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Redskins Offseason Questions: Is Spencer Long the long-term answer at center?

Redskins Offseason Questions: Is Spencer Long the long-term answer at center?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out. That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

More offseason questions: What are resonable expectations for Josh Doctson? | Will there be a surprise salary cap cut? Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

Is Spencer Long the long-term answer at center?

Finlay: In a word: Yes. Long played well in 2016 before a rash of injuries hampered him later in the season. Coaches and teammates spoke highly of his blocking and ability to cal coverages at the line. In the locker room, he's respected and funny.

Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan talked about their desire to let the 'Skins O-line grow up and gel together, and with young players Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses on Long's right flank, that's just what the team is doing. Further, once the team has to play Scherff and Moses, a contract for Long will seem like a relative bargain.

It seems highly unlikely Kory Lichtensteiger will come back to compete for the center spot, and there isn't another center on the roster. There is the off chance Washington would ask Long to move to left guard if Shawn Lauvao gets released, but the team spent a lot of time and resources training Long to play center. Why go back now?

Tandler: It has been pretty well established that Scot McCloughan had his sights set on Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round of last year’s draft. Fortunately, the Colts took Kelly a few picks before the Redskins went on the clock. Long’s progress at the position shows that a Kelly pick would have been a wasted pick.

The point is not Long will have a better career the Kelly. For all we know, Kelly may go on to have multiple All-Pro seasons. But while you want to have a good center there isn’t much added value in having a great center. Sure, Alex Mack helped the Falcon’s line gel. But unlike the Redskins Atlanta didn’t have a fourth overall pick (Trent Williams) and a fifth overall pick (Brandon Scherff) to do that.

Again, Long is not going to end up with a bust in Canton. But he is a more than adequate center and it would make no sense for a team with as many needs as the Redskins have to use more resources to try to upgrade the position. He’s up for a contract extension and the organization should lock him up and move on to improving other areas. 

 

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That time Case Keenum tried to change a run play and Adrian Peterson shut that down (VIDEO)

That time Case Keenum tried to change a run play and Adrian Peterson shut that down (VIDEO)

Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan pledged to reestablish the run game, and on Sunday in Miami, he did just that. Adrian Peterson logged his first 100-yard game of the season and it was also his first game with more than 20 carries. 

One of those carries came with a bit of discussion though. 

The video shows the situation well, where Washington QB Case Keenum went to audible out of a run play and Peterson basically just told him no. Keenum went back to the run play and Peterson then picked up a first-down run. 

In the locker room after the game, Redskins.com reporter Kyle Stackpole asked Peterson about the play. The veteran running back explained that it wasn't just him overruling Keenum but that the Redskins coaches were shouting the same thing from the sideline. That adds up with Callahan's pledge to run the ball more. 

The video is still funny, and at 1-5 with the lone victory coming after the awful Dolphins had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, a good laugh is well deserved for Redskins fans. 

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What the Redskins' offense must improve to ensure it's effective versus non-Dolphins defenses

What the Redskins' offense must improve to ensure it's effective versus non-Dolphins defenses

The Redskins' win against the Dolphins comes with a large, aqua and orange, possibly 0-16 sized asterisk.

Yes, Washington was able to notch its first victory this year, and doing that after firing a head coach and making yet another quarterback change is worthy of praise. It's also important for every guy in that locker room, especially with the chatter that was already emerging last week regarding the team possibly losing every game this year.

But still, the entire roster has to be better if it hopes to take down other, non-Dolphins opponents, especially the offense. There are a couple of areas where the unit clearly must improve to have a chance in their final 10 contests. Luckily, they aren't difficult to spot.

The first is their level of aggression.

Adrian Peterson thrived in Bill Callahan's run-focused approach, posting more rushing yards at Hard Rock Stadium than he had in total coming into Week 6. Like the first sentence of this story says, don't get too carried away (pun not originally intended but will leave it in there) because Miami is the worst run defense in the sport, but it was encouraging to see Peterson come alive and break some long ones.

What wasn't encouraging, on the other hand, were a few sequences where Callahan seemed far too content to play it safe.

The most egregious came at the end of the first half, where the Redskins got possession at their own 25-yard line with 1:07 left to play and a timeout to use. A second down Case Keenum scramble advanced the ball to the 34, but instead of hurrying up to get more snaps in or stopping the clock, the group took its time before picking up the first down 40 seconds later.

An incomplete pass and a give-up draw followed, so the Redskins went into the half with a 7-3 lead. They didn't use their timeout, they didn't push for a field goal attempt and they didn't even try a Hail Mary.

Callahan owned up to the sequence at his postgame presser, explaining he was OK with where the score was at. That mindset won't work from Week 7 on, however. Instead of accepting whatever future score advantages the Redskins have, they need to look to widen it in situations like that.

They're 1-5. Why be so conservative?

Of course, it's easier to be aggressive if your QB is locked in. Washington didn't exactly have that luxury in Florida.

Case Keenum was largely somewhat fine to fine in his return to the lineup, and thanks to a few shots to Terry McLaurin and that effort from Peterson, his return ended with a win. Afterward, Callahan named him the starter for the upcoming 49ers contest, but he has to do more if he's going to hold off Dwayne Haskins (writer's note: Haskins should be on the field by now).

That said, it may also help him if he was asked to do a little more, which ties into the first point. He averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt, which is a number similar to that of bottom-third offenses in the league. 58 of his 166 yards came on the two scores to McLaurin, meaning his other 11 completions and 23 tries went for just 108.

At some point, and likely some point soon, Callahan's beloved running game will be limited and the Redskins' signal-caller will have to make some throws and be the one responsible for moving the ball. It'll either be Keenum or, if he is mediocre again, it may then be Haskins. Whoever it is, though, he has to air it out more effectively.

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