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Need to Know: Redskins losing the turnover battles, winning the wars

Oct 18, 2016, 5:25 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 18, five days before the Washington Redskins travel to Detroit to play the Lions.


Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until: Redskins @ Lions 5; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 12; Vikings @ Redskins 26

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

—This is one game that is going to be hard to put in the past since the Redskins played so well in so many facets of the game. The running game was spectacular, the defense was solid, and there were some good plays passing. But life in the NFL moves on quickly and the Redskins are already focusing on the Lions. We might take another look back here over the next day or two but the team is moving on.

—How good was the running game? The Redskins had five running plays of 15 yards or longer. They now have 10 such plays through 16 games this season. All last year they had 13 runs of 15 yards or longer. Pounding it out three or four yards at a time can be fun, depending on the circumstances. But if you have backs who take a handoff and roll 57 (Matt Jones) or 46 (Robert Kelley) yards, then you have something. The Redskins are averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt, fourth in the NFL and more than a full yard than what the averaged last year (3.7).

—For two straight weeks, the Redskins have lost the turnover battle and still won the game. Their only takeaway in those two games came when the defense wasn’t even on the field, the C. J. Mosley fumble after he picked off Cousins against the Ravens. So, for all of the talk when the team was 2-2that the defense was reliant on takeaways, not considered to be a sustainable way of stopping the other team, now they have allowed 10 and six points in the last two weeks without any real benefit of takeaways.

—If Jay Gruden wants to find something from this game for his team to work on besides pooch kickoff coverage he can look at penalties. The Redskins were flagged nine times for 75 yards. The most damaging was the celebration penalty on Vernon Davis. He also had a holding penalty. The others were a mixed bag off illegal blocks, false starts, and the like. None besides the celebration were game-changing but still something the team needs to work to clean up.

—Is there a changing of the guard at strong safety? Against the Eagles, Duke Ihenacho, who started the game, had 17 snaps. Donte Whitner, who has been in town for about two weeks, played 40. It doesn’t seem like Ihenacho did anything wrong during his time in there and he played pretty well last week. But that’s a big disparity in snaps; this will be something to monitor in the coming weeks.

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  1. redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    It’s less common to lose the turnover battle but still win the game; in the Ravens game (-2), Baltimore failed to capitalize on the turnovers; in the Eagles game (-1), the Redskins were so dominant the turnover, while very costly, did not change the outcome.

    In the Redskins-Ravens game, outside of the turnovers, the Redskins played a relatively mistake free game. The Redskins got back to more mistakes / penalties against the Eagles but the Eagles did even worse. Two key offenses were:

    Vernon Davis using football as prop (basketball) — can we stop these senseless, costly penalties (especially by a vet)?

    The Breeland hands to the face penalty (didn’t see the foul so don’t know if it was a phantom call anyway) but it did extend a drive

    Other penalties included:

    There were two holding calls, one by Moses and one by Davis (the latter was trying to protect QB)

    Two illegal blocks above the waist, one by Jamison Crowder on a run play, and one by Martrell Spaight I believe on a return, seemed unfortunate to have occurred / caught off guard by circumstances / timing

    Neutral zone infraction, by Trent Murphy, and false start, by Pierre Garcon, were uncharacteristic of them

    It would be best for the Redskins to try to eliminate mistakes this week in preparation for Lions game, but I generally sense more discipline by the Redskins compared to the first couple of games of the season; this has been encouraging. Opponents have gotten at least a couple of false starts and delay of game penalties playing in the dome in Detroit. I hope we can simulate this environment and avoid such penalties on Sunday.

    Playing mistake free football, each player focused on doing their job well (better than before), has been a key component of the Redskins winning streak; this individual effort needs to continue!

    The Lions have been opportunistic in their last two games, similar to the Redskins against the Giants and Browns, getting several key turnovers to seal victories. Hopefully, we will win the turnover battle against the Lions.

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    • colorofmyskinz - Oct 18, 2016 at 5:57 AM

      I sure hope the Skins do not take the lions for granted. And really prep hard. I know they have an extra day off, hope that doesn’t hurt prep.

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      • Domenic S - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:51 AM

        The Eagles took the Lions lightly, look what happened to them?
        We NEED to win the games we should win. And then we need to play really smart vs teams we’re not expect to win and hopefully come out with a few unexpected wins.

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    • bangkokben - Oct 18, 2016 at 8:35 AM

      Playing mistake free is especially important if you’re the inferior team. The Redskins are not the inferior team. Does that mean they shouldn’t care? Of course not but that doesn’t need to be their focus. It needs to be the Lions focus. The Redskins simply need to execute. The Eagles sprinted out to a 3-0 start by playing perfectly. It’s an impossible standard and one that is unsustainable.

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      • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:39 AM

        I don’t think the Redskins are inferior; I think the Redskins are fairly even with the Lions and the Lions have the advantage this Sunday of playing at home.

        Both teams have high powered offenses and both teams have defenses that have been opportunistic when they’ve needed to be.

        Redskins are gaining 40 more yards per game but Lions are scoring more points per game, Lions 12th and Redskins 15th; Stafford (14 TDs, 4 INTs) is doing a little better than Cousins (9, 6) statistically but Redskins have one more win; both teams have shown they can pass and run equally well.

        Redskins give up 15 yards less per game and are surrendering, on average, two fewer points – Redskins (18th); Lions (22nd) but as you can see, they’re very close. Both have been at the bottom of the NFL on allowing opponents to convert 3rd downs.

        Like us, Detroit has been missing key starters for some of their games, overcame them and won. RB Ameer Abdullah was lost for the season. Against the Rams, the Lions did not have starting RG Larry Warford, RB Theo Roddick (very talented both running and catching), TE Eric Ebron, OLB DeAndre Levy and DT Haloti Ngata and still won. Besides Lions solid run game, their wideouts — Jones, Tate and Boldin — are strong and dependable. Tate has elite speed and they use Tate and Jones on deep routes. The Lions like Tate’s game so much he even runs the ball sometime. All three receivers are used in screens and crossing routes. Our CBs and safeties will be tested on Sunday.

        I hope Riddick remains out but as you can see they’ll still have options even if he doesn’t play.

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        • bangkokben - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:17 AM

          The Redskins should win by ten despite everything you site and still could lose. Six games of stats against very different teams is not a good comparison. Why don’t we take this to the court of public perception?

          The Redskins currently are perceived as the 11th best team by the combined power rankings score; Detroit, 16th. The teams Washington played: (PIT 8th, DAL 4th, NYG 17th, CLE 32nd, BAL 19th, & PHI 14th). Averaging to 15.67 or Detroit. While Detroit played (IND, TEN, GB, CHI, PHI, & LA) or (26th, 21st, 10th, 30th, 14th, & 18th) Averaging 19.83. This also means that the Redskins are about the toughest opponent the Lions have faced to date.

          Most importantly for me is that the Redskins need to win in order to keep pace in the East and not lose a tiebreaker to the Lions.

      • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:41 AM

        I do agree with you that playing mistake free — each player doing his job well — is key to the Redskins getting wins (but I feel it’s applicable whether they are playing better or worse opponents).

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        • bangkokben - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:18 AM

          Doing your job and mistake free are two different things. Mistakes are part of life and therefore the game. It happens. Sometimes penalties are called that never should’ve been and often they’re not called when they should be. Players can’t control these but they can control false starts, jumping offside and unless she-ref is calling the game lining up in the neutral zone. At the same time a bad team is going to stall if they get 1st and 20 while a good team will overcome. The Redskins are now a good team and can overcome. I’m not so sure about the Lions.

        • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:33 AM

          Fair point; I should have separated them out. That said, if a player is doing his job well, he’s making few mistakes and generally not costly ones.

  2. colorofmyskinz - Oct 18, 2016 at 5:55 AM

    Redskins have recovered nicely this year. And we have beat teams that are better than .500. Giants, Ravens, and Eagles, 3 in the last 4 games. No more NFC LEASTS. Now we are the NFC BEASTS. All teams above .500 in the division, the only division in the NFL to achieve that. Only 11 teams are 4-2 or better and we are one of them. We may also be the only team of those 4-2 teams that have 4 straight wins. So where does that place is vs the 4-2 teams? Dallas is our biggest threat and they need to go down on Turkey day. Could be a great Thanksgiving!

    So what do the critics say now about our team now?

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 6:09 AM

      I’m a fan and not a critic but let’s see how we look three games from now — after Lions, Bengals and Vikings. If we can win two out of three, I will be pleased. I think we need to win at least one of them. If we win all three games, I will be floored!

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      • ET - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:30 AM

        2-1 is realistic in that span. Vikes are playing at another level entirely, but if the Skins can play mistake-free in that game they might have a shot. Chances are the Vikings lose sometime … right?

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  3. redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 6:03 AM

    My biggest takeaway from the Eagles game was that it was first game of the season where the Redskins were effective at stoping the run. Until the Redskins defense demonstrates success in this area of the game several more times, it’s still my biggest concern. Please stop the run again and again beginning with the Lions on Sunday.

    The Lions have a decent two pronged attack — both run and pass — so our defense will face its biggest challenge since the Steelers and Cowboys. The Lions have a better run game than the Giants, a more experienced, mobile QB than the Browns, a more solid O-line than the Ravens (last week largely keeping Aaron Donald in check) and a better receiving corps than the Eagles. Our defense will be tested on Sunday.

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    • colorofmyskinz - Oct 18, 2016 at 6:54 AM

      Bring it. The defensive turning point happened for us. I called it 3 games back. Defense believes!

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      • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 7:39 AM

        I really like the progress I’ve seen since Bruton, Phillips and DHall have come out and especially, as I emphasized, stopping the Eagles capable running attack.

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      • howie70 - Oct 18, 2016 at 8:41 AM

        All in all they played well Sunday, but I’m still leery of the defense. The Eagles averaged almost 5 yards per carry for the game. Matthews and Sproles averaged over 5 ypc. I’m not ready to declare the defense has turned the corner just yet. Although I’m hoping they have!

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        • bangkokben - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:38 AM

          What you saw Sunday is how the Redskins can limit the damage done by the opposition’s running game:

          1. Score early and often.

          2. Score touchdowns off long methodical drives.

          3. Expect the opposition to try to get their QB in rhythm.

          After the second drive — a three-and-out, the Redskins third drive was the best three and out of the year. (Three plays, 71 yards in 1:31.) They then followed that up with a 9 play, 90 yard drive that lasted 5:31. These early scores are what the defense NEEDS to be successful stopping the run. They are going to continue to be weak against the run but as long as the offense scores touchdowns they can minimize the damage. The offense needs to keep the “pedal down” and continue to put pressure on the opposition to score points. I agree. I’m not sold on the defense’s ability to stop the run BUT if they’re playing with a lead, I’m confident the defense can bend without breaking.

        • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:30 AM

          It sure does help to get TDs early; it didn’t stop the Browns and Eagles from cutting that lead but it’s sure easier than having to play from behind right from the start.

      • John - Oct 18, 2016 at 3:53 PM

        Defense has played well the last 2 weeks but “don’t get cocky kid”. The Ravens running game was gashing our D. Thank Trestman for blowing that one by throwing to much. The Eagles and Ravens also had backups and players out of position due to injuries/suspensions, making it a little easier for our D. Thankfully the replacements on D have fared well. The tough games are coming (Cincy, Minn, GB, Dallas, AZ).

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    • reedo3000 - Oct 18, 2016 at 9:01 AM

      Not sure which Lions team you have been watching, but there offense is wildly inconsistent. Their run game is actually pretty bad, only averaging 88 yards per game. They are without Abdullah, possibly Riddick & Washington and just brought in 31 year old Justin Forsett. There offensive line is also VERY young, and has given up 15 sacks this season, 6th most in the league. I get what you are saying about certain aspects being better than teams we have beaten, but it is all about the sum of the parts.

      What you didn’t mention is the Detroit defense which is in the bottom third of the league. They might get Ziggy Ansah back, but Kirk and the passing game should have no problem in the dome putting up 300+.

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      • bangkokben - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:40 AM

        That’s just how 12th is. He channels his inner Joe Gibbs as if he’s speaking to the troops.

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      • Domenic S - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:59 AM

        Why are the Redskins underdog by 2pts?
        I know Detroit is the home team but if we are so much better then we should at the very least be a “pick” game or 2 point favorites.

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        • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 12:41 PM

          I’m not a gambler, but if I remember correctly, home teams get a 3 point bump for being the home team, which is to stay if this game was played on a neutral field, Redskins would be favored by one. Perhaps someone who gambles can confirm whether or not this is correct.

          As I said before, the Lions are very much like the Redskins; we are not “so much better” and we cannot take the Lions for granted or we will lose.

      • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:14 AM

        I missed this comment but wrote about Lions above.

        It would be a mistake to take Lions offense for granted. We will lose the game if we do.

        Riddick is a baller (missed game against Rams) and FB Zenner filled in ably in his absence. When Riddick comes back, they’ll have a 1-2 punch. Forsett did little on Sunday but he signed just a week ago. I expect Riddick / Zenner to do most of the running damage although they are equally effective pass catching too. We need to have one player always on the RB and / or FB.

        Stafford has started this season strong and his mobility adds to the offense’s effectiveness. They seem to like to establish the run and play action off of that, but they could equally start with the pass and then run.

        The Lions are not afraid to run on 4th down and have converted all 5 of their 4th downs. They have the 3rd highest 3rd down conversion in the league only behind Packers and Cowboys.

        In addition to their three strong receivers I mentioned above (along with Riddick their most important playmakers), I saw Andre Roberts secure a couple of key catches, including a 4th down touchdown catch, and not drop one ball. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I don’t want him to have a strong game against us.

        Without a doubt our defense needs to have a 3rd straight strong performance in a row. We need our offense to play mistake free football.

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      • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:25 AM

        The comparison I made to the Lions defense is that they’ve played kinda like our defense.

        I see this as a fairly even match up.

        If we play mistake free in all three phases and the defense continues its upward trend in preparation, tackling, preventing 3rd down conversions and what Joe Barry likes to call explosion plays, and stop the run like we did early against the Eagles, we will win this game.

        If we don’t prepare well and play mistake free, I think we’ll be upset on Monday.

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        • ET - Oct 18, 2016 at 2:35 PM

          “If we don’t prepare well and play mistake free, I think we’ll be upset on Monday.”

          This team now seems to be well prepared each week, but they’ll rarely if ever be mistake free. They can work to minimize mistakes, of course—especially the needless penalties—but the mistakes are gonna happen. What’s more important, I think, is that the mistakes no longer seem to quash their spirit. Kirk is the most obvious example, but something fundamental has changed on both sides of the ball: a major gaffe like the pick six last week didn’t crush ’em. They kept at it. The players were still calm and focused. And that’s huge. As long as that mentality’s in place, this team has a fighting chance against tough opponents. And I see no easy outs on the remaining schedule.

        • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 6:14 PM

          Yes, I’m being too loose with my language. I figure if they shoot for the stars (or whatever expression you prefer), good things will happen on Sunday.

  4. troylok - Oct 18, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    As to Ihenacho riding the pine, I think he is what he always was: an in-the-box safety. He tackles well and plays the run well. He limits them in pass defense, though and I think that is why we saw more of Whitner. Philly was throwing the ball a little more and they wanted someone in there that could play the pass a little better. I think Ihenacho still has a place – especially while Cravens is out – and it is a good problem to have two solid players.

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    • sidepull - Oct 18, 2016 at 8:03 AM

      Yea I guess it must be hard on Nacho, to sit. I get Whitner, but to have him sit while Bruton played, thats the thing that got me.

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    • ET - Oct 18, 2016 at 1:23 PM

      I’m a Nacho fan, but he is a player with clear limitations. I hope he’ll continue to get snaps, but if Whitner improves the coverage, so be it. Whitner ain’t too shabby against the run, either. Like you said, it’s not the worst problem to have.

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  5. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Oct 18, 2016 at 8:32 AM

    Getting ready for Detroit…we have similar yards per pass attempt (Detroit 7.4, the Skins 7.3):

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  6. redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 9:34 AM

    I expected these high grades; everyone is playing well not surprised by Cousins strong game but especially pleased with the play of Long, Thompson and Jones.

    Offensive line with Long at center is playing among the best in the league per Cooley. Of QBs that have attempted 100 passes or more, only Carr (Oakland) and Hoyer (Chicago) have been sacked less (Cousins release helps with this) and we’ve seen the improvement in the run game since Long has started at center.

    Cooley’s offensive grades:

    Williams 9.3 – hard to beat

    Cousins 9.1 – elite performance; more of a playmaker than a distributor in this game; improved accuracy on throws and mobility; felt Cousins soft throw on INT should have been thrown away — hindsight is always 100% — but also Cousins was a little exposed on naked boot call after having been on the move a lot in prior plays [Cousins still is not seeing some open receivers but he is improving / had best game of year]

    Long 9.0 – much better center than guard; he is uber athletic; doing well at difficult blocks

    Thompson 9.0 – best all around back

    Garcon 8.9 – great game

    Jones 8.7 – great game missed only three cuts; phenomenal power running and ball protection

    Crowder 8.6 – great game; at times could get some more vertical depth

    Scherff 8.3 – two missed assignments and okay on screens but otherwise continues his solid, strong game (this time with some snaps against Fletcher Cox)

    Moses 8.1 – very good game

    Paul 7.9 – very good game

    Lauvao B- [don’t believe Cooley gave a numerical grade and his letter grade scale is not the same as numerical grade; letter grade seems to take into account competition and other factor; believe Cooley’s numerical grade will be between 8.0 and 7.1]

    Davis 7.4 – [excellent athlete especially at his age; bonehead penalty sucks though]

    Jackson 7.0 – some good plays early, had that one TD drop and didn’t go all out in front of a safety on another TD attempt route; Jackson was held a lot in game [he and Read always open up the field for the rest of the receiving corps and that is invaluable]

    Kelley – obviously excellent in his limited runs; most natural runner

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  7. smotion55 - Oct 18, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    The turnovers they have had are correctable and not like the receivers and backs are coughing it up at a high rate. . Cousins is getting better and I will take 2 TD’s to 1 INT ratio all day long. I would like it almost 3-1 but not likely going to happen . The defense is tackling better and that might be taking there focus away from the strip 1st mentality they had .

    The biggest take away I got from Cooley was him rating the O-Line as the 3rd best in the league and how much better Long has gotten at playing Center. Putting Kelley in at the start of the game is a great motivator for Jones.

    Very important week for this team to follow up a good game with another good game. A win This week and then going to England would be huge. With a 5 – 2 record it would make the flight a good one, and the bye after that is best case situation for them.

    They will get a week break after the trip and the timing for the 3 injuries they have with Craven’s, and Reed who might need these next 3 weeks to get back for the 2nd half push and if Doctson is not ready to get on the field by then just put him on IR. He can learn as much on IR as he is right now and if they need the spot just do it and be done with him for the year.

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    • redskins12thman - Oct 18, 2016 at 11:39 AM

      You make a real interesting point “The defense is tackling better and that might be taking there focus away from the strip 1st mentality they had;” I was hoping these are mutually exclusive but they might not be.

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  8. greed - Oct 18, 2016 at 1:28 PM

    when will gruden stop running thompson in shortyardage and goal to go situations? Not fooling anyone

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