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Redskins 2017 roster battles: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end | Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker

Running back

The contenders:

Last year, undrafted rookie Rob Kelley was the hunter. He bided his time on the bench, watching Matt Jones as the starter for the first seven games of the season. When Jones faltered, Kelley was ready to step in. He rushed for 87, 97, and 137 yards in his first three games as the starter but he didn’t top 76 yards after that. Still, Jay Gruden has heaped praise on Kelley all offseason and said that he will line up with the first team when OTAs get underway later this month.

But Gruden didn’t love Kelley enough to bypass his potential replacement in the draft. After buzz that they might go after a running back in the first round, the Redskins took Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma in the fourth round. Kelley is now the hunted. Perine is a powerful runner who should immediately get snaps on short yardage and near the goal line. But he could end up being more than a fantasy touchdown vulture for Kelley.

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And the winner is . . .

Tandler: I don’t see any way that Kelley is not the running back on the field for the first offensive play of the year against the Eagles, making him the “starter.” After that, all bets are off. How it unfolds as the season wears on will be interesting to watch. Kelley was a great story last year but he was just an OK performer. His average of 4.2 yards per carry was 19th among qualifying backs in the NFL. In his nine games as a starter he averaged 3.98 per carry, which would have ranked 26th. A middle of the pack performance should not land Kelley on the bench but it should have Gruden and company looking for more.

The improvement could come from Kelley stepping up in his second season. Or it could come from Perine, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his four seasons at Oklahoma. Perine needs to translate that to the pros, of course, and that’s not a given. But he should get a shot and be a part of a three-man running back committee (with Chris Thompson getting some chances as the third-down back). We will see how it shakes out over the course training camp, the preseason, and when the games start to count.

Finlay: The rush to annoint Perine needs to slow down a bit. As Tandler said, the former Sooner will help immediately in short yardage and particularly at the goal line, but this will remain Kelley's job. Folks around Redskins Park have been impressed with Kelley's offseason work, first rehabbing from surgery to clean up his knee, and over the last few weeks, his time in the weight room. The word is "Fat Rob" will no longer be deserving of the nickname, as he has gotten stronger in advance of the 2017 season.

A humble, undrafted rookie last season, Kelley should be able to maintain his quick feet to the hole, and ability to avoid defenders, that Gruden liked so much in 2016. Thompson will continue to be a key part of the Redskins offense as well. Pencil him in for five to eight touches per game, and occasionally more based on matchups. 

Perine will help the 'Skins in the red zone, and the team needs it. He scored 49 touchdowns in three seasons at Oklahoma, and Washington can use that type of productivity near the goal posts. Remember, however, that Perine is leaving the wide open Big 12, and Oklahoma's spread offense, for an NFL with much, much tougher defenses. Often the hardest part for rookie running backs in the NFL is to adjust to the speed of pass rushers, and understand where to be in pass protection. Perine is strong - the strongest RB in the 2017 Draft - but the knowledge of blitz pickup will have to come quick if he's going to truly push Kelley for carries. 

It's also a bit wild to think of 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones as an afterthought, but he is. Jay Gruden had to be reminded of Jones' presence on the roster during a media session in Arizona, and reports showed the Redskins tried to trade their former RB1 around the draft. With Kelley, Thompson, Perine and Mack Brown, there is a real question if Jones makes the roster. A big body with good speed, Jones has a lot of potential in the NFL. Whether that gets harnessed, in D.C. or elsewhere, will also be worth watching. 

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

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With the game put in their hands, the Redskins defense got the job done again

With the game put in their hands, the Redskins defense got the job done again

The Redskins got going quickly on offense against the Packers on Sunday. They scored in four plays the first time they had the ball. After a three and out they drove to another touchdown. In the second quarter they embarked on the longest touchdown drive they have had since 1999, a 98-yard march. By the time halftime came they had scored 28 points. 

That’s great but that four touchdowns are not always enough to beat an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team. In 2016, the last season that Rodgers played all 16 games, Green Bay averaged 27 points per game. Basically, no lead is safe. 

But Jay Gruden played it very safe with the offensive play calling in the second half. Alex Smith, who was on fire in the first half, attempted only five passes in the last 30 minutes. They had 57 yards rushing in the second half, 32 of which came on the Redskins final possession when they drove for a field goal, their only points of the final two quarters. 

It was a similar performance to their season opener against the Cardinals when they were up 21-0 at halftime and then posted just a field goal in the second quarter. 

While the lack of offense in the second half of the Redskins’ two wins has been a talking point among fans and in the media, the key point is that both games turned out in the Redskins’ favor. They now have a defense that Gruden can trust to hold a lead. 

In Arizona, the Redskins defense gave up a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but the lead was never in danger. On Sunday, a fourth-down stop and a takeaway kept the Packers game from ever getting to be a one-score game. 

In the second halves of their three games, including the Week 2 loss to the Colts, the Redskins have given up an average of 147 yards and seven points. It’s a small sample size but so far, they are doing a good job of shutting the door. 

Another thing the Redskins have been doing well defensively is preventing big plays. The longest play against them was the 64-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Packers. Other than that, they have given up just four plays that gained over 20 yards and none longer than 27 yards. 

They are second in total defense. They are giving up a miniscule 4.3 adjusted net yards per pass attempt, a full two yards less than the league average. If you prefer to use the more traditional passer rating stat, opponents have compiled a 77.0, well below the league aggregate rating of 91.2. Again, it’s early but this is a good start. 

The Washington defense will need to keep it going the next two weeks. First up after the bye is Drew Brees of the Saints, who is healthy and completing over 80 percent of his passes. New Orleans also has running back Alvin Kamara, one of the best two-way threats in the game. After that is Cam Newton of the Panthers, who the Redskins never have beaten, and his dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey. 

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NFC East Update: Eagles, Redskins separate from Cowboys, Giants

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NFC East Update: Eagles, Redskins separate from Cowboys, Giants

The season remains young, but a clear declination appears to be forming in the NFC East. The Redskins and Eagles boast capable offenses, and the Giants and Cowboys do not. 

With the Redskins getting the first bye of the division this week, records going forward will not reflect the same number of games played. In a way, that means this could be the most fair comparison for some time of the four NFC East squads. Let's get to it:

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

The big news on Broad Street wasn't that the Eagles got a Week 3 win, but rather the successful return of QB Carson Wentz. He played fine in the 20-16 win over the Colts, not great, but having the gifted young passer back on the field for the first time since a 2017 knee injury provides a big boost for the Eagles.

Philly also piled up more than 150 rush yards in their Week 3 win while holding the Colts running backs to less than 40 yards on the ground. That's the Eagles formula to stack up wins.

Up next: Sept. 30th @ Tennessee

Washington Redskins (2-1)

Talk about a big rebound. The Redskins dominated the first half of play against Green Bay and finished with a double digit win over the Packers. In their two wins, the Redskins have looked like one of the best squads in the NFL. Unfortunately, the ugly loss to Indianapolis sits in the middle.

Still, with the Redskins on a bye for Week 4, fans should be quite encouraged with the state of their team. Adrian Peterson looks to have plenty left in the tank and questions about Alex Smith's ability to find his wideouts seem overblown. Defensively, a young, ferocious group of linemen appear to be the best the team has had in a long time. The offensive line is banged up, and the bye will be quite useful for that group. Of the NFC East teams, the Redskins have the best point differential at +20, which happens with two double digit wins.

Up next: Oct. 8th @ New Orleans

Dallas Cowboys (1-2)

Through three weeks, the Cowboys offense is terrible. Dallas ranks 30th in points-per-game and 31st in yard-per-game. There are only 32 teams. The pass game is killing the Cowboys, as Dak Prescott is averaging less than 150 pass yards per game. That's real bad, but it's not all his fault.

Dallas cut Dez Bryant in the offseason and did nothing to address his absence. The defense is active and physical up front, but in the NFL, teams need to score points. Right now, it's unclear if Dallas will be able to at a reasonable level. 

Up next: Sept. 30th vs Detroit

New York Giants (1-2)

The only team with a division loss, the Giants logged a surprise good win in Week 3 in Houston. Not quite as bad as Dallas on offense, the Giants merely rank in the bottom third of the league in total yards and points-per-game.

Despite the emergence of rookie Saquon Barkley, the Giants are averaging just 87 yards-per-game on the ground. The biggest problem for Big Blue remains the offensive line, and don't expect it to get much better this year. 

Up next: Sept. 30th vs New Orleans

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