Redskins

Quick Links

Redskins savor rare opportunity

lorenzo_alexander_giants.png

Redskins savor rare opportunity

The last time the Redskins played a home game in December that had postseason implications was 2007.

The next time arrives Monday, when the Giants (7-4) visit FedEx Field for a pivotal NFC East matchup on national television. With a victory, the Redskins (5-6) would vault themselves into the thick of the division and wild card races. 

For veterans like Lorenzo Alexander, the five years in between have felt like an eternity. 

“It’s great,” he said Wednesday. “This is the first meaningful game I’ve played in December in a while, still having the playoffs on the table. It’s a great feeling that we’re still playing for something outside of personal pride. It’s for postseason play.”

The mood around Redskins Park, as a result, has been more upbeat in comparison to recent years, when the post-Thanksgiving focus had already shifted to the following season.

Not this week, however. Not after back-to-back wins over the Eagles and Cowboys breathed life back into a season that had been left for dead at the bye. 

“It’s more important to everybody,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “They’re putting in the work. Whether it’s in weight room, the classroom, the field, they’re putting in extra work.”

"The last two weeks have given us confidence because of the way that we’re playing," Bowen continued. "We know we still have an opportunity to make a run. It’s good for team morale. It shows that all that hard work you put in the offseason wasn’t for naught." 

Tackle Trent Williams added: “The last couple of years, we haven’t had anything of this nature. It feels great. It’s definitely a huge game for us, for this organization. A win Monday night could do a lot for us in the near future and also in the distant future.”

Coach Mike Shanahan noted last week that there's been an increased sense of urgency for his players. Fullback Darrel Young, however, said the key to the turnaround has in fact been something more tangible: players are making clutch plays at critical junctures.

“Execution under pressure,” Young said. “Look at Santana [Moss] making big plays on third-and-one. We didn’t have that. We came into the season with the worst percentage on third down. We’re not we want to be, but guys are making plays.”

Alexander agreed.

“If you look at all of our losses, we have had mental lapses, especially the last Giants’ game when we gave up that big play at the end,” he said. “Compare that to the Dallas game where you had Dez Bryant in the end zone and Madieu Williams comes over, hits him and dislodges the ball. A couple of weeks ago, [Bryant] would have caught that ball.”

The challenge now, Alexander said, is maintaining the momentum.

“It’s all about confidence and winning games,” he said. “The great teams, especially the Super Bowl teams over the last three or four years, have been able to play good ball in the second half of the season. They’ve gone into December playing at a high level, like the Giants and Green Bay Packers. They started a little slow but were able to finish strong. If we’re able to mimic some of that, we have a great chance achieving a lot of our goals here.”

Quick Links

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

hopkins_kickoff_ap.png
Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

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

 

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

gruden_otas_ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

In case you missed it