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Preston Smith's fed up with almost sacking QBs and wants to finish better in 2017

Preston Smith's fed up with almost sacking QBs and wants to finish better in 2017

In the NFL, pressuring the opposing quarterback is a premium skill. But pressuring, and then also taking down, the opposing quarterback is even more valued.

As a rookie for the Redskins in 2015, Preston Smith did more of the latter on his way to compiling eight sacks, which was a very high number for a first-year pro. That total was almost cut in half in his second year, though, as Smith had just four and a half takedowns in 2016.

Whether or not No. 94 has heard the favorite phrase of crotchety people everywhere about close only counting in horseshoes and hand grenades, he can at least definitely relate to it after a sophomore campaign in which he reached passers plenty, but just couldn't get them to the ground in time. 

And that's something he believes he must address heading into 2017.

"I just feel like I had a lot of opportunities to get more sacks, and just in the moment, didn't capitalize," Smith told Redskins Insider JP Finlay during a #RedskinsTalk podcast conversation. "I missed a lot of sacks. There was a lot of real close ones."

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Smith then reviewed the almost-sacks that pained him the most, including a few against the Bears where Matt Barkley was barely able to get the ball out before his knee hit the ground and one against Ben Roethlisberger where the Steelers legend completed a pass despite having the defender on him.

It was also very evident in the 24-year-old's tone that this was something he really finds difficult about being in the NFL (in fact, he told Finlay earlier in the chat he has given up fried foods this offseason, and his voice was nowhere near as sad then as it was when running through the near-sacks).

"It's like you work hard to get a sack, and sometimes, OK, you get there, and the quarterback's throwing the ball while he's falling or even though you're attached to him," he said. "It's frustrating, and that's pretty much my whole [2016] season, it was a frustrating season. Because I can get there. It wasn't a problem of getting there."

The negative side of getting to his targets a moment too late in his second season is that it led to that glaring difference in his overall stats. But is there a positive side? 

Well, in a way, yes — Smith understands exactly what he needs to do better to bounce back for the Redskins starting in the fall.

"When I get to the quarterback this year, I just know," he said. "I have to have those opportunities, I have to create those moments where he has no chance to get the ball off." 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

You're going to feel absurd for reading the following sentence, but probably not as absurd as it felt to type the following sentence.

The Redskins, who are on their fourth option at QB, who made the '18 Giants look like the '72 Dolphins and who are large underdogs this weekend to the 4-9 Jaguars, actually still have a straightforward path to the playoffs.

Now, the word "straightforward" only applies to the path on paper, because realistically, there's nothing straightforward about fixing the litany of issues that are plaguing Washington at the moment.

Regardless, by losing on Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings blew a chance to separate themselves from a pack of NFC teams chasing(?) them and their final wild card spot. The Redskins are one of those teams, and here's how they could pass Minnesota to qualify for the postseason:

With the way the season is unfolding, you'd expect the Burgundy and Gold's playoff scenario to involve a bunch of teams losing a bunch of times in these final three weeks. The tweet above illustrates that's clearly not the case. They only need Minnesota to drop one more to go along with the Redskins winning out.

Of course, the Redskins stringing three straight plays together without committing a holding penalty feels like too much to ask for, so anyone expecting a three-game winning streak is either a bit crazy or a relative of Josh Johnson. But still, they're not out of the hunt quite yet. Somehow.

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Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

The Redskins gave up 40 points and more than 400 yards in a loss to the Giants last Sunday, and that was without Odell Beckham suited up for New York. 

The Redskins have lost four straight games, and five of six, while giving up more than 30 points three times. 

The Redskins surrendered more than 200 rushing yards to the Giants, and have not held an opponent under 100 yards rushing in their last six games. 

You get the idea. 

After the Washington defense got out to an impressive start to the season, things have fallen apart down the stretch.

Despite the struggles, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has no intention of shaking up his coaching staff.

"No. Not really," Gruden said on the Redskins Talk podcast when asked about any coaching changes. 

As the Redskins struggle and lose their grip on a playoff spot, it's not unheard of to think some staff changes might be coming. The Panthers fired two defensive assistants last weekend, and as the NFL season approaches the finish line, more coaches will lose their jobs. 

In Washington though, it seems the staff is safe. Still, the Giants loss stings. 

The Redskins' offense has been decimated by injuries, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. There was some leeway for a loss to New York, but not when the home team got down 40-0 to a 4-8 Giants team. 

That type of deficit brings questions. Questions about the coaches, questions about effort.

On Sunday, Gruden made clear he understands his future is week to week.

"We have a game to win next week in Jacksonville," the coach said. "We have to go about trying to find a way to do it."

On Monday, he made clear his assistants are safe. As far as he is concerned anyway. 

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