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20 questions in 20 days: 4 Is the defense ready to carry the load?

20 questions in 20 days: 4 Is the defense ready to carry the load?

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
CSNwashington.com20 questions in 20 daysAs 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 5:Is the defense ready to carry the load?The background:The preseason focus has been on Robert Griffin III and rightfully so. Although expectations are high for Griffin, he is still a rookie quarterback and it is unreasonable to expect the offense to light up the scoreboard right away. If the Redskins are going to be successful the defense will have to keep the other team out of the end zone and do a better job of taking the ball away than it did last year (21 takeaways, 24thin the league).Tandler:The conventional wisdom is that the front seven, one of the best in the NFL, will have to cover for deficiencies in the secondary. And in this rare case the conventional wisdom is right. Any secondary is vulnerable if the quarterback has all day to throw and it could get ugly if the likes of Eli Manning and Drew Brees have the time to pick apart the shaky back end of Washingtons defense. Brian Orakpo needs to reach his potential as a pass rusher and Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley need to take steps forward in their second seasons as starters. But the front seven cant do it all. Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall will need to make plays when they have opportunities and Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams have be solid as the last line of defense. It seems to be a tall order.El-Bashir:When the Steelers switched to a 3-4 scheme under Bill Cowher in 1992, their defense jumped from 22nd to 13th to 3rd in the NFL in a span of three seasons. The Redskins made a similar switch two years ago under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and last season improved to 13th, up from 31st. But can the Redskins make a Steelers-like leap in 2012? The players are familiar enough. But are they talented enough? The concern is a secondary that recently lost hard-hitting safety Tanard Jackson to suspension. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall needs to bounce back from a subpar 2011 season, while his counterpart, Josh Wilson, needs to find consistency. Safeties Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams, meantime, need to be better than they were in the preseason. A unit, after all, is only a strong as its weakest link.20 questions in 20 days20 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 Aug. 23Is Garon a No. 1 receiver?
16 Aug. 24Can Trent Williams go from good to great?
15 Aug. 25Can DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
14 Aug. 26Can Santana Moss regain his old form?
13 Aug. 27Can Orakpo post 15 sacks?
12 Aug. 28Will Leonard Hankerson break out?
11 Aug. 29Can the Redskins flip their turnover ratio?
10 Aug. 30How much can Hightower contribute this year?
9 Aug. 31Was making Billy Cundiff the kicker a good move?
8 Sept. 1Will Josh Morgan be worth the investment?
7 Sept. 2What can Jarvis Jenkins contribute?
6 Sept 3Is the offensive line depth good enough?
5 YesterdayWill a running back by committee work?
4 TodayIs the defense ready to carry the load?
3 TomorrowHow many wins is enough?
2 FridayHow much should RG3 run?
1 SaturdayCan RG3 . . . ?

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Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Much of the Redskins offseason has been focused on players like Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins, or the addition of guys like Terrelle Pryor and Zach Brown. Further down the roster, however, is where games are won. Here's a look at three players that will have the opportunity to make a big impact in 2017.

  1. Kendall Fuller - Let's be honest: the second-year Hokie had a tough rookie year. He started the season injured, and probably wasn't all the way up to speed when he began playing Week 4. Early on he produced at a good level for a rookie, but quickly, the league saw how to beat him. In a November game against the Vikings, Fuller repeatedly got beat on the inside by Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs. After that, the Redskins coaching staff looked elsewhere for a slot corner. 2017 is a new season, and Fuller will be a full year removed from his knee injury. He still has good vision and hips, an NFL pedigree, and should have the first crack at the slot corner role. If he can produce like many expected from him in 2015 - when he was an assumed first-round pick - Fuller could make a big difference for the Washington defense. Third round draft pick Fabian Moreau might also push for snaps at corner, once he gets healthy. 
  2. Stacy McGee - A new addition to the defense, McGee might be the answer Redskins fans want at nose tackle. Last season was by the far the best of McGee's career, and he emerged as a strong run stopper in Oakland. With his frame, and Jim Tomsula's coaching, McGee might play a big role this fall. His biggest hurdle? Staying healthy. In four seasons in the NFL, McGee has only played 16 games one season. Last year, he was limited to just nine games.
  3. Spencer Long - A free agent at the end of the season, Long comes in to 2017 looking to prove he can be a top tier center in the NFL. He excelled in pass blocking and calling the assignments on the Redskins line, but his run blocking could improve this fall. The literal centerpiece of a strong, young 'Skins line, 2017 will be a big opportunity for Long. Don't forget Washington moved up to draft Chase Roullier from Wyoming in the 6th round, and he played center and guard in college. Life in the NFL always has pressure, and Long will be facing some.

Always something on social: Enjoy the weekend folks.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 27, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 146 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 106 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 17
—Training camp starts (7/27) 61
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 75

The Redskins week that was

Here are some of the most popular post from the last week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com

How well will the Redskins' defense adjust to six new starters? The Redskins unquestionably got an infusion of defensive talent but as we have seen in the past that does not guarantee better results. Throw a new defensive coordinator into the mix and it could take some time for this unit to reach its full potential. I think that there will be struggles early in the season and a better (but not dominant) unit by the time November rolls around.

Which Redskins will surprise in 2017? Every player carries expectations into the season. Some will be better than we believe right now (think of what many thought Vernon Davis would do last year) and some will play worse (Josh Doctson). I take out the crystal ball to figure out who will exceed expectations and who will fall below them.

Don't count out 3rd straight franchise tag for Cousins—Yes, Bruce Allen said that he is willing to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a third time next year, a move that would cost $34 million for one season. But I think that’s a total bluff; the Redskins’ salary cap situation for 2018 would make such a move very difficult for them to pull off. The best hope for Cousins being a Redskin in 2018 is getting him signed to a long-term contract by July 15 of this year. The tone of the conversation regarding a new deal has been positive lately but the team must come up with a serious offer for a deal to happen.

For Redskins, finding a nose tackle needs to be a priority—Well, it’s up to Jim Tomsula to “make” a nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a true NT and he will get a shot. But he hasn’t played a snap since 2014. Undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins also has nose tackle size at 6-3, 325. But he is a long shot, as are the Redskins’ chances of being significantly better against the run if they don’t find someone, anyone to be an adequate solution as the nose tackle.

Did Vernon Davis make the NFL change celebration rules? Although I prefer the John Riggins way of celebrating a touchdown—hand the ball to the referee because you’ve been in the end zone before and you expect to be back again soon—elaborate celebrations don’t bother me. After a TD in a game I’m covering I’m focused on writing about the scoring drive. When I’m watching at home, my attention goes to Twitter or to the refrigerator. I do think that it was dumb for the Redskins to lose 15 yards of field position because Vernon Davis put a jump shot over the crossbar so that’s why I’m glad that the NFL changed the celebration rules.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.