the preseason. So it’s hard to sort out veterans’ days from players with minor injuries that are being rested because the game isn’t until Friday from injuries that are reasons for legitimate concern. The first injury report will come out two weeks from tomorrow, so we are mostly in the dark until then. 

—I’m hearing from fans and some in the media that undrafted free agent Cam Sims is a lock to make the 53-man roster. I would suggest pumping the brakes. He has a great opportunity and I have him on the 53 in my last prediction. But he has been erratic. The Jets preseason game, where he made a big-time error when he had a pass bounce out of his arms, turning a completion into an interception then made some key, acrobatic catches was essentially a microcosm of his training camp. He needs a strong finish both in practice and in the two remaining preseason games to get locked into a spot. A few plays like the botched reception and he could be on the outside looking in. 

—Montae Nicholson quietly had a good camp and he has played well in two preseason games (he was one of the few starters to play against the Patriots). He struggled in coverage in the early part of camp. The Redskins are changing their scheme to play left- and right-side safeties instead of free and strong. That means that Nicholson, who played free last year, had to learn the coverage responsibilities for both positions on both sides of the field. It took him some time to get up to speed and during that time it was not unusual to see Nicholson trailing behind a receiver who had a couple of steps on him. He is not immune to making mistakes or just getting beaten on occasion (news flash: NFL rules are set up for DBs to get burned). But he should get the job done most of the time and be the player the Redskins hope he will be. 

Bureau of statistics

Nicholson’s 40 time at the NFL Combine in 2017 was 4.42, the third fastest among safeties and tenth fastest Amon all defensive backs. 

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The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 3 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 11 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 19 days

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


 

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Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history.

But is he the best running back for the Redskins right now?

The Redskins signed Peterson, 33 years old and a 12-year NFL veteran, to a one-year contract. They have been hit with injuries at the running back position, most notably the loss of second-round pick Derrius Guice for the season with a torn ACL. They didn’t make any moves when that diagnosis was announced a week and a half ago. But they lost two more backs to short-term injuries last Thursday and they decided that now is the time to go out and get somebody.

Is the need for a running back really there? Rob Kelley was the starter for the last half of the 2016 season and for seven games last year before a variety of ailments sent him to injured reserve. Samaje Perine became the starter after that and while he struggled at time he also showed growth potential.

Kelley is 25 and Perine is 22. In the absence of Guice, they could develop and when Guice returns next year the team would have a good stable of young running backs.

But now, Peterson is in the picture. We don’t yet know what his role will be, but they did not sign him to be the back who is inactive on game days. He will get some carries and that will take work away from Perine and Kelley.

Now, if Peterson is more productive than either of the two younger backs then that is a worthwhile swap. But what does he have left in the tank at age 33?

Last year, playing for the Saints and Cardinals he gained 529 yards on 156 carries, a very pedestrian average of 3.4 years per carry. That is very similar to the production of Perine, who had 175 carries for 603 yards, a 3.4 average. In his two years in the NFL, Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

By signing Peterson, however, the Redskins are hoping that Peterson has one more big year, or at least a medium year by his standards, left in him. After all, it was just in 2015 that he led the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career as he ran for 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Redskins would be delighted if he could get half of that total.

Any free agent signing can only be evaluated when the contract details are available. We only know that it’s a one-year deal and according to some reports he did not get any money guaranteed at signing. That seems to be a team friendly deal, but we will have to see what might kick in if he is on the Week 1 roster.

As with everything else, time will tell if this move works out. If the money is right, it’s a low risk transaction with some possible upside for Washington.

Back during minicamp while talking about how quickly Alex Smith would have to get up to speed with the offense, Jay Gruden said that the Redskins are not in a rebuilding mode and that they need to win now. After the trade for Smith, the Peterson signing is another indication that patience may be wearing thin.

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