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Trent Williams: 20 in 20

Trent Williams: 20 in 20

As we count down to the first game of the Redskins season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.

Question 16: Can Trent Williams go from being a good left tackle to being a great one?

The background: Williams was Mike Shanahans first draft pick with the Redskins, the fourth overall selection in the 2010 draft. He has tremendous athletic ability for a man his size (6-5, 328) and he is a perfect fit for the zone-blocking scheme. When he is focused he can dominate the man across from him. Last year he was starting to round into form as a top left tackle and then the four-game substance abuse suspension hit. This year, he is the highest-paid player on the team with a salary of 11 million. Can he stay focused and continue to progress on the upward path he was on last year? Or will he coast on a contract that pays him 34 million over the next four years and be happy to be average?

Tandler: Williams knows that he is under the microscope. Both Mike and Kyle Shanahan have spoken repeatedly about the need for Williams to step up and be the player he is capable of being. He is tasked with guarding the blind side of the franchise, Robert Griffin III. With the array of top pass rushers the Redskins face in the division and in many of their other games, Williams has a great responsibility. The good thing is that, unlike a year ago, he is not talking about taking the game more seriously; he is doing it. Williams has been the star of training camp so far and his willingness to tough it out for a half against the Bears and Julius Peppers with a bone bruise in his foot shows a new level of commitment and maturity. As long as he stays quiet and continues to get it done, he should continue to progress towards becoming one of the best in the business.

El-Bashir: Williams hasnt been the best offensive lineman in training camp. Until he suffered a bruised bone in his left foot, the 6 foot 5, 328-pound left tackle had been the best player at Redskins Park during the first two weeks of practice. At 24, the former first round pick finally seems to get it after nearly losing everything to a four-game drug suspension last season.

Another slipup would result a year-long ban and the possible end to a promising career -- and it seems to have scared him straight. This, no doubt, is a critical season for Williams, and thus far hes approaching it as such. But the question is whether he can blossom into an elite tackle on par with Clevelands Joe Thomas or the New York Jets DBrickashaw Ferguson. Like most things when it comes to Williams, thats entirely up to whether he feels like doing it.

20 questions in 20 days
20 Aug.20Will Jammal Brown play this year?
19 Aug.21Will Chris Cooley make the team?
18 Aug. 22Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
17 YesterdayIs Garon a No. 1 receiver?
16 TodayCan Trent Williams got from good to great?
15 TomorrowCan DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
14 SundayCan Santana Moss regain his old form?

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Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Alex Smith finished the Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts by averaging 6.3 yards-per-pass attempt on 33 completions. Those numbers aren't particularly good, and while they're not bad either, it clearly did not produce enough opportunities for points in the home opener. 

The Colts defense had a lot to do with that too. Indianapolis deployed a soft zone coverage system, forcing the Washington Redskins to look underneath for short gains and eschewing many chances at deep shots down the field. 

That's fine when the team is able to run the ball well, like the dominant Week 1 win in Arizona. But when Washington can't run the ball, like the embarassing Week 2, the short passing game looks too conservative. 

"I mean I think every guy on the team, certainly every guy on offense went through the game and what plays could I have done differently to help us," Smith said Wedneday. "Could I have taken a shot here? You know, all week we talked about being patient. The way they play defense, be patient. Let the shots present themselves."

The shots rarely presented themselves. 

Smith did put two passes in positions for chunk gains, but Josh Doctson was unable to bring in a deep ball on the sideline, and later in the game, Paul Richardson could not corral a big gain over the middle. Neither drop was devestating, but a catch in either situation could have turned momentum in the game. 

Prior to 2017, Smith had a reputation as a quarterback that rarely went down the field. Last season, he disproved that with his best ever statistical campaign and a number of highlight reel plays down the field in the Kansas City offense. 

Redskins fans are starting to wonder if they got the 2017 version of Smith, or the earlier version. 

Truth is the sample size is much too small to determine that answer. In Week 1, Smith didn't need to air the ball out. In fact, he still tried, barely missing a deep completion to Richardson on a play flagged because the receiver was held. 

There are other factors too. The offensive line had a poor performance in Week 2, and Richardson played the game dealing with a shoulder injury. 

Still, there were times it seemed Smith had chances down the field he didn't take, instead opting for the safer check-down pass.

Running back Chris Thompson finished the game with 13 catches but for just 92 yards. Much of that production came late in the second half when the Colts had taken a substantial lead.

"In the second half, very apparent, I mean they were not going to let anything get over their head or get behind them. It was so soft. Hence, a lot of the underneath stuff was open," Smith said.

What version of Smith will show up Sunday against Green Bay?

Much of that will have to do with the offensive line and Jay Gruden's game plan. But plenty will be determined by Smith too. 

The veteran QB does not turn the ball over, which is a big bonus. The Redskins need points though if they're going to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

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Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Here is a look ahead and a look back at the Redskins vs. Packers series.

Week 3, Sunday, FedEx Field

2017 Packers: 7-9, third in NFC North; 1-0-1 in 2018

2018 statistical leaders:

Passing yards: Aaron Rodgers, 567 yards
Rushing yards: Jamaal Williams, 106 yards
Receiving yards: Randall Cobb 172

Deciding factors

  • The Packers haven’t had much of a running game so far this year and the Redskins can’t let it get healthy on them. It’s hard enough to deal with Rodgers when all he can do is pass. If a viable rushing attack is in the mix, Rodgers is nearly impossible to stop. 
  • Offensively, the Redskins will have to stay aggressive. We saw what happened on Week 1 on Sunday night when the Bears couldn’t take advantage of some chances to put the Packers away. There are plenty of reasons to doubt that the Redskins would be able to kill the clock by running the ball—they couldn’t against the Cardinals—and Alex Smith will have to keep throwing. 

Key matchup: Redskins C Tony Bergstrom vs. Packers NT Frank Clark—It looks like Chase Roullier will have to move to left guard and Bergstrom will have to take on Clark, a tough, athletic nose tackle. 

Redskins-Packers series history

The Packers lead the all-time series 14-12; the teams have split their last four games including the playoffs.

Series notables

The first time: November 28, 1937, Griffith Stadium—In their first season in Washington, the Redskins needed a win to have a shot to play for the Eastern Conference title the following week. The home team trailed 6-0 at halftime, but the Redskins weren’t done. Cliff Battles ran for a touchdown, Sammy Baugh threw for another and the Washington defense held for a 14-6 win. 

The last time: November 20, 2016, FedEx Field—In one of his career highlight games, Kirk Cousins passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns. The game was close at halftime with Washington leading 13-10. Then they exploded for 29 second-half points with the highlight coming on a 70-yard TD bomb from Cousins to Pierre Garçon early in the fourth quarter of the home team’s 49-24 win. 

The best time: December 24, 1972, RFK Stadium—The Redskins were hosting their first playoff game since 1942. The highlight play was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Roy Jefferson. But the game was won with a five-man defensive line that George Allen designed to stop the Packers’ powerful rushing attack. Green Bay mustered just 78 yards rushing as the Redskins won 16-3 putting them a win away from their first Super Bowl.

The worst time: October 17, 1983, Lambeau Field—It was a highly entertaining game, still the highest-scoring game in the history of Monday Night Football. Joe Theismann passed for 398 yards, but Lynn Dickey nearly matched him with 387 yards. The game was back and forth the entire way with five lead changes. The fourth one came with 2:50 left to play with a five-yard TD pass from Theismann to Joe Washington. But the Redskins still couldn’t play defense and the Packers drove to a field goal to take a 48-47 lead. Mark Mosely had a shot at stealing the win, but he missed a 39-yard field goal try as time ran out.  

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