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Need to Know: A big opportunity for the Redskins but are they ready for it?

Oct 7, 2016, 5:03 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 7, two days before the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.


Today’s schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Lions 16; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 23

A big opportunity for the Redskins but are they ready for it?

The Redskins have a chance to make a statement in Baltimore on Sunday. But are they ready to do it?

Make no mistake, a win over Baltimore would be a big deal, some solid evidence that things are better than they were last year. In 2015 they couldn’t get a road win until Week 14 in Chicago. A win here would mean two road wins by the time the season is a third of the way done.

After beating the Bears they won over the Bills, the first time all year they had posted consecutive victories. A win Sunday would give them a three-game winning streak.

And in 2015 they didn’t have a win over a team with a winning record all year. The Giants were 2-0 when the Redskins beat them and the Ravens are 3-1. We don’t know at this point how the Ravens or Giants will finish the season but they got have a chance to end up over .500.

In short, they would have some pelts on the wall in early October that they either never got in 2015 or struggled into December to get.

That all sounds good when laid out as a hypothetical but can the Redskins pull it off? Baltimore is hardly a juggernaut despite their 3-1 record. But they are very solid defensively, ranking first in yards allowed and in the top 10 in most other significant defensive categories. It’s going to be tough for the Redskins to move the ball.

Then, of course, there is the matter of the Washington defense, which can’t stop anybody, particularly when the opposition runs the ball (31st in the NFL at 4.9 yards per carry) and runs third-down plays (last in the NFL allowing 57 percent conversions). You get the feeling that Baltimore offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will figure out ways to exploit the Redskins D.

The Redskins’ best chance to pull off the upset (they are four-point underdogs) is what helped them win their previous two games—takeaways. The Ravens have turned the ball over seven times as Joe Flacco has throw four interceptions and they have lost three fumbles.  The Redskins have eight takeaways (four fumble recoveries, four interceptions) tied for fifth in the NFL).

Are the takeaways sustainable? Defensive coordinator Joe Barry didn’t say that they were but he refused to concede that the are strictly due to chance.

“I think it’s maybe something that we talk about and preach, like my thing that I have the guys… before they walk onto the field every day, they’ve got to punch a ball out, they’ve got to hammer a ball out, they’ve got to rake a ball out,” Barry said when asked about the sustainability of getting takeaways.. “It’s just something that we kind of get our mindset before we walk onto the field for stretch. So it’s something that we emphasize in addition to all the other things that we emphasize, phases of the game. But, I do believe, again, taking the ball away is something that it’s a skill that has to be developed.”

And, indeed the Redskins players are greeted by a pair of these as they walk down onto the practice field:


I don’t know if that will make a huge difference—I’m sure that Flacco will have a tighter grip on the ball than the Velcro strips that attach the ball to the dummy have. But with the Redskins leading the league in forced fumbles both this year and since the start of the 2015 season, I guess you have to say, hey, whatever works.

The Redskins do not have to be reliant on takeaways to win but if they are going to win without them they will need to show vast improvement in other areas, like defensive third downs. That should start to improve if only because no team has ever gone a full season allowing over 50 percent conversions on third down. But getting the third-down problem to a level where they won’t have to rely on turnovers to win a game like this one might be too tall and order for the Redskins.

I’m certainly not ruling out the possibility of a big win. It really wouldn’t be that hard. Again, the Ravens are not a powerhouse team. Just cutting down on the missed tackles and knocking down a few more third-down passes would do it. It’s not going to be easy to move the ball against Baltimore but the Redskins have the weapons to get it done.

We will see if the team is ready to take that next step.

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In case you missed it 

  1. redskins12thman - Oct 7, 2016 at 5:59 AM

    I’m very glad the Redskins practice and preach takeaways, but your key point Rich is:

    “There is the matter of the Washington defense, which can’t stop anybody, particularly when the opposition runs the ball (31st in the NFL at 4.9 yards per carry) and runs third-down plays (last in the NFL allowing 57 percent conversions)”….. as well as their poor tackling.

    The D-linemen struggle to get off blocks and clog running lanes (no push, no penetration); safeties and nickel back were not NFL calibre (mercifully forced out with injuries although should have been replaced sooner) and higher expectations this season for Smith that have been unfulfilled have been the weakest links.

    Fuller may be a missing answer to nickel back but he is a rookie with an injury history. Hopefully Breeland returns soon so he can take one CB role and leave Blackmon / Dunbar / Fuller / Toler to compete for other role alongside Norman and him.

    At safety Ihenacho may help with tackling. But will he be a liability in pass defense? The Redskins may not line-up Whitner alongside Ihenacho in which case we need Evans to get ready to see if he is an improvement? Don’t see Cravens playing safety since he has been trained at ILB +

    We have no idea when Cravens get back on the field, but hopefully he can do so against the Ravens.

    You can’t expect offense and special teams to play flawless each game; that’s an unachievable / unfair expectations.

    The guys on the field have to do a better job of executing, and if they can’t, then you’re stuck with the same old results although now, we might a different answer at the two safety spots and nickel back (I hope these work).

    Now we need to see improvement among the team’s linemen as well as Smith.

  2. garg8050 - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:12 AM

    It’s gonna be a tough, physical game. I don’t see our offense scoring more than 20 or 23 points, which means the defense will have to get off the field on 3rd downs for the ‘Skins to have a chance. That means better tackling and better defense in the red zone. Offensively, they’ll need to take care of the ball and when they do get a chance for a big play, Cousins and the WRs will need to connect.

    • redskins12thman - Oct 7, 2016 at 7:04 AM


      As mentioned yesterday, Cooley feels Redskins would benefit from hurry up, but Trey made equally important points that we need to keep our D off the field as long as possible as well as minimize pre-snap penalties. Perhaps what we need is no huddle but take timing actually snapping ball to ensure everyone is on the same page with the play being called … kind of like the 49ers at times last night minus the poor O-line play and turnovers.

      We need long sustained drives to keep our defense off the field. Until defense improves, this is important and is probably the main reason why we need rushing to be an important component of our attack.

      Cooley also recommended 3 TE sets and running wide. Ravens are tough D; will disrupt shallow crosses / underneath routes and stop inside runs. They will key Cousins eyes so he must look off routes.

  3. colorofmyskinz - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:17 AM

    Who is the lady asking questions at the coaches pressers? She asks to the point questions that really put Barry on the spot. Whoever she is, she is fearless with her questioning. Wow like her fire!

    Can we give Lanier a shot?

    Let’s put him on end and go 4-4 on first downs and load the box.

    I want to see the following look on first downs:
    Lanier – Baker – RJF – Ziggy
    Kerrigan – Cravens – Compton – Preston
    Norman – Ihnacho – Dunbar

    This is a run stopping set with the option of Cravens dropping into coverage.

    Then we may just need to stay with 4-3 on seconds and only go 3-4 on third and beyond 3.

    We have to place our beef in the middle. That is Bake, RJF, Ioannidis, Jenkins. DEs need to be tall, fit, strong, flexible… Lanier. Give him a shot and if he can disrupt, then move baker inside the tackles. Have to maximize our talent and I am not convinced we are.

    If we go 3-4 and want run stopping we have to get Spaight on the field. Absolutely need Spaight to model what tackling is. He is hands down the best tackler on the team. If we had Daniels, then he would be. These are the only guys that send a thump through the stadium when they tackle. You feel it in the field. Got to get Spaight on the field.

    Just my 2 cents. And why I am not in the NFL. Lol

    • colorofmyskinz - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:33 AM

      If we go 3-4, then put baker on the end. 4-3 put him inside the tackle.

    • garg8050 - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:36 AM

      I think its Liz Clarke from the Post…

      • colorofmyskinz - Oct 7, 2016 at 7:35 AM


      • Trey Gregory - Oct 7, 2016 at 12:29 PM

        Liz is awesome

  4. Prospero - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:42 AM

    I think the D is too set and doesn’t try enough to confuse the O-line and QB before the snap. Preston Smith, Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan have to all be on the field on 3rd down. The outside linebackers have to STOP lining up in the neutral zone. That is possibly the dumbest penalty a professional can take. Do not take Dunbar of the field. Move Breeland to the slot. Gotta have your best players on at the same time.

  5. sidepull - Oct 7, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    If the Redskins defense cant stop anybody and then the offense is going to have a tough time moving the ball then its going to be a long day in Baltimore. Relying on turnovers, turnovers that actually bounce their way and put points on the Redskins scoreboard or take them away from Ravens scoring, is a longshot at best. So to me, its a long shot they get this win.
    On the other hand…..Who knows, maybe they prove the prognosticators wrong, and Redskins get a surge in rushing the ball, keeping our maligned D off the field. A nice quick strike to djax and Redskins see Flako instead of Flacco , who knows, they could walk away with a win. Hope they freaking gang tackle…and this one, this game right here…do not let Harbaugh out coach you Gruden an staff. With the odds looking to be in the Ravens favor..dont do them any favors with coaching blunders. Or Kirk Out brain farts, they dont need those either. A win would go a long way right now.

  6. skip36 - Oct 7, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    Joe Berry finally admits that he’s not getting the job done so now what are you going to do about it, hopefully change your 3/4 to the 4/3 & see if that adjustment will make a difference, if not then please remove yourself because you don’t know how to use the personal that you have, also you preach ball take away so now it tackling that needs to be preach so put a tackling dummy with a picture of Roger Godell on it maybe the they won’t miss tackling

    • Trey Gregory - Oct 7, 2016 at 12:36 PM

      You seriously think the problem with this defense revolves around a single down linemen? If Joe Barry would just quit being stubborn and use two DTs all of our problems would be solved!

      • smotion55 - Oct 7, 2016 at 2:15 PM

        Hey Trey the 2 tackles on the field sounds great . Who would they be. It Would be great if Baker would just humble himself and play Tackle. He wants Pot Roast back so he can stay outside They seem to be better suited for 4-3 anyway. Sad to say but the 2 Safeties they signed are an upgrade to me.

        Lauvao being back and Long or the new guy at Center sounds good, and if they can get Jones to run downhill in the 1st quarter that would really help a lot.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 7, 2016 at 2:51 PM

          Well part of the irony of that original statement is that we already run a 4-man front all the time. Baker is the left DT, Hood is the right DT, and any of our OLBs play the DEs. There’s not much of a difference between a 4-3 DT and a 3-4 DE. But we’re talking two 3 techniques. Baker doesn’t complain about playing 3 technique. He complains about playing 0. So do i. Mostly because he’s a pretty damn good 3 technique and a below average 0. I get that people want nose tackle taken care of but that doesn’t mean we should take someone out of their natural position just because their body meets the requirements. Who plays LDE if we move Baker?

          And we don’t run a 3-4. Seriously, we don’t. We don’t run a 4-3 either. Neither does Denver, neither does New England. We all run hybrid defenses that can shift between a 3-4, 4-3, 4-2-5, 3-3-5, 3-2-6 (that’s a real thing), wide 9, or whatever you want on any given week based off the best matchup. The big difference between Washington’s defense and Denver/New England’s is that they have better talent than we do. Their players 1) fit the scheme and 2) are really good. We have some players who fit the scheme but either aren’t good or are still developing and then some players who just don’t fit the scheme. Then a a small handfull of good-but-not great players and one elite player. That’s our team. But we absolutely don’t run a 3-4. I would say we’re in a 4 man front the majority of the time and we basically run a 4-2-5 on almost every snap.

          So wish granted guys. Joe Barry listened to your complaints and killed the 3-4 in Washington.

  7. renhoekk2 - Oct 7, 2016 at 9:04 AM

    Cooley made a great point earlier in the week. He said QB’s rating jump like 20 points against us on third downs. For that to happen he said they must KNOW what we are going to do on third downs. Barry’s third down calls are obviously way too predictable. If that’s the case then WOW, that is some terrible coaching. He’s putting the unit in the hole before the ball is even snapped.

    • ET - Oct 7, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      It is a good point, and the 3rd down conversion percentage against us is so high that SOMETHING strange must be going on. Right now, the defense is a historical outlier in its inability to stop opponents on 3rd down.

    • COSSkinsFan - Oct 7, 2016 at 1:24 PM

      It’s crazy how successful offenses have been on 3rd down against us, especially 3rd and long. On the bright side of things, the D has been so bad on 3rd down and taking that I don’t see how it can continue.While I know we are limited talent wise, I don’t think we will finish as a historically bad d. I think we have been way to vanilla on 3rd down, coaching and tackling on all downs, players. People will start finishing tackles and we will make stops on 3rd and longs. Two things other defenses routinely do. If we do this we will be middle of the pack and will win some games.

      • Trey Gregory - Oct 7, 2016 at 2:14 PM

        First off, I think Cooley has an excellent point. It’s seems a little hyperbolic and alarmist at first. But when you really think about it, what other explanation is there? This is not a good defensive roster but they’re no worse than the Saints or Browns and we’re significantly worse on 3rd down than they are.

        I also agree that something is bound to give. Reality is that most teams have a pretty good idea about what they’re opponent is going to do on most downs. These guys are good and there’s only so many plays teams regularly go to. But even when teams anticipate their opponent’s next move perfectly, they don’t always succeed. It would be quite the accomplishment to be this bad all season. Or roster isn’t great but we do have some good players and the rest aren’t THAT bad. Something is bound to give.

  8. T Dogg - Oct 7, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    The Redskins offense should b to much for Ravens, if Im Redskins im goin deep to D jackson and Im doing bootlegs, shotgun to get Kirk Cousins goin early, get Jordan Reed involved quick and expose the Ravens defense mix up the pass and run game up, don’t b predictable! Defense has to hit Flacco get sacks often, stuff the run and get turnovers and Redskins should win by 3 touchdowns, win big, my score Redskins 35-13, over Ravens!

    • sidepull - Oct 7, 2016 at 3:51 PM

      Dont stand there and let Suggs get off. I like it. Move Kirk move, keep Suggs chasing but never catching.

      • Trey Gregory - Oct 7, 2016 at 5:02 PM

        Is Dumerville back? I haven’t been doing a great job paying attention. But we’re going to have to trust our O-line either. They have to do a great job. I’m very happy that Lauvao should be back. Our run game should be good. Or we should at least be getting a good push. It would be a bad idea to let Suggs and Dumerville just tee off 40 times. But clearly we must trust Williams to get it done 1-on-1 and give Moses a little help for much of this game.

        If Smith is going to break out at any time this season, this would be a good time. Our D isn’t going to stop Baltimore. But if we can keep up this turnover trend and get a couple sacks on key 3rd downs then we can win. Let Norman shut down one side of the field, keep a deep safety (maybe two) to take away their deep threats, get 1 or two turnovers, make them punt 2-3 times, and walk away with points on most of our drives. We will give up a bunch of yards but we can win if we do that.

        • mtskins - Oct 7, 2016 at 6:09 PM

          Well it sounds like Stanley isn’t going to play and they might start that same swing tackle that got abused by the Raiders. Flacco and Harbaugh talking about how they need to get the deep ball going. So the table is set for Smith to have his chances. Hope he shows up big.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 8, 2016 at 3:28 AM

          I can dig it. We will have a much better night if our pass rush gets home a couple times.

          My issue with Smith, since he was drafted and I went back to watch some of his college games, has been consistency. Mainly consistent effort. The talent and ability is there. He just needs to string more good plays together and make them more often. Apparently some teammates called him out on it last year before he broke out. Maybe it’s time for another chat. Archives

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