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Putting Gruden's coaching decisions under the microscope

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Putting Gruden's coaching decisions under the microscope

In a game with as many twists and turns as the Redskins’ loss to the Falcons had, there are always coaching decisions that are questioned. Let’s look at a few of Jay Gruden’s calls that are being questioned by many and a few others that may have been questioned had they turned out differently.

Situation: Early in the second quarter of a scoreless game the Redskins faced fourth and one at the Atlanta 10. Gruden decided to go for the first down and they made the yard on a quarterback sneak.

Pro: The Redskins had to settle for too many field goals and it almost cost them the game against the Eagles a week ago. Against an undefeated opponent on the road they had to go for it.
Con: If it had not worked, the Falcons home crowd, which had not had much to cheer about to that point, would have gotten into it and the momentum would have switched to the players in the red shirts. 
Result: The Redskins converted and drove in for the score. The sneak is a high-percentage play and Cousins made it with ease. The odds favor getting the yard so it was the proper, moderately aggressive call.

Situation: Working with a 7-3 lead, the Redskins had a nice drive going but it stalled at the Falcons’ 35. In a similar situation against the Eagles Gruden decided to punt. This time the call was to send out Dustin Hopkins to try a 53-yard field goal. It was wide right.

Pro: At that stage of the game it was apparent that a shootout was not in the making and that every point would be precious. 
Con: It looked like Tress Way was punting with some precision (two of his four punts on the day ended up inside the 20) and he could have pinned the Falcons back. With points at a premium, maybe field position would have been a better play.
Result: The Falcons took possession at their own 43 and drove down to the Washington 10 but they had to settle for a field goal. Bottom line, I think that Hopkins’ later 52-yard boot justified going for the points in the dome.

Situation: Midway through the fourth quarter the Redskins scored on a two-yard run by Matt Jones to take a 13-12 lead. Instead of going for one, the Redskins tried a two-point conversion but the pass was incomplete.

Pro: Simple math. With either a one- or two-point lead a field goal would give the Falcons the lead. A two pointer makes it so a field goal can only tie.
Con: If the Redskins had that one point when the clock hit 0:00 in regulation they would have won.
Result: While it’s not arguable that the additional point could have made a difference, we don’t know how the rest of the game would have played out. The Falcons would have gone for two after their TD with 24 seconds left. That would have given them a three-point lead, so the situation would have been the same.

Situation: After Bashaud Breeland picked off a Matt Ryan pass and returned it to the Atlanta 21, the Redskins moved to a first and goal at the 10. After that, the play calling seemed to be geared more to burning off some clock and settling for the field goal. Hopkins’ field goal put Redskins up 16-12 with 2:42 to go.

Pro: The Falcons had burned a time out on defense earlier and the clock was the Redskins’ ally at that point. And even if the Redskins did get a touchdown and conversion, it’s still a one-score game with the Falcons able to tie with a touchdown and a field goal. 
Con: The Redskins needed every point they could get. The difficulty of getting the TD and the two-point conversion is much greater than just getting a touchdown. 
Result: I think virtually any NFL coach would have been happy to burn off some time off the clock and make the other guys need a touchdown to beat you. 

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Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

This Sunday, for the 117th time, the Redskins and Cowboys will meet. 

Dallas will bring its 3-3 record into FedEx Field and face off with a 3-2 Washington squad. The winner of the contest will guarantee themselves a share of the NFC East lead heading into Week 8.

Here's a storyline, stat and player to watch for the next installment of this rivalry. Once you're done reading those, you can officially start preparing yourself for some sketchy fourth down decisions by Jason Garrett. 

Biggest storyline

Since his tidy but effective game vs. the Packers, Alex Smith turned in a disconcerting performance in New Orleans and a lukewarm effort (albeit a winning one) against the Panthers. Overall, Smith has looked very in control at times but also uneasy and ineffective at others so far in 2018.

So, the biggest storyline in this edition of the series has to do with Smith. If this game calls for it, can he lead the 'Skins to a victory?

That could be difficult vs. the Cowboys. The QB will be without Jamison Crowder again, and on Friday, Jay Gruden listed Paul Richardson as doubtful. Chris Thompson, meanwhile, is questionable.

So, it's likely Smith will be without two of his most talented weapons and possible that he'll be missing three. And on top of that, he'll be operating behind an offensive line that's had issues, which is contributing to his sometimes shaky feet in the pocket.  

To make things even harder, the Dallas defense allows the second-fewest points-per-game in the league and boasts a defensive line that Gruden is very worried about because it employs a scheme that involves a lot of movement. The Colts D-line uses a lot of stunts and movement, too, and they held the 'Skins to just 9 points in Week 2.

Smith has yet to top 300 yards this season or throw for more than two touchdowns in a single outing. He's had no problem winning when the team jumps to an early lead and the running game is going, sure, but he can't count on that each time he starts. 

At some point, his right arm is going to have to be mainly responsible for a Redskins W. And there'd be no better time for that to happen than in his first shot against his new franchise's most-hated opponent.

One key stat

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott don't know what it's like to play an NFL game vs. Washington and leave that game as the loser. Prescott is 4-0 in his four starts, while Elliott suited up in three of those triumphs. 

Elliott has been a big-time problem for the Redskins in their run-ins. The RB has scored five times against the burgundy and gold and averages 110 yards per appearance. 

Come Sunday around 7:30 or 8 p.m., when Elliott's day is done, odds are you'll be able to look at his stat line and judge the outcome of the game solely based on it.

If Greg Manusky and his defense, particularly his young stars up front, are able to bottle up Zeke, you have to like the Redskins' chances of beating the Cowboys for the first time since the 2015 season finale.

The Redskin to watch

Charley Casserly identified Fabian Moreau as a key Redskin for Week 7 (full video above). Another one worth watching is DJ Swearinger.

Swearinger terrorized Cam Newton last week and really flew around the entire field. He'll need to be as active against the Cowboys and, most importantly, be a sure tackler.

Elliott is going to churn out a few seven- and eight-yard runs. It'll be on Swearinger, plus fellow safety Montae Nicholson, to not let those become 20- or 30-yard gains. 

A lof of the attention, and deservedly so, will go toward what Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are doing on Sunday. But if Swearinger can take smart angles, get Elliott to the ground and make a few plays in pass coverage, that'll go a long way vs. a limited Dallas offense.

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Fantasy Football: Week 7 position-by-position rankings

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: Week 7 position-by-position rankings

Our goal with the Week 7 rankings: be more like the Broncos defense than the Cardinals offense.

Before we go position by position, some quick notes:

* The Browns traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars, who are without Leonard Fournette (hamstring). Adding depth is one thing, but a legit starter like Hyde is another. Fournette owners should be concerned. Root the issue keeps him off the field no longer than the Week 9 bye. On the Cleveland end, rookie Nick Chubb vaults into RB2 status. Must add in all formats if available.

* Jamison Crowder won't play for the Redskins Sunday against the Cowboys. Paul Richardson's "doubtful" tag might as well say "We'll see you in Week 8." The situation means more Maurice Harris and Josh Doctson. Neither should be in fantasy lineups, yet both offer some potential considering the Crowder and Richardson could linger. 

* Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch reportedly may land on injured reserve with a groin injury that at least should sideline "Beast Mode" for a month. Doug Martin becomes the early down back when Oakland returns from its bye. 

* Other injuries to track this weekend: Sony Michel, Julian Edelman and Eric Ebron.

Quarterbacks

1.  Patrick Mahomes, KC
 
2.  Jared Goff, LAR
 
3.  Matt Ryan, ATL
 
4.  Cam Newton, CAR
 
5.  Kirk Cousins, MIN
 
6.  Jameis Winston, TB
 
7.  Tom Brady, NE
 
8.  Andy Dalton, CIN
 
9.  Andrew Luck, IND
 
10.  Carson Wentz, PHI
 
11.  Philip Rivers, LAC
 
12.  Matthew Stafford, DET
 
13.  Drew Brees, NO
 
14.  Baker Mayfield, CLE
 
15.  Joe Flacco, BAL
 
16.  Mitch Trubisky, CHI
 
17.  Blake Bortles, JAC
 
18.  Eli Manning, NYG
 
19.  Deshaun Watson, HOU
 
20.  C.J. Beathard, SF
 
21.  Alex Smith, WAS
 
22.  Dak Prescott, DAL
 
23.  Case Keenum, DEN
 
24.  Marcus Mariota, TEN
 
25.  Brock Osweiler, MIA
 
26.  Josh Rosen, ARI
 
27.  Sam Darnold, NYJ
 
28.  Derek Anderson, BUF

Running backs

1.  Todd Gurley, LAR
 
2.  Saquon Barkley, NYG
 
3.  Melvin Gordon, LAC
 
4.  Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
 
5.  Kareem Hunt, KC
 
6.  Joe Mixon, CIN
 
7.  Alvin Kamara, NO
 
8.  David Johnson, ARI
 
9.  Christian McCaffrey, CAR
 
10.  Sony Michel, NE
 
11.  Tevin Coleman, ATL
 
12.  LeSean McCoy, BUF
 
13.  Adrian Peterson, WAS
 
14.  James White, NE
 
15.  Nick Chubb, CLE
 
16.  Mark Ingram, NO
 
17.  Kerryon Johnson, DET
 
18.  Jordan Howard, CHI
 
19.  T.J. Yeldon, JAC
 
20.  Phillip Lindsay, DEN
 
21.  Matt Breida, SF
 
22.  Alex Collins, BAL
 
23.  Peyton Barber, TB
 
24.  Tarik Cohen, CHI
 
25.  Corey Clement, PHI
 
26.  Royce Freeman, DEN
 
27.  Kenyan Drake, MIA
 
28.  Marlon Mack, IND
 
29.  Latavius Murray, MIN
 
30.  Isaiah Crowell, NYJ
 
31.  Wendell Smallwood, PHI
 
32.  Bilal Powell, NYJ
 
33.  Frank Gore, MIA
 
34.  Ito Smith, ATL
 
35.  Lamar Miller, HOU
 
36.  Dion Lewis, TEN
 
37.  Austin Ekeler, LAC
 
38.  Carlos Hyde, CLE
 
39.  Chris Thompson, WAS
 
40.  Derrick Henry, TEN
 
41.  Nyheim Hines, IND
 
42.  Javorius Allen, BAL
 
43.  Duke Johnson, CLE
 
44.  LeGarrette Blount, DET
 
45.  Raheem Mostert, SF
 
46.  Ronald Jones II, TB
 
47.  Alfred Blue, HOU
 
48.  Chris Ivory, BUF
 
49.  Kyle Juszczyk, SF
 
50.  Theo Riddick, DET
 
51.  Mark Walton, CIN
 
52.  Jamaal Charles, JAC
 
53.  Wayne Gallman, NYG
 
54.  Spencer Ware, KC
 
55.  Malcolm Brown, LAR
 
56.  Devontae Booker, DEN
 
57.  C.J. Anderson, CAR
 
58.  Alfred Morris, SF
 
59.  Kapri Bibbs, WAS
 
60.  Roc Thomas, MIN
 
61.  Rod Smith, DAL
 
62.  Chase Edmonds, ARI
 
63.  Jordan Wilkins, IND
 
64.  Gus Edwards, BAL
 
65.  Jacquizz Rodgers, TB

Wide receivers

1.  Adam Thielen, MIN
 
2.  Julio Jones, ATL
 
3.  Tyreek Hill, KC
 
4.  A.J. Green, CIN
 
5.  Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
 
6.  DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
 
7.  Robert Woods, LAR
 
8.  Michael Thomas, NO
 
9.  Mike Evans, TB
 
10.  Brandin Cooks, LAR
 
11.  Keenan Allen, LAC
 
12.  Stefon Diggs, MIN
 
13.  Jarvis Landry, CLE
 
14.  Tyler Boyd, CIN
 
15.  Golden Tate, DET
 
16.  Alshon Jeffery, PHI
 
17.  Kenny Golladay, DET
 
18.  John Brown, BAL
 
19.  Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
 
20.  Allen Robinson, CHI
 
21.  Marvin Jones, DET
 
22.  Michael Crabtree, BAL
 
23.  Devin Funchess, CAR
 
24.  Julian Edelman, NE
 
25.  DeSean Jackson, TB
 
26.  Sterling Shepard, NYG
 
27.  Josh Gordon, NE
 
28.  Taylor Gabriel, CHI
 
29.  Corey Davis, TEN
 
30.  Demaryius Thomas, DEN
 
31.  Calvin Ridley, ATL
 
32.  Sammy Watkins, KC
 
33.  Marquise Goodwin, SF
 
34.  T.Y. Hilton, IND
 
35.  Keelan Cole, JAC
 
36.  Dede Westbrook, JAC
 
37.  Chris Godwin, TB
 
38.  Robby Anderson, NYJ
 
39.  Will Fuller, HOU
 
40.  Nelson Agholor, PHI
 
41.  Mohamed Sanu, ATL
 
42.  Christian Kirk, ARI
 
43.  Keke Coutee, HOU
 
44.  Albert Wilson, MIA
 
45.  Kenny Stills, MIA
 
46.  Antonio Callaway, CLE
 
47.  Mike Williams, LAC
 
48.  Donte Moncrief, JAC
 
49.  Tyrell Williams, LAC
 
50.  Maurice Harris, WAS
 
51.  Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
 
52.  Chester Rogers, IND
 
53.  Willie Snead, BAL
 
54.  Jermaine Kearse, NYJ
 
55.  Pierre Garcon, SF
 
56.  Chris Hogan, NE
 
57.  Courtland Sutton, DEN
 
58.  Tre'Quan Smith, NO
 
59.  Cole Beasley, DAL
 
60.  Taywan Taylor, TEN
 
61.  Kelvin Benjamin, BUF
 
62.  Cameron Meredith, NO
 
63.  D.J. Moore, CAR
 
64.  Danny Amendola, MIA
 
65.  Anthony Miller, CHI
 
66.  Josh Doctson, WAS
 
67.  Josh Reynolds, LAR
 
68.  Jakeem Grant, MIA
 
69.  Terrelle Pryor, NYJ
 
70.  Allen Hurns, DAL

Tight ends

1.  Travis Kelce, KC
 
2.  Zach Ertz, PHI
 
3.  Rob Gronkowski, NE
 
4.  Eric Ebron, IND
 
5.  George Kittle, SF
 
6.  David Njoku, CLE
 
7.  Jordan Reed, WAS
 
8.  Trey Burton, CHI
 
9.  Austin Hooper, ATL
 
10.  O.J. Howard, TB
 
11.  Kyle Rudolph, MIN
 
12.  Greg Olsen, CAR
 
13.  Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI
 
14.  C.J. Uzomah, CIN
 
15.  Evan Engram, NYG
 
16.  Cameron Brate, TB
 
17.  Geoff Swaim, DAL
 
18.  Benjamin Watson, NO
 
19.  Charles Clay, BUF
 
20.  Dallas Goedert, PHI
 
21.  Vernon Davis, WAS
 
22.  Gerald Everett, LAR
 
23.  Jeff Heuerman, DEN
 
24.  Hayden Hurst, BAL
 
25.  Mike Gesicki, MIA

Defenses

1.  Jacksonville Jaguars, JAC
 
2.  Los Angeles Rams, LAR
 
3.  Indianapolis Colts, IND
 
4.  Minnesota Vikings, MIN
 
5.  Denver Broncos, DEN
 
6.  Los Angeles Rams, LAR
 
7.  Houston Texans, HOU
 
8.  Philadelphia Eagles, PHI
 
9.  Arizona Cardinals, ARI
 
10.  Buffalo Bills, BUF
 
11.  New England Patriots, NE
 
12.  Washington Redskins, WAS
 
13.  Baltimore Ravens, BAL
 
14.  Dallas Cowboys, DAL
 
15.  Detroit Lions, DET
 
16.  Cleveland Browns, CLE
 
17.  Chicago Bears, CHI
 
18.  New York Jets, NYJ
 
19.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers, TB
 
20.  Atlanta Falcons, ATL

Kickers

1.  Harrison Butker, KC
 
2.  Stephen Gostkowski, NE
 
3.  Justin Tucker, BAL
 
4.  Adam Vinatieri, IND
 
5.  Wil Lutz, NO
 
6.  Jake Elliott, PHI
 
7.  Dan Bailey, MIN
 
8.  Matt Prater, DET
 
9.  Greg Zuerlein, LAR
 
10.  Randy Bullock, CIN
 
11.  Josh Lambo, JAC
 
12.  Graham Gano, CAR
 
13.  Chandler Catanzaro, TB
 
14.  Cody Parkey, CHI
 
15.  Brandon McManus, DEN
 
16.  Dustin Hopkins, WAS
 
17.  Aldrick Rosas, NYG
 
18.  Ka'imi Fairbairn, HOU
 
19.  Brett Maher, DAL
 
20.  Robbie Gould, SF