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Redskins get back to balance between run and pass against Eagles

Redskins get back to balance between run and pass against Eagles

PHILADELPHIA—One of the topics of conversation this week at Redskins Park was how the team has seemed to have abandoned the running game during their two-game losing streak. Top back Rob Kelley had just 14 carries in the team’s losses to the Cowboys and Cardinals. Even offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who calls the plays, admitted that the team got away from the run when it wasn’t necessary, especially in Arizona.

They didn’t exactly wear Kelley out today against the Eagles but they were balanced on offense and that helped them break that losing streak. McVay called 23 pass plays and 22 runs. The Redskins managed 334 yards of offense, they were able to put together four touchdown drives, and get the win.

Chris Thompson didn’t carry much but he had the winning touchdown run. The Redskins trailed 22-21 at the two-minute warning and had the ball at the Eagles 25. Thompson took a pitch to the left from Kirk Cousins, eluded a tackle from defensive end Vinny Curry, and all of a sudden he found wide open spaces. He said it was because “Trent Williams was out there doing Trent Williams things”, meaning that the Pro Bowl left tackle was out in front blocking defenders in the open field. The speedy Thompson followed the blocking, cut back to his right a bit, and scooted in for the touchdown.

“We were getting man-to-man,” said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. “We motioned over there and faked a little jet sweep to DeSean [Jackson]. We just down blocked and pulled our tackle and hopefully get five yards. I was hoping for 5, 6, 7 yards and run the clock down to get a field goal but the touchdown was great.”

For his part, Thompson really wanted no part of a field goal try. He recalled Dustin Hopkins’ 34-yard miss against the Bengals in London. Although scoring on the play did leave the Eagles with enough time to drive deep into Redskins territory, he was happy with it just the same.

“What if the field goal gets blocked?” Thompson asked. “What if the snap gets bobbled or something?”

He didn’t mention it, but Hopkins did miss a 38-yard field goal try by bouncing it off of the left upright earlier in the game. The end zone was the way to go.

Kelley also ran for a touchdown, this one from 22 yards out in the second quarter. The two runs don’t sound like much but it was the first time since at least 2004 that the Redskins have had two touchdown runs of over 20 yards in the same game.

It wasn’t a monster game for the rushing attack in general or for Kelley, who had 16 carries for 63 yards, in particular. But he made some plays and the team won and after what had transpired the last two games the Redskins will take it.

MORE REDSKINS: 5 observations from Redskins' narrow win over Eagles

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10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

The Redskins had to improve the defensive line this offseason. The defense ranked dead last against the run in 2017, and without improvement up front defensively, the playoffs would again be out of reach in 2018. 

And for the second straight season, Washington tried. 

The team selected Daron Payne out of Alabama with their first-round pick and Tim Settle out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round. The front office also waived under-performing Terrell McClain in the offseason and moved on from veteran A.J. Francis.

Perhaps most important, the team should have 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Allen completely healthy this fall. He and Matt Ioannidis looked like a strong front in 2017 before a foot injury shut down Allen for the year in Week 5. Add in Anthony Lanier, who flashed big-time sack potential, and the Redskins have a strong, young nucleus.  

But how does it all work?

In the base 3-4 scheme, Payne might have the strength to play nose tackle. Settle definitely has the size for the nose. Both are rookies, however, and will need to learn a lot, and fast, to start Week 1. Veteran Stacy McGee, coming off groin surgery, might be able to hold off the rookies if he is fully healthy. When a nose is on the field, expect Allen and Ioannidis to line up at the defensive tackle spots. If he's not playing nose, Payne will rotate in at tackle as well. Another veteran, Ziggy Hood, will provide depth at tackle, if he makes the team. 

In the nickel package, which the team deploys more than half of their snaps, expect to see a healthy rotation of Allen, Payne, Ioannidis and Lanier. Keeping those players fresh should allow interior pocket pressure, and that could be great news for Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith

With Payne and Allen the headliners, and Ioannidis and Lanier valuable, and Settle capable at the nose, the Redskins have five D-line roster spots about locked down. 

Last year, the team kept six defensive linemen coming out of camp. If McGee is healthy, that spot will be his. If he's not, Hood likely hangs on. It's also possible the team keeps seven D-linemen, particularly as they monitor McGee's groin injury. 

The good news is last year, due to injuries and the talent on the roster, a number of players were forced into spots they didn't truly belong. Hood doesn't have the true size to play nose, but he was forced into the position. Lanier is best served as an interior pass rusher, but was forced to be a run stuffer. 

With more investments on the line, and better luck in the training room, the 2018 Redskins D-line should have more people playing where they belong. And that could go a long way. 

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Need to Know: The best running backs the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best running backs the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 18, eight days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best running backs the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the running backs are up. They are roughly ranked 2017 rushing yards, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, and quarterbacks

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys—He actually finished 10thin the league in rushing yards behind two backs who will face the Redskins. Elliott gets boosted up the list because he was suspended for six games last year. He averaged 98 yards per game played, and had he been able to play in 16 games, he would have led the league in rushing yards with over 300 yards to spare. In three games against the Redskins, he has averaged 110 yards per game and he has five touchdowns. The Redskins’ revamped rushing defense will be tested twice.

Mark Ingram, Saints—He will be coming off of a four-game suspension for Redskins vs. Saints in Week 5. Will he be rested or rusty? If he’s in any kind of form, the Redskins defense will have to be on its game. Last year against Washington in the Superdome, Ingram rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. 

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars—The rookie did surpass the thousand-yard mark, posting 1,040. Some pointed out that it wasn’t a consistent effort as he gained 310 yards, almost 30 percent of his total, in two back-to-back games in Weeks 5 and 6. That’s fine but he still is a difficult opponent with his combination of size and speed. I look for him to have a big breakout this year. 

Dion Lewis/Derrick Henry, Titans—Lewis averaged 5.0 yards per carry with the Patriots last year and Henry gained 744 yards while sharing time with the now-retired DeMarco Murray. Lewis will play a lot of third downs and will spell Henry sometimes early in games. That will leave the 6-3, 247-pound Henry fresh to grind up the clock if the Titans have a late lead. 

Jay Ajayi, Eagles—Nobody has quite figured out why the Dolphins dealt him to the Eagles in midseason, but Philly was more than happy to add him to the offense. Ajayi became a workhorse in the postseason with 42 rushing attempts and six receptions in three games. 

I do need to mention Giants rookie Saquan Barkley here. I have to think that the second overall pick of the draft will rank somewhere on this list, but without seeing him in an NFL uniform yet it’s hard to rank him. He will be dangerous, no doubt. 

David Johnson of the Cardinals also will be tough to handle. After he missed all of last year with a hand injury it's difficult to rank him, too. If he is in his 2016 form in Week 1 the Redskins will face a tough task. 

Best of the rest: Lamar Miller, Texans, Alvin Kamara, Saints, Ronald Jones, Bucs

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 

Former Redskins offensive tackle Geroge Starke, one of the original Hogs, was born on this date in 1948.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 8
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 22
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 45

The Redskins last played a game 199 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 53 days. 

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