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Return TD could decide Redskins vs. Eagles

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Return TD could decide Redskins vs. Eagles

One of the most glaring differences between the Redskins and the Eagles is the ability of each team to score non-offensive touchdowns.

The Eagles are good at it. The Redskins are not.

Since the start of the 2014 season the Eagles have scored 12 touchdowns on returns. They scored on punt returns three times, blocked punts three times, and two each of fumble returns, interception returns, and kickoff returns.

In that same time period the Redskins have scored one touchdown on a return, Rashad Ross’ 101-yard return against the Giants.

Return TDs, and lack thereof, were decisive in the two games the Eagles and Redskins played last year. The first time they met, Philly got a 102-yard Chris Polk kickoff return for a touchdown and won by three. In the second meeting the Eagles got no return touchdowns and Washington won 27-24.

The big concern this week is Darren Sproles. He has all three of the Eagles’ punt return touchdowns over the last two years including one last week against the Jets. It should be noted that the Eagles won that game by seven points.

“Sproles, as a punt returner, is very dynamic,” said Gruden. “He’s already small in stature, but he’s big as far as making people miss, finding lanes. He’s hard to find to find sometimes when he’s behind the blockers and he gets a wall and he’s gone. He’s got great speed. It’ll be another great challenge.”

Sproles was named the NFC special teams player of the week for his performance against the Jets. This is the second time in four games that the Redskins have faced a reigning special teams POW. In Week 1 they played the Rams and Tavon Austin, who had returned a punt 75 yards for a TD against the Seahawks.

Austin did not do any damage. Tress Way punted six times and Austin had no returns. Four were downed, one went out of bounds, and one went for a touchback. Way averaged 40.7 yards per punt.

They only came close to getting burned once. With 29 seconds left in the first half, the Redskins had to punt from their own 27. Way tried to angle the kick out of bounds. He did, but the kick went only 18 yards before going out of bounds. But the Rams were unable to score and no harm was done.

Sproles’ returns are not the only things that the Redskins’ special teams have to worry about. Note the three blocked punts returned for TDs by the Eagles last year. The Redskins have had issues there are recently as last Thursday. Fortunately, the punt the Giants blocked rolled out of the end zone for a safety but the play did give the Giants a safety and a 2-0 lead that they never relinquished.

One of the easiest predictions to make is that the Redskins need to prevent a return touchdown if they are going to beat the Eagles. Since the start of 2014 they have given up eight defensive and special teams touchdowns, each in a different game. They have lost all eight of those games. 

MORE REDSKINS: Eagles appear to avoid using "Redskins" name

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Redskins 53-man roster projection, ver. 2.0

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Redskins 53-man roster projection, ver. 2.0

<< Click here to see Redskins 53-man roster projection ver. 2.0 >>

The Redskins are halfway through the preseason and the first two games may have done more to muddy the waters when it comes to who will make the 53-man roster than they did to clarify things. 

Here is my second training camp prediction of who will make the final cut for the Redskins. See where players are safe and where the hot spots are for competition. 

Among the big battles taking shape:

—An injury and one player’s impressive preseason have juggled the wide receiver depth chart. 

—With Orlando Scandrick cut, the cornerback position looks set but the rookies had better not do anything to shake the coaches’ confidence in them. 

—There are seven safeties who may be worthy of roster spots, but only four are likely to make it. 

—Despite the Hogan-led rally last night, it still looks like the roster will have only two QBs. 

<< Click here to see Redskins 53-man roster projection ver. 2.0 >>

Redskins 2018 news:

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-Analysis: Five Redskins-Jets observations

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