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Need to Know: Redskins should avoid taking risks when kicking off

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Need to Know: Redskins should avoid taking risks when kicking off

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, August 29, five days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 players.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:10; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice approx. 1:15

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 232 days ago. It will be 14 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 20; Browns @ Redskins 34; Redskins @ Ravens 41

The Redskins week that was

—As everyone knows by now, a touchback on a kickoff will result in the ball being put on the 25-yard line instead of the 20. There is plenty of talk that teams will pooch kicks rather than booming them for touchbacks so as not to concede the additional five yards. There are fewer touchbacks so far in the preseason. Last year 56 percent of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks; so far this preseason it’s been 40.4. This could be part strategic, part having other kicker trying out during the preseason.

—But it seems to me to be a bad strategy. In 2015, a drive that started at a team’s own 20 yard line resulted in an average of 1.7 points. A drive started at the 25 meant an average of 1.8 points.

—So why would a coach risk a possible long return, not to mention the possibility of having one of his players on the very dangerous kickoff return team getting hurt, to save, on average, a tenth of a point per drive? Remember, these coaches won’t go for it on fourth and a half yard at midfield even though the numbers say that doing so would result in more points gained that you might save by kicking off and holding the other team inside the 20.

— Some teams might try it and a few teams might make pooching kickoffs their normal way of doing things. But after a while it will become more of an occasional surprise tactic than business as usual. I don’t see it kicking off short becoming any more of a normal tactic than, say, going for two after every touchdown (even though doing that will result in scoring more points than pooching kickoffs will save).

—As far as the Redskins go, if Gruden even considers having Dustin Hopkins kick the ball short, he should have a hotline to call to talk him out of it. Last year Hopkins kicked 65.5 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Through three preseason games this year he’s even better, with a touchback rate of 91.7 percent. Of 12 kickoffs, 11 have not been returned. The other one? The Falcons ran it back for a touchdown in the preseason opener. Case closed.

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In case you missed it 

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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

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USA Today Sports

The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

Madden 19 won't be released to the public until August 10, but the player ratings for the top players on each NFL team have been released.

The video reaches the Redskins a little after four minutes in. The top nine players on the Redskins, according to their Madden 19 overall ratings are as follows:

  1. LT Trent Williams, 91
  2. RG Brandon Scherff, 88
  3. FS D.J. Swearinger, 86
  4. MLB Zach Brown, 85
  5. CB Josh Norman, 84
  6. RB Chris Thompson, 83
  7. WR Paul Richardson, 83
  8. QB Alex Smith, 81
  9. WR Jamison Crowder, 81

The list has Washington's two best linemen up top followed by its best skill position players and Zach Brown. Beyond Williams and Sherff, there's some debate to be had. Both Richardson and Crowder can make a serious case to be the team's best receiver. Crowder had 22 more receptions and 86 more yards than Richardson in 2017, but Richardson had six touchdowns to Crowder's three.

Smith is coming off arguably the best season of his career with Kansas City. He put up over 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, posted career bests in quarterback rating, touchdown passes, interception percentage and completions. His rating as the fifth-best offensive player behind two other skill position players seems off.

These rankings will change throughout the season as more updates become available, but this is what there is to work with right now.

MORE REDSKINS COVERAGE

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

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