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Scouting report: Washington Redskins

UK Redskins fan Andrew Beardsley previews the week one pre-season match-up with the Ravens.

How did you become a Redskins fan?
This is a funny one because for most UK fans there’s no geographical link to a side. So most of us start supporting our team because of a random event, watching them win a Super Bowl or because their family supports a certain team. My story is a bit different. I used to watch the NFL on Channel 4 with my old man back in the early 90’s. My train of thought was: who are the Cowboys’ biggest rivals? It was the Redskins, so I started supporting them! I think it was around 1992, the year after our last Super Bowl win. I think there’s a link between me starting supporting them and them not winning anything since!

In the US, there’s quite a rivalry between our teams because of their proximity, but how do UK Redskins fans feel about the Ravens?
I believe FedEx Field and M&T Bank Stadium are geographically the closest grounds in the NFL – about 32 miles apart. But rivalries in US sports are rarely based on proximity. They normally focus on your division, as you play each other twice a year. So the big rivalries are us v the Cowboys, Ravens v Steelers, Vikings v Packers, etc.

When it comes to the Ravens, I don’t know of any Skins fans in the UK that have a problem with them. We save our hate for the Cowboys! I have a rivalry, though, as one of my best friends is a big Ravens fan. We always have a bit of banter when we play and have digs at each other all season long. My Mrs is a Bengals fan so that always adds to it as well.

What games between our teams stick out in your memory?
I can’t remember that many games between us but the one that sticks in the mind was in 2012, during Robert Griffin III’s only good season. We won 31-28 in overtime, in a game that we had no right to win. RGIII got injured (shock!) and was pulled in the 3rd quarter (I think). Kirk Cousins came in and led the drive to tie the game – including running in the 2-point conversion himself. Then he led us down the field for the winning FG. What made it stand out was that me and Mike, my Ravens-supporting mate, went to Hooters here in Nottingham to watch the game and his rage after the loss was very amusing! He spent a good 20 minutes chuntering under his breath about it! But he found solace in the end as you did win the Super Bowl that year!

How has your off-season been so far and how do you feel about the season ahead?
This off season has again been dominated by our complete failure to tie Cousins down to a long-term deal. He refused the deal we offered, preferring the $24m guaranteed under the Franchise Tag. That means if we want to keep him next year we are going to have to pay silly money. However, in today’s game, if you want to keep your number one guy then you have to pay – see Carr and Luck, for example. I think he’s a decent fit for what we want at the moment but he’s free again to walk away at the end of the season. That will leave us back at square one looking for another QB. Why we didn’t tie him down as soon as we could, rather than letting it run is another example of bad business that could hurt us in the long run. The crazy RGIII trade, for example, hurt us for nearly three years as we were without a number 1 pick.

Draft-wise, I think Jonathan Allen was a good pick and was surprised he slid as low as he did. I think he had a bit of a dodgy medical. He will shore-up our O-Line, which has been a bit porous recently. I’m also interested to see what happens with Robert Davies at WR. He’s a bit of speedster and I think will replace D-Jax as the deep threat.

Regarding the season ahead, I’d be happy with a Playoff spot and then you never know after that. We threw away a wild card spot last year by not being able to beat a poor Giants side with nothing to play for. It took us until the fourth quarter to remember how to play. So if we get to the post season this year then I’ll be happy.

And looking at our schedule, it’s not too hard. We have games versus the Rams, 49ers, Chargers, Vikings and Saints. All of which should be winnable. We also face the Chiefs, who can be hit and miss. The Raiders looked good last year but how will Carr’s injury last season and the move to Las Vegas affect them? The divisional games will be close because you can’t really pick between the NFC East teams. I think we will go 9-7 – anything else will be a bonus.

What will you be looking for in this game?
Jordan Reed (TE) is out, which is worrying because he and Crowder will be our two biggest threats in the passing game. We need him up to speed for our game against the Eagles in week one.

And I’m interested to see how Donte Whitner (SS) goes for us, as we have struggled on to get off the field on third down. The Ravens still seem to lack any sort of running game and it looks like Flacco is out. Your O-line struggled to protect him last year, so I will be looking to see if your line has improved.

In fact, I’ve just had a look at the injury list for both sides and it’s pretty long with some big names on there. We have relied for the past few season on “Next Man Up” so I guess we will be doing that again! I won’t be looking at our offense really because, although we had a weak O-line, we didn’t struggle to score points last season. We just couldn’t stop teams going the other way! But if Flacco is out I’m not sure it will be a true representation of where we are.

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