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Redskins vs Bears Preview: 5 things to know in must-win game for Washington

Redskins vs Bears Preview: 5 things to know in must-win game for Washington

The Redskins squandered a chance to take control of a playoff spot in a Monday night loss to the Panthers. Now, on a short week, Jay Gruden's squad travels to Chicago for a must-win game to even hope for a shot at the postseason. Kickoff is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. in what should be relatively mild - for Chicago - conditions around freezing, but all the action kicks off on CSN at noon. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Desperate times - The Redskins really botched their attempt at the playoffs for a second straight season with Monday night's 26-15 loss to the Panthers. Now, Washington needs to beat Chicago and hope for other teams to lose, a situation no team likes. The Redskins offense let them down against Carolina, and while Kirk Cousins and crew continue to pile up yards (406 per-game, 3rd in NFL) they fell well below that average on Monday, will need to get plenty of points on Christmas Eve to beat the Bears.
  2. Not hibernating yet - Sure the Bears have a terrible 3-11 record, and it could be an offseason to rebuild in the Chi, but on Saturday, the Redskins better expect a tough opponent. Chicago put out an impressive comeback effort last week against the Packers before losing on a last-second field goal. The Bears offense will be able to move the ball with running back Jordan Howard, receiver Alshon Jeffery and young QB Matt Barkley trying to prove he is an option in the Windy City in 2017 and beyond.
  3. Naughty or nice - Due to the complicated nature of Redskins fans and Redskins quarterbacks, some folks can't comprehend that criticizing Kirk Cousins' performance against the Panthers does not equal questioning his long-term future with the franchise. Cousins did not play well against Carolina, but it was just one game. A quality passer with a bevy of weapons, Cousins should get right against the Bears, and in turn, the 'Skins offense should look much better.
  4. 'I just felt like running' - Forrest Gump famously ran until he got tired, and that's exactly what Sean McVay's offense should do on Saturday. The Bears come into Saturday's contest with the 23rd worst run defense in the NFL, and the Burgundy and Gold should lean heavily on Robert Kelley. Under utilized over the last four games, Washington should make a strong push to get Kelley to 20 carries, and include Chris Thompson for six or more touches to take advantage of the Chicago defense.
  5. No comfort - As much as Barkley looked impressive last week in the second half against the Packers, this is still an inexperienced, third-string QB that has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. The Redskins need to pressure the Bears passer early and often, whether that comes through a four-man front or with blitzes. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy should both register sacks, and perhaps multiple, and this would be an ideal game for Joe Barry's defense to produce a turnover.

Numbers & Notes 

  • The Redskins have beaten the Bears six straight games, Washington's longest active streak against any franchise. 
  • The Redskins need 15 passing first downs to break the team record for passing first downs in a single season (217 in 1989).
  • Kirk Cousins breaking his own team record with his eighth 300-yard passing game this season. Cousins holds the existing team record with seven 300-yard passing games in both 2015 and 2016.
  • With three catches, Vernon Davis (502) could reach 10th on the NFL's list of career receptions by a tight end, tied with Dallas Clark and Frank Wycheck (505 each).
  • With 172 receiving yards over the final two games, Jamison Crowder could become the fourth member of the Redskins to post a 1,000-yard receiving season within the first two years of an NFL career (Gary Clark in 1986, Charlie Brown in 1983 and Rod Gardner in 2002).
  • With nine catches, DeSean Jackson will reach 500 career receptions.
  • With 1.5 sacks, Ryan Kerrigan becomes the third member of the Redskins to record 60.0 sacks since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982 (Dexter Manley and Charles Mann).
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFC and NFL in receiving yards at catch (2763)
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFC and NFL in pass completions of 25+ yards (39)

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins make new hire at special teams coordinator, and he comes from Tampa Bay

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USA Today Sports

Redskins make new hire at special teams coordinator, and he comes from Tampa Bay

The Redskins announced the hiring of Nate Kaczor as their new special teams coach on Saturday morning. Kaczor will take over the role vacated by Ben Kotwica, who left Washington to take the same role in Atlanta.

Kaczor spent the last three seasons with the Buccaneers as special teams coordinator, but that coaching staff got let go this offseason. Prior to his work in Tampa, Kaczor coached in similar roles for the Titans and the Jaguars. 

It's not particularly easy to rank special teams, but Kotwica's groups did some things very well, particularly in punt coverage. Football Outsiders ranked all 32 special teams groups across the league based on a formula that combines field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts, and punt returns; The Redskins ranked 8th and Tampa ranked 29th. 

On the flip side, the Redskins had some of the lowest kick and punt return yardage in the NFL last season. The Redskins gained just 110 yards on all of their punt returns for the year. 

Head coach Jay Gruden spoke about bringing in Kaczor.

"We are excited to have Nate join our staff. We have had the opportunity to face his special teams play during his time at Tampa Bay and respected competing against him," Gruden said via press release. "He is a competitor and we have noticed and admired the intensity his units have played with through the course of his time as a special teams coordinator and assistant coach in the NFL."

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Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Joe Theismann wants Kyler Murray to have a "long, happy career" — as a professional baseball player.

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, the former Redskins QB was asked what he thought of Murray's choice to pursue his NFL dreams over his MLB dreams for now. He didn't hold back.

"I think that he should choose baseball," Theismann said. "I think that he would struggle in the NFL."

As of now, many mock drafts are projecting the Heisman Trophy winner to be selected in the first round. His believers see him as an electric option who's entering a league perfectly suited for his skillset. 

Theismann is not in that camp, though.

"I understand a lot of guys work from the 'gun. You're away from the line of scrimmage," he explained. "But, sooner or later, defensive coaches in this league are going to figure out how to keep you in the pocket. And if you can't throw from the pocket, or you can't see from the pocket, it's going to become a problem."

Murray's height, which Theismann touched on, is a main concern for those skeptical of how he'd handle life in the NFL. Of course, being in the 5-foot-9 range matters far less on a MLB diamond.

Theismann also thinks that the Oklahoma product will need to be in an offense with a strong running attack. That's something any rookie passer needs to succeed, and without one, Theismann isn't sure if Murray can carry the load on his own.

In the end, Theismann told NBC Sports Washington that Murray is "making a mistake" by setting his sights on the gridiron. He simply doesn't see things going well for Murray as a signal caller.

"I think in professional football, it'll be a real challenge and an uphill climb for him to be able to do the things that he wants to do and a team wants him to do," he said.

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