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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must come through to beat the Ravens

Oct 8, 2016, 6:40 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, October 8, one day before the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.


Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Lions 15; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 22

Five Redskins who must come through to beat the Ravens

QB Kirk Cousins—As noted a couple of weeks ago, Cousins has a permanent spot on this list until he has a couple of late 2015-style games in a row. He wasn’t bad against the Browns with three touchdown passes but he had that head-scratching interception and the offense mostly disappeared on the second and third quarter. The Washington defense is not suddenly going to morph into a top-10 unit; the pressure will be on the offense to win games. The Redskins are going to have to put up about 28 points to beat the Ravens and Cousins will need to be on point.

WR DeSean Jackson—The Redskins aren’t going to beat the Ravens with a bunch of 10-12 play drives. Baltimore is too good defensively and the Redskins have a tendency to stall drives themselves with penalties. They will need Jackson to connect with Cousins to  get a couple of big chunks of yardage to move things along.

OLB Preston Smith—He was on this list last week and, like Cousins, he will remain on it in Sharpie until he comes thorough with a couple of games like he had in the latter stages of last year. There is no better time for Smith to get his first sack of the year than this Sunday. With Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley likely out with a foot injury Smith could line up against Alex Lewis, a rookie guard who would slide out to left tackle. Smith has been close with four quarterback hits and six hurries. He needs to find that extra half step and maybe going up against Lewis will give him the edge he needs to get going.

ILB Will Compton—Compton is the chess player, adjusting the defense as the offense shifts and shows some keys. The defense has struggled in two games against rookie quarterbacks and now they go up against Joe Flacco, who has 141 games under his belt including 15 in the playoffs. Compton will need to get the defense aligned properly and while he’s at it he needs to up his own level of play. He has 15 solo tackles in four games, not enough for the Mike linebacker spot.

CB Quinton Dunbar—With Bashaud Breeland on the shelf for another game Dunbar steps into the starting lineup again. If the Redskins have Josh Norman trailing Steve Smith then Dunbar will often match up against speedy Mike Wallace. If they don’t trail and just play sides then Dunbar will get his share of matchups with Smith. In either case he has to play sound football and prevent the big play against Flacco, who likes to launch passes downfield.

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  1. garg8050 - Oct 8, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    Pretty good list. I would add Kerrigan to the list, assuming he’s healthy enough to play. He’s really underperformed this season. It’s strange how he gets a pass for mediocre play, despite getting paid like an elite pass rusher.

    It’s about time that Kerrigan and Smith started getting some consistent pressure on the QB. That’s the only chance this defense has to get off the field on 3rd downs.

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:52 AM

      If Kerrigan is not close to 100%, which I don’t think he is, we need even more from Smith and Murphy, who is not 100% either but who is in better shape than Kerrigan. It’s tough to ask for much from Kerrigan this week relative to other players.

      In addition to Smith, Cousins and Dunbar in my Top 5, I would add Ihenacho / Whitner, whomever plays in Bruton’s spot; the reason is, we’ve gotten such poor play at safety we need better quality or it will continue to be exploited. Similarly, I would add RJF / Jenkins, whomever plays alongside Baker / Hood the most. We need better production at both these positions for the defense as a whole to play well.

      The one piece I disagree with you is “The Redskins aren’t going to beat the Ravens with a bunch of 10-12 play drives.” The Redskins might not beat the Ravens in any shape or fashion (we’ll see what the Redskins are made of), but I think time consuming drives are essential to any attempt to win in order to keep the Redskins defense off the field for as long as possible — no huddle yet long snap counts to ensure everyone knows what we are doing, running and pass plays using 3 TE sets, trying to run out wide (not up the middle) mixed in with pass plays to Jackson / Garcon / Crowder / Ross based on what the Ravens are giving us.

      We need long, sustained drives, most of which should end in a score. As you note Rich, Baltimore is a very good in defense; with their equally strong special teams and a Super Bowl winning QB at the helm, the Ravens are a formidable opponent.

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      • chimps000 - Oct 8, 2016 at 9:28 AM

        I hear what you are saying, but I also agree with Rich’s point that against a good defense, its not going to be easy to have 10-12 play drives, and lets face it the Skins defense is giving up points no matter what. The key is going to be redskins red zone offense, and that depends on a better run game and Cousins playing better. Cousins was much better in the red zone against the browns, but lets face it, that’s possibly the worst team in the league who were also playing their 3rd string backup rookie QB, even though it seems people don’t want to acknowledge that fact.

        Kerrigan is who he is, an average to just above average player, this is who he has been for over a year now. We wouldn’t be disappointed in his play if McLoughan hadn’t paid him like an elite LB, which he is not. Preston Smith has done virtually nothing in this his second year, and for a 2nd round pick, that’s not good. That guy needs to step up, and I think he has the talent to do that.

        Matt Jones needs a big game, he has shown flashes that at least he can look like an NFL runner, he needs to run like his hair is on fire, so even if his vision is poor and he doesn’t make good decisions on where he cuts, he still can get yards.

        Jay Gruden has cost the team points with bad clock management, he needs to be on point in this game or get someone to help him, and he needs to be very aggressive in terms of going for it on 4th down. The Skins need to score a lot of points, his punting from the Steelers 40 yard line on 4th and 1 in the first game I still can’t believe. It’s like he thought he was coaching the 2000 Ravens.

        I think this game is huge for the season, they need this one and the Lions game.

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        • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:43 AM

          I agree with you that this game and Lions game are very close to must wins.

          Even though it is not going to be easy, I still think we need to find ways to keep our defense off the field as much as possible.

          TOP: 26:42 and 27:09 — losses
          TOP: 31:03 and 33:26 — wins

          I don’t know how easy it will be for the Redskins to run up the middle; we need Long / Scherff swinging to the outside and use our 3 TE sets. Obviously, if the Ravens defense is giving us one-on-one favorable receiving options, we take what is given to us.

          I also agree with you about the Red Zone being key; lack of TDs / turnovers hurt us in Steelers and Cowboys games.

    • colorofmyskinz - Oct 8, 2016 at 9:40 AM

      Even Kerrigan healthy has not been close to earning his contract. I would much rather have Murphy in the field vs. Kerrigan at this point. Murphy is having a breakout year and Kerrigan is slumping. Trend is your friend ride it!!!

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  2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    If the “A” student turns in “C” work on a test, you give him a “D” for effort.

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  3. troylok - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:33 AM

    I think the safeties have to show something this game. Blackmon has to roll over to Steve Smith’s side to prevent the deep pass and Ihenacho needs to creep up and help with run support. It doesn’t look like Cravens will play so this means Ihenacho will be playing the role of the run defending safety.

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:54 AM

      It’s unfair to put Blackmon at safety; he plays as a corner / nickel back even when he’s back in the safety spot. We need Evans to come up to speed as soon as possible to give him a shot.

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      • bangkokben - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:02 AM

        Unfair? Blackmon has been a safety for ALL of 2016. It’s tough learning a new position but it’s not “unfair.” Unwise because he still sucks at safety. Unfortunate because he is the first off the bench. (Now it’s obvious why Hall was starting –and he was terrible.) Unacceptable that the organization tried to convert two aging corners for the position or the play of the two said veterans? Take your pick.

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        • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:45 AM

          Yes, probably all three: Unwise, unacceptable and if happens again, very unfortunate.

        • chimps000 - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:48 AM

          good points- blackmon at least made some plays last year especially in zone coverage as a corner, maybe the coaches can play him in the position for which he is best suited? And if he’s not fast enough to play corner anymore, why is he on the team?

          I like Blackmon, i think he’s a smart player, but obviously it’s pretty hard to switch to safety from corner after never playing safety. I probably should cool down my thinking of getting cravens to play safety… although if our safeties are going to be out of position all the time anyways, at least cravens would be learning, and he’s a natural playmaker.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 8, 2016 at 1:44 PM

          Can it be unacceptable or unconscionable instead?

          @Chimps: But if they move Blackmon to corner then who’s spot is he taking and who plays FS? Even if the answer is Evans (the former 6th round pick who wasn’t good enough to stay on Jacksonville’s roster) we need a backup safety.

          So far this year I’ve seen fans call for Trent Williams to play guard, Sua Cravens to play safety, Chris Baker to play nose tackle, Kerrigan/Smith to play ILB and Compton/Foster to play OLB, and Scherff to play center (I’ll bet I’m forgetting at least one too). At some point I’m hoping people will just accept that this roster still has a lot of holes and there’s no magical fix. It’s going to take at a minimum one more offseason to fix these problems, maybe two. And it still won’t be perfect. It never is. But in the meantime we’re going to have some rough games and people are going to be really frustrated if they expect this team to win every week. Especially against some of the teams we have coming up like Minnesota. There’s a talent issue on this team first and foremost. Spreading the little talent we do have to a new position won’t fix that. It will just leave a hole somewhere else.

        • chimps000 - Oct 8, 2016 at 2:26 PM

          Trey- IF Blackmon is a better nickle corner than Fuller, Toler, et al then you play him there. But I’m assuming the coaches had him switch to safety this past offseason because they felt he didn’t have enough speed anymore to play the position. I’m assuming they were right in that assessment.

          Personally, if the competition is close, Fuller should play in my eyes as the nickle corner.

          At safety, what I can’t understand is why Joe Barry hasn’t given Deshazor Everett a chance. He is our backup safety, the guy had an outstanding preseason by all accounts, he is 24 years old, the other guys have been terrible and routinely out of position, lets see what he has.

          If our defense is going to be historically bad, lets play our young players, develop them, and see what they have. That includes Lanier, unless the coaches really think he is terrible. I mean, how bad do you have to be to not be able to get any snaps on our DLine or play safety for us??? I don’t have a lot of faith in Joe Barry’s evaluation of talent, simple as that.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 8, 2016 at 6:22 PM

          You don’t have to be particularly fast to be a zone corner. So I’m not sure that’s why Blackmon was moved. I think they just saw their corners, thought they had plenty of good options, and wanted to keep Blackmon so they tried to see if he could play safety. His “versatility” was a big selling point. Look at Norman. He’s an elite zone corner and he’s not very fast.

          I get wanting to play the young guys. I really do and I generally agree. If the team is already bad then get the young guys snaps. But I’ll say it again. If we assume some things then a lot of the stuff going on with this team makes a lot more sense. If we assume that Everett isn’t ready, then there’s your answer. If we assume that he’s struggling with his zone assignments in practice or something like that and Blackmon is doing a lot better then that’s a good reason to start Blackmon over Everett. Maybe they’re worried about him developing bad habits or losing his confidence from going out there before he’s really ready to face NFL competition.

          Someone brought up Jarrett. Yeah, we played young guys last year a lot. But also consider that maybe Jarrett would still be on the team if we didn’t play him so much. Fear of injury is not a good reason not to play somebody. But what if they watched that play over and over and thought he made an inexperienced mistake when he tried to tackle McFadden that a more experienced player wouldn’t have made? What if they want these guys to get better fundamentals down before they risk getting their good young talent injured?

          And I doubt Barry is unilaterally starting these guys. I’m sure it’s technically his call but Gruden reserves the right to havefinal say and the other coaches have input. I’m sure Perry has a say and if it gets really bad that Gruden, McCloughan, Allen, and even Snyder will get together and talk about it with Barry. There’s lots of coaches on this team. I’m not even counting the Quality Control coach or the 100 assistants. It’s a staff of professionals who have Blackmon starting. I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re working with more info than we are and are making decesions based off what’s best for the team and their jobs.

        • sidepull - Oct 8, 2016 at 2:49 PM

          Chimps I would like to see the pups get some play. I am with you in that regard. We are 2-2, the season is undecided. I would hope before 2016 closes out they get a chance. If you look at in retrospect, they did play Jarrett, then a rookie, an awful lot before he was injured and Smith too, so its not like they have an aversion to going with rookies, but I do too get the feeling the coaches can be stubborn to a fault.

        • ET - Oct 8, 2016 at 6:03 PM

          I’d like see Everett and Lanier get some snaps as well. I don’t think there’s any way Lanier could be worse than Reyes—he’d have to flop on every play.

  4. smotion55 - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:43 AM

    The list is fine but no D-linemen on the list, and that makes sense because of the lack of play makers. I would put Jones on the list for the 1st half of the game. he is a big key to a good start. If he hits the hole and lowers his shoulders that should open it up for the 2 offensive guys on your list.

    Preston Smith has not looked good this year and not sure why. Is he in football shape yet . Does anybody have an answer for that. I like Dunbar and hope he progresses. How much will Fuller play and where.

    The question not asked is how much and how well the new Safeties will play. I am confident in saying= better then the guy they cut. As per Cooley’s film break down.

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:56 AM

      While there’s no guarantee, chances are the new safeties will play better than Bruton, Hall and Blackmon have.

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  5. redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    I know some have said that Ihenacho and Whitner won’t start together, but I think it would be more of a mistake to start Blackmon at safety; we are counting on:

    Kerrigan / Murphy / Smith
    CB and Nickel back du jour (Two among: Blackmon / Dunbar / Fuller / Toler — all to get action but Dunbar likely to start)

    To have a chance to win this game, Redskins offense and special teams must continue excellent play.

    With Breeland, Cravens, Doctson and Phillips out, my guess at the three that will join them are Sudfeld, Lanier and Painter

    With Stanley most likely out, Ravens mixing up left side of line; Hester is questionable but I bet he plays:

    Ravens have done a lot of intermediate passing, but this Sunday I expect the Ravens to run the ball a lot (West and Dixon) and mix in some deep throws too.

    A statement game for Redskins; can’t wait to see how they play! HTTR!

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    • bangkokben - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:13 AM

      The Ravens have to be thinking half dozen deep throws at least. They have three deep threats and Redskins presume to be vulnerable there. Dunbar was horrible there in the preseason and Ihenacho, Blackmon, & Whitner are week in this area as well. If there any weakness in Norman’s game it too is this. Stopping the run in a cover three is paramount. If not we can “burnt toast” to the list of defensive problems.

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      • abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:19 AM

        More like the Blackmon/Dunbar combination vs the deep ball is vulnerable. Blackmon left Dunbar out to dry twice vs the Falcons and Aldrick Robinson burned us which we knew he could do from his days with us in 2012 & 13.

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      • Trey Gregory - Oct 8, 2016 at 1:48 PM

        Why can’t we stop the run in cover 2 and have 2 deep safties? If we’re worried about deep threats, that’s what I would do. If they have at least 2 good deep threats then all they have to do to beat cover 3 is run them both along the seam on each side of the safety and throw to the opposite side of where the safety breaks.

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    • abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:22 AM

      You need to have a least one safety who is good at coverage out there. Whitner and Ihenacho are poor in coverage. The reason Whitner wasn’t signed is mainly because of his age and lack of coverage ability. I don’t think he’ll be ready to play and know the defense. I don’t expect to see much of him.

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      • mtskins - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:36 AM

        You hit the nail on the head. The idea of either Whitner or Ihenacho providing help in deep coverage is troubling to say the least. They are both more up in the box type traditional type strong safeties. Blackmon may be struggling but he’s the best we have right now. Sanders doesn’t have enough experience to start right away in a new defense. If Ihenacho misses on a couple of tackles though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitner in there on some snaps though.

        Ben also hit it on the head. It’s not unfair for Blackmon to play safety. He was put there at the start of the year. Blame goes wherever for it that he’s not a good fit there. Hope he improves and is up to the task of stopping the deep ball the Ravens have publicly said they want to stress in this game.

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        • mtskins - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:46 AM

          Evans not Sanders.

      • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:47 AM

        Who is our safety that is good at coverage?

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        • abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:50 AM

          Blackmon is a cover guy, he’s a converted corner. The issue is he’s in his first season at FS so he’s not used to the angles yet and he’s not used to his responsibilities. It’s going to take time for him to get there.

          If not him, then I think Josh Evans could be at least a better answer there for this season and we’ll see what happens.

          Whitner and Nacho aren’t cover guys. They’re. Basically worse than most weakside 4-3 lbs in coverage. They’re undersized middle linebacker type safeties who are great at run support but get burned in coverage.

        • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 2:05 PM

          I hope Evans is the answer and can start soon; hope we continue to look to fill gaps.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 9, 2016 at 2:06 AM

          I wouldn’t hold your breath with that man. I don’t remember ever seeing him play. But he was a 6th round pick who couldn’t stick around on the Jags roster for more than 3 years. That’s not a ringing endorsement.

          Some guys find a fire and figure out a way to play better after a couple years or being cut (David Amerson for example). So he could surprise us. But Amerson was a 2nd round pick for a reason and Evans was a 6th round pick for a reason. It’s just unlikely that he’s going to be our savior.

  6. redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    If Derrick Mason was still playing, they could have the Mason-Dixon line-up, very apropos for a Maryland-based professional sports franchise.

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  7. abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    Good list. I’ll add our new starting safeties; Will Blackmon & Duke Ihenacho, Matt Jones – needs at least a repeat performance from last week – the entire DL. Let’s be honest, -Fred they didn’t sign a good upgrade and didn’t draft a DL in round 1 or 2, we knew at best they’d be average but I don’t think anyone thought they’d be historically bad or that Baker Ana RJF would take a steps back. We thought at the very least we had a good to great DE in Baker and RJF was an upgrade or at least equal to Hatcher well outside of Reyes – who’s now cut – RJF has been our worst DL.

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    • bangkokben - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:39 AM

      I can’t imagine why anyone would have thought upgrade to Hatcher. Hatcher was consistently the best DL the first 3-4 games of the year and then tailed off while his snap counts continued to be high — too high. RJF was only expected to take part his snaps which he’s actually not in addition to being a clear downgrade.

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      • abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:40 AM

        I saw at the end of last year that RJF got consistent pressure, I thought he’d do more with more snaps. I was wrong.

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        • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:51 AM

          I’m still hoping RJF can have some impact games…

        • abanig - Oct 8, 2016 at 3:51 PM

          He’s been horrible vs the run. Worst current DL. Le that Reyes is gone. It’s why he doesn’t play. He plays the wrong gaps

        • chimps000 - Oct 8, 2016 at 2:15 PM

          I thought the exact same thing- really wanted more snaps for him.

  8. Qtinh - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    We need a new DC, and our defense can’t stop anybody. It doesn’t matter that we have so many good players on the roster.

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  9. edward pettaway - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    What I dont understand is how Will Compton is still in the starting lineup. He cant get off blocks, he’s a crappy tackler, and lacks nastiness of a true middle linebacker. I get it he’s cerebral but why does that even matter if he lacks the physical and god given talents to get there. Im just saying…

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    • Trey Gregory - Oct 9, 2016 at 1:41 AM

      I think Compton is still the starting Mike linebacker for the same reason we have other struggling players starting at other positions: lack of a better alternative. It’s easy to say “this guy stinks. We should bench him.” But then who takes his spot?

      Spaight looked promising in preseason. But he’s still a young player who was a late round draft pick for a reason. Mike linebackers have to be good at getting off blocks, tackling, and filling the right gaps. Spaight seems reasonably proficient in those things. But Mike linebackers also have to know the defense inside and out to get everyone lined up correctly. Sometimes they have to make adjustments on the fly. There’s a good chance spaight isn’t ready for that yet.

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  10. COSSkinsFan - Oct 8, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    It’s a good list, Kirk tops the list of course. Dunbar had a tough preseason game against the Ravens. I kmow they are not the only ones involved in stopping the run but our dline needs to pick it up for the rest of the season. I remember watching last week as Crowell was looking like a future HOFer running through our d, why would anybody consistently pass against us? Then the Browns gifted us with Norman’s awesome interception. If I were an offensive coordinator game planning against us, I’m running it down our throat at least 30-40 times.

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 8, 2016 at 10:33 PM

      Dunbar had a tough game versus Falcons; in preseason, he did not play against the Ravens.

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      • COSSkinsFan - Oct 8, 2016 at 11:00 PM

        Woops, had a flashback to when aldrick was on the ravens and remember him giving Dunbar fits in the Atlanta game.

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    • Trey Gregory - Oct 9, 2016 at 1:47 AM

      We shouldn’t be too hard on Dunbar. There were multiple reasons why he could have had a bad preseason. The most obvious: On at least one of the plays where Robinson burned us it was really the safty’s fault. I believe it was Blackmon. He was supposed to be there over the top to help. Dunbar low and the safety high. But the safety was way out of position. I also think they were in man, and Dunbar is more of a zone corner and that’s mostly what we’ve asked him to play. They also probably did zero prep work to recognize plays because it was preseason and he got caught off guard. Finally, it was preseason. He was rusty and everyone makes mistakes in the preseason.

      But he’s played well when called upon in actual games last year and this year. He’s only played the position for less than 2 years. I love this kid. I think he’s a good football player and I completely trust him to get the job done. He will get beat from time to time like anyone else. But he steps up and hold his own when he needs to.

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      • COSSkinsFan - Oct 9, 2016 at 10:33 AM

        Dunbar has been good for us in the regular season and I look forward to his development. I was so high on him last year I thought they would cut Culliver and have Dunbar start before they signed Norman. Not sure if DeSean belongs on this list, he just needs to continue his play and stay healthy. He has been awesome all season, getting him the ball has been the issue. A few weeks ago I posted we should throw deep to him a few times a half, even if the passes aren’t completed. It seems like we have started to and our offense has benefited. Last week statwise was probably frustrating for him, but the pi penalties helped us a lot.

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