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So far, so good for Redskins' ground-based strategy

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So far, so good for Redskins' ground-based strategy

When Scot McCloughan came to Washington in January, he drew up the plan for 2015. He knew that quarterback Robert Griffin III was likely to struggle at times and that the other two options at QB, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy had their limitations as well. His plan was to bolster the Redskins’ ability to move the ball on the ground and to stop the run on defense. That would make the Redskins less dependent on whatever flawed quarterback was behind center to stay competitive in games.

While Griffin, the designated starter, has been struggling, the ground-based strategy has been working through two preseason games.

With the usual caveats here that during the preseason many stats are compiled with and against backup players and many who will be cut before they have a chance to be backups, the Redskins are averaging 166 yards rushing per game. They ran for 153 yards in the preseason opener and followed that up with 179 on the ground against the Lions.

Four running backs have been splitting up most of the time. Alfred Morris, who will be the primary runner when the season starts on September 13, has 11 carries for 52 yards. He should probably leave his helmet at home for the last two preseason games; there is no reason for him to play as he clearly is ready for the regular season.

The leading rusher during the preseason is Matt Jones (13 carries/82 yards), followed by Trey Williams (17/67) and Chris Thompson (10/65). Jay Gruden was pleased with the performance of all three young backs after Thursday’s game against the Lions.

“Matt Jones continues to hit the hole the way we want him to – hard,” said Gruden. “He gets through the second level, he’s a problem. Trey makes some excellent runs. And of course, Chris Thompson continues to do what he’s been doing throughout camp. Very exciting to see those backs step up and make some plays.”

Not only is the production of the runners exciting, it’s necessary.

“You know when you’re not protecting your quarterback that great and your passing game is not working so good, it’s nice to rely on a good strong running game,” said Gruden. “That’s what sparked us – the running game got us a couple big hits there. Got us some good positive field position – we did some good things.”

Not only are the Redskins moving the ball on the ground, they are stopping the run on defense. Opponents have a total of 91 yards rushing in two games and have averaged just 2.8 yards per play.

They added some size and strength up front with free agents Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea. They join Jason Hatcher on the front line. Hatcher likes the new players’ mindsets as much as their physical strength.

“The guys up from, the want-to, the attitude,” Hatcher said after the game on Thursday. “You’ve got to stop the run to rush the quarterback. We’ve got great guys. I’m not the best run stopper but I do take pride when I’m in there.”

Hatcher also likes the new one-gap scheme that coordinator Joe Barry has installed.

“We’re just really attacking the line of scrimmage, knocking people back and disrupting in the backfield,” said Hatcher. “That takes a big toll on the offensive line, guys getting off the ball instead of last year we were just kind of shuffling sideways. It’s a great scheme, I’m really enjoying it.”

Again, it’s only preseason. We won’t know how well the Redskins’ running game and rush defense will stand up over 60 minutes with front-line players in the game until at least a few weeks into the regular season. But looking at what we know right now, it’s so far, so good. 

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT'S UP WITH RG3?

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Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

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NBC Sports Washington

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington lost an important piece of its family this week when longtime Redskins reporter Rich Tandler died on Tuesday. He was 63.

Tandler joined NBC Sports Washington in 2011. He began his writing career in his 40s after working in restaurants and created his blog, Real Redskins, in 2004, which became the longest-running blog on the team. He also wrote three books on the Redskins and posted an estimated 2,300 consecutive “Need To Know” posts, becoming a must-read for Redskins fans as part of their morning routine.

“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family, our family at NBC Sports Washington, and the entire Redskins community. He will be truly missed.”

The team will hold a moment of silence for Tandler before its game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and will keep his regular seat on press row empty. On Wednesday, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith offered his “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

“Rich’s kind and warm nature made him a good friend and an especially close colleague to many of us at NBC Sports Washington,” NBC Sports Washington General Manager Damon Phillips said in a statement. “His passion for his work and the Redskins was inspiring and made him a critical part of many of our successes over the past seven years. This is a very big loss for the sports community. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Fans, Redskins players, fellow reporters, and friends of Tandler paid tribute to him on social media.

“Incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of NBCSW’s Rich Tandler. He was a great talent and an important voice in the DC sports community. Our thoughts are with his wife @MissSkeetersmom, his family and his family at @NBCSWashington,” Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter.

 

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2018 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

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USA Today

2018 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

In a thriller in Foxboro, the Patriots handed Kansas City its first loss of the season.

It wasn't pretty but the Rams slipped past the Broncos to remain the lone unbeaten in the NFL.

Remember when the Lions beat New England on Sunday Night Football and folks were ready to bury the Patriots? Yeah... how did that 'hot take' work out?

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Will the real Redskins please stand up? A win over the Panthers moved the Skins up three spots. Give the Redskins this, they are consistently unpredictable.

The Ravens are on the rise and Marcus Mariota is happy the Titans won't have to play Baltimore again.

So the Cowboys have an offense now? Or does Jacksonville not have an elite defense anymore?

And the Bears let Brock Osweiler throw for 380 yards. Yes. You read that correct. 380 yards. 

How far will the Bears drop because of that dreadful defensive performance? 

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS