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Redskins' defense, RG3 pummel reeling Eagles

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Redskins' defense, RG3 pummel reeling Eagles

In summary: The Redskins will depart for Dallas later this week with something to play for after all.

“That’s what you have to do,” Coach Mike Shanahan said after Sunday's 31-6 vicory over the hapless Eagles, the most lopsided victory in his two-plus season tenure. “This is a tough profession. We’ve lost some tough games, some games we should have won. A number of games were [close] heading into the fourth quarter. You don’t get it done, so you find out what type of character you do have and the toughest [players] on your football team.” 

“It was a game we had to have," he added. "We knew that.”

And for 60 minutes they played like it, pummeling a staggering opponent that’s begun to come apart at the seams.

Since the outcome was never in doubt, these three stats ought to do a pretty good job of summing up the events at FedEx Field:

  • Robert Griffin III was 14 of 15 passing for 200 yards, a career-high four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 84-yards on 12 carries – four more yards on the ground than the Eagles had combined. Griffin finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. 
  • Griffin’s counterpart, fellow rookie Nick Foles, was sacked four times by a relentless Redskins’ pass rush that took full advantage of the Eagles’ makeshift offensive line. Foles also was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall and Brandon Meriweather.
  • The six points the Redskins’ defense yielded were the fewest since a 10-3 win over the Eagles in 2008. Whether that speaks to home team’s prowess or the Eagles’ messy state of affairs probably depends on whom you ask.

Unfortunately for the 4-6 Redskins, they won’t get much time to savor their first victory in four games. In fact, they are scheduled to practice Monday afternoon at Redskins Park in preparation for their Thanksgiving Day showdown against the 5-5 Cowboys, who beat the Browns, 23-20, in overtime.

“Due to the fact that we play on Thanksgiving, I’m already looking forward to [Dallas],” wide receiver Santana Moss said. “So I’m not even thinking about [Philadelphia]. I’m already moving on and ready to get the body rested up so we can go out there and play Thursday.”

Here are eight more notes, quotes and observations:

Turning point: The Redskins were leading 14-3 late in the second quarter when Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had the ball knocked from his grasp by nose tackle Barry Cofield. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan wrestled the loose ball away at the bottom of the pile, and three plays later, kicker Kai Forbath booted a 25-yard field goal to send the Redskins into the locker room with a 17-3 lead and the Eagles doubting themselves. 

Forbath is now 9 for 9, the best mark to open a career for a Redskins’ kicker. Graham Gano was 8 for 8, spanning the 2009-10 seasons.

Offensive play of the game: The Redskins were leading 17-6 in the third quarter, when Griffin sidestepped the Eagles’ rush and heaved a deep ball to wide receiver Santana Moss.

Generously listed at 5 foot 10, 189 pounds, Moss leaped between safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Brandon Boykin to haul in the 61-yard touchdown pass. After the score, Griffin did an exaggerated fist pump as an official tossed a flag behind him. Eagles tackle Cullen Jenkins mocked Griffin’s gesture, thinking the flag would negate the touchdown. As it turned out, though, the flag was on Philly.

“We had a nice discussion about that on the field,” said Griffin, who walked over to talk to Jenkins. “He said he felt like an idiot after it. It’s good to see guys out there having fun.”

Defensive play of the game: Brandon Meriweather made up for lost time Sunday. In the first quarter of his season debut, the veteran safety read Foles perfectly, stepped between the quarterback and DeSean Jackson and made his first interception of the season.

Meriweather also returned the ball 25 yards, showing no ill effects of the left knee injury that had sidelined him all season. While the pick didn’t result in points for the Redskins, it halted a promising Eagles’ drive with Washington leading 7-0.

Meriweather finished with seven tackles, tied for second on the team. But he also left the game in the third quarter after straining his right knee.

“I actually think the fact that all four of our starters [in the secondary] were together for the first time just brought a [boost] to our defense,” Meriweather said. “We realize that everything falls on us, so we played like it.”

Injury report: Meriweather said he hopes to play Thursday, but he walked out of the Redskins locker room with a pronounced limp. Meriweather said he missed the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.

“It was more us thinking about the future,” Meriweather said. “We were already up by so much and the defense was playing great.”

…Josh Wilson said he’s okay after suffering a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter. Wilson has been on the injury report with a shoulder ailment for several weeks.

…Wide receiver Pierre Garçon returned after missing four games with a foot injury but was used sparingly. “Foot felt all right,” Garçon said. “It felt good enough to go out there and help as much as I could.”

Garçon said he intends to suit up in Dallas, but also voiced concerns about playing on the field turf. “It’s going to be another challenge to get out there,” Garçon said.

…Tight end Logan Paulsen left the game briefly in the second half because of a left hip injury. He said the doctors checked him out and don’t believe he’ll miss any time.

…Eagles running back LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion and was carted off the field in the fourth quarter.

Quote of the day: Griffin: “God blessed me with the ability to move around a lot more than other quarterbacks. You try to use that when you can [such as when] a guy is not open, so you don’t have to force things. But when guys are open, you get them the rock and let them make plays.”

Quote of the day, Part II: Eagles Coach Andy Reid on his team’s six-game losing streak: “It’s my responsibility to make sure these guys get an opportunity to do the right thing, and get them to do the right thing. I am not doing a good enough job at it.”

Game ball: Griffin earns it this week with a near perfect performance in a game his team simply had to win. With 2,193 passing yards and 613 rushing yards, he’s only the third rookie to surpass 2,000 yards passing and 500 rushing in the same season. Vince Young and Cam Newton are the others.

By the numbers: With 169 rushing yards, the Redskins have topped 150 yards eight times in 10 games this season. That’s more than any other team. They also added to their league leading penalty total, getting flagged 13 times for 80 yards.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 20, two days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Last week I took a stab at figuring out what the best-case and worst-case scenarios were for the key players on offense and defense. While individual stats are fun to track, it’s what the team does that really matters. What range of outcomes is realistic for the 2018 Redskins? While anything is possible, here are my thoughts on the best they are likely to be able to do and the worst. 

In both cases, I am assuming that the Redskins have reasonably good fortune when it comes to injuries and that the good and bad bounces of the ball equal out over the course of the season. 

Worst case: 6-10, last in NFC East

This is based mostly on Alex Smith having a tough time adjusting to Jay Gruden’s offense, his new teammates, and the NFC. Thinking he could struggle is not just negative thinking, there is history to back it up. 

Smith was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs in 2013. In his first nine games, he completed just 59.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions He had an adjusted net yards per attempt of 5.23. Had he finished the season there he would have ranked 28th in the NFL. His passer rating was 81.4, which would have ranked 25th. It’s safe to say he was off to a very slow start. 

But the Chiefs went 8-1 in those nine games. It is doubtful that the Redskins could survive such a slow start. In the past three seasons, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they were 4-17 in games where Cousins’ passer rating was under 90. If you drop the ceiling to 81, the record drops to 0-14. 

Kansas City managed to start 9-0 in 2013 because of a running game that produced at least 100 yards rushing every game and a defense that got at least one takeaway every game and got three or more turnovers in a game five times. 

Could the Redskins duplicate that and survive a slow start by Smith? It’s possible, but this is the worst-case scenario. And there is no guarantee that the Redskins will significantly improve a running attack that was 27thin the league last year or a rushing defense that was dead last. 

Offensively, the hope is that Derrius Guice will improve the running game. But rookies are, well rookies. And being a high draft pick is no guarantee of success. In the past three drafts, 20 running backers were drafted in the first three rounds. Of those players, four rushed for 750 yards or more as rookies. Maybe Guice will be one of the productive players but the odds are not in his favor. This isn’t saying he will be a bust; however, he may not have instant impact. 

One other note about the rushing game. It’s important to remember that both tackles are coming off of surgery, the right guard was injured last year, the center has all of six starts under his belt, and left guard remains up in the air. Maybe everything will hum when the season starts but that seems like a tall order. 

Improvement in the stopping the run also relies at least in part on rookies. Daron Payne will have an adjustment period as will Tim Settle. The inside linebacker spot should be stronger but it’s hard to say that it will be a strength. The rushing defense probably won’t be last again, but it may not climb out of the twenties in the rankings. 

The Redskins haven’t been awful at getting takeaways, but they have not done it at a consistently game-changing level. They have three or more takeaways in a game five times in their last 30 games. I don’t see any reason to think that this will change dramatically. 

To put the 6-10 worst-case scenario onto the schedule, the Redskins could go 2-4 in the division with splits against the Cowboys and Giants and getting swept by the Eagles. Against the NFC South, which had three teams with 10 wins or more last year, they might be 1-3. That leaves a split with the AFC South (two of the final eight teams in the playoffs last year) and of their two other NFC games for a 6-10 record. 

Best-case scenario: 10-6, Wild card, win a playoff game

This scenario doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation beyond flipping the elements of the worst case into more positive outcomes. 

Smith could pick up where he left off last year when he completed 67.5 percent of his passes and was third in the league with 7.2 adjusted net yards per attempt. Maybe the yards per attempt will drop some as he tries to find a consistent deep target.

A healthy Jordan Reed would help Smith out tremendously. If Reed can participate in most of training camp, the two could hit the ground running. Smith’s ability to connect with Josh Doctson on some 50-50 balls also will be important. 

As for the running game, Guice could break out early behind a line that gels quickly. It’s not out of the question for him to gain 1,000 yards (that’s just about 65 yards per game), maybe a little more. A healthy Chris Thompson could kick in over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. 

Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis could pick up right where they left off last year before Allen was lost for the season with a foot injury and Ioannidis missed two games with a broken hand and was hampered by the injury for a few weeks after that. That would let Payne and Settle, well, settle into the pro game. 

The Redskins also would need at least to maintain the solid pass defense they had last year. And they would benefit from fewer turnovers on offense (27 last year, 26thin the NFL) and by adding a few takeaways to the 23 they got in 2017.

So how could they pull this off? The would need to go 4-2 in the division, with a sweep of the Giants and splits against Philly and Dallas. They then would need 2-2 records against the NFC South and AFC South. That part of it is probably the toughest task. To get to 10 they would need to beat the Cardinals on the road in the season opener and then have a good day against Aaron Rodgers and get a win over the Packers. It’s not an easy road but if enough pieces fall into place it’s not out of the question. 

A 10-6 record should be good enough for a wild-card spot. If they get through their fairly tough schedule with double-digit wins, they should be good enough to go on the road and take out the three or four seed. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 23
—Training camp starts (7/26) 68
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 82

The Redskins last played a game 139 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 113 days. 

In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Rookie camp report, Guice a fan favorite

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Rookie camp report, Guice a fan favorite

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 19, three days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Five key upcoming free agent decisions for the Redskins—Some may say it’s too early to talk about 2019 free agents but the key to Redskins keeping their own players has been to lock them up before they hit free agency. It will be interesting to see what unfolds between now and the start of the season regarding Preston Smith, Jamison Crowder, and a few others. 

Redskins 2017 draft picks who must step up this season—While the focus is on the newly acquired draft picks and free agents if the Redskins are going to improve this year some of the players already on the team will need to contribute more. The bulk of the members of that club are from the 2017 draft class. Who will this year’s versions for Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis? 

A post-draft look at the possible Redskins defense three years from now—I was a little wary of posting a look three years down the road but after I wrote it I’m glad I did. And the posts did fairly well (you can find the post on the offense here) so that was a bonus. The best thing I found out while putting this together was the possible 2021 defensive; you can find it at the bottom of the post).

Redskins rookie camp practice report—The draft picks and other rookies get introduced to the NFL game, the rookies get introduced to the coaches, the media, and each other, and everybody (at least all of the draft picks) looks good. There are a few good takeaways to be had—Troy Apke’s makeup speed, Trey Quin’s ability to put a DB on the ground—the real action starts when they put the pads on down in Richmond. 

Tweet of the week

Perhaps I was late to the party. It looks like Guice already is a fan favorite and the hype train is starting to roll. He’s not anywhere near where RGIII was in 2012 but the dynamic is the same. 

It easy for everything to be great now. Guice is hustling and being a leader among the rookies and all is well. All of those red-hot draft day rumors about his character have vanished. The test will come if he fumbles at a key moment in a regular season game or if he has a three-week stretch where he averages 3.1 yards per carry. Then his upbeat personality might not play as well. Or it might not be as upbeat. And if he doesn’t take criticism well things could deteriorate further. 

This is not a prediction that things will not go well for Guice, just that the road could get bumpy. It often does for NFL rookies. 

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

Timeline  

Former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 25
—Training camp starts (7/26) 69
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 83

The Redskins last played a game 138 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 114 days. 

In case you missed it