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Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 17 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Christian McCaffrey

Running back
Stanford

Height: 5-11
Weight: 202
40-yard dash: 4.48

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Smooth, controlled stride length with choppy feet for instant cuts and change of direction. Plus vision with above average anticipatory feel for opening creases. Hugs contours of the running lane and staggers and stutters his feet to maneuver in tight quarters. Protects football while running through traffic. Reads keys quickly on stretch plays.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have given their defense a boost in free agency with some free agent acquisitions and the move of Su’a Cravens to safety. The offense, however, was hit by the free agency losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. They could make up for some of the lost production with the addition of a back like McCaffrey.

Rob Kelley can get you 1,000 yards on the ground but that may be his ceiling. He can be effective but not one of the centerpieces of an NFL offense. With his speed and elusiveness, McCaffrey can. And if Kirk Cousins is going to be gone in a year—and despite what many fans want to believe that seems to be more of a probability than a possibility—the Redskins will need to have someone to feature offensively.

His versatility is key. He’s not going to be able to carry 25 times a game consistently but nobody does these days. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in carries with 20 per game. An average of 16 carries per game gets a player in the top 10 in rushing attempts. So while there may be concern that McCaffrey can’t be a workhorse back, there is really is no such animal in the modern NFL.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. USC, vs. Arizona

McCaffrey fumbled just three times in his three college seasons and one of them came early in this game against USC. It was a careless type of fumble as he didn’t have the ball secured as he was going to the ground. Later in the first half he made a nice stutter step to get wide open but the quarterback overthrew him.

McCaffrey was effective lined up next to the quarterback in the shotgun and in the I-formation and as a single back with the QB behind center. A few times he took a direct shotgun snap and gained yardage. He can find running room between the tackles as well as outside. In one goal to go series against Southern Cal he ran three straight times out of a four-point stance and pounded in for the touchdown on fourth and one. McCaffrey can play like a small back when the situation calls for it but he can be just as effective as a bigger back when needed.

McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare against a linebacker trying to cover him coming out of the backfield. He just needs a step and he turn a short catch into an explosive play.

His outside runs are nice but his runs between the tackles, as he reads his blocks and pick his way through traffic, are the most fun to watch. He is able to break tackles not because he powers through them but because the defenders rarely get a clean shot at him.

McCaffrey isn’t asked to pass protect much and he has a tendency to dive at the pass rushers legs. He’ll need some coaching up in the NFL.

Potential issues: There must be some concern about his size even though he was pretty durable in college, missing only a few games besides the bowl game he famously decided to sit out. It’s one thing lasting at 5-11, 202 in college; he will be pounded more in the NFL.

And he has already taken some pounding. In the last two years he has 590 rushing attempts and 82 receptions. That’s a lot of punishment and it would be a concern even with a larger back.

Then there is the question of if running back would be the best use of the Redskins’ No. 17 pick. While they have upgraded the defense, they could always use more help there. And even though Jay Gruden has said that he loves Rob Kelley if they do want to upgrade there will be plenty of quality backs available later in the draft.

Bottom line: Bruce Allen has said that the Redskins will take the player on the board who has the best grade. It’s quite possible that there won’t be a defensive lineman, inside linebacker, or even a guard on the board with a better grade than McCaffrey. For that matter, it’s not a given that McCaffrey will be there.

But if he is, he might be too good to pass up. The defense might have plenty of time to rest up if McCaffrey is added to what could be a potent passing attack.

In his own words:

When asked about his position flexibility:

Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball but if I move out to the slot, I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver and not just a running back. I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

 

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These three must step up to help the Redskins save their season against the Bears

These three must step up to help the Redskins save their season against the Bears

It's just Week 3, but Monday night's game against the Bears feels like it'll be a turning point one way or another for the Redskins.

With a win, Washington will stabilize themselves and have some hope that their season isn't heading down a dark path. With a loss, though, they'll firmly be on that path.

So, everyone on the home sidelines at FedEx Field will need to be ready for primetime. But these three especially have to bring it.

Matt Ioannidis

The Redskins signed Ioannidis to a deserved contract extension in April after he broke out in 2018. Through two games, however, the defensive lineman has yet to follow up on his standout campaign.

No. 98 was in on more than 85-percent of the snaps versus both the Eagles and the Cowboys but he hasn't registered a sack, tackle for loss or even a single quarterback hit. He's one of the many members of the front-seven who are failing to get pressure on opposing signal callers.

Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense are having major issues so far, but he'll have a solid chance of getting that unit going again if his pocket is as clean as Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott's pockets were when facing the Redskins. It's time for Ioannidis to get out of his slump and harass Trubisky on Monday.

Josh Norman

In each instance, it may not have been fully his fault, but the facts are this: Josh Norman has trailed a receiver who scored a long touchdown in both of the Redskins' first two contests of the year. He's also been beaten plenty of other times for other crucial gains, too.

A sound argument can be made that Norman has never fully lived up to his massive 2016 deal, but at least he had his moments and games in prior seasons where it felt like he came close. That's not the case in 2019 so far.

Yes, the entire secondary, from the corners to the safeties, must deliver more in Week 3 than they have up to this point. Norman, though, has to deliver a lot more. His coverage must be tighter and if he could force a turnover, it'd do him and the Redskins a lot of good.

Jay Gruden

Last week, Greg Manusky was mentioned as someone who could use a strong performance, but he came up short. This time around, the head coach is getting the call.

Gruden's teams seem to thrive in heavy adversity, and they're dealing with loads of adversity right now. That said, Gruden's teams are also horrific on Mondays and fail to make adjustments when they're most necessary.

So, which side will reveal itself when Chicago visits?

Sure, Gruden's job may not depend on this particular result, but still, he's under fire and needs to coach like his future really does depend on the score. Another loss and this city will feel like it's teetering on hysteria.

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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