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More to watch tonight than just RG3

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More to watch tonight than just RG3

What: Redskins vs. Bills
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet (exclusive HD broadcast), NBC NonstopOn Saturday, a pair of scuffles broke out on the practice field at Redskins Park. Two days later, Coach Mike Shanahan stopped practice after a questionable hit.Indeed, the time has arrived for Redskins to begin hitting players not wearing burgundy and gold, and Thursday night theyll finally get that chance.First impressions will be made, careers will be launched and a long-suffering fan base will get its initial look at the rookie quarterback whos already been hailed as a savior.With that as a backdrop, heres are three things, in order of importance, that the crew at www.csnwashington.com will be watching as the most anticipated preseason in years gets underway:1) Robert Griffin IIIs debut, of course.The best word to describe Griffins performance through two weeks of training camp is uneven.The 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly on the many designed running plays that have been installed to accentuate Griffins dual-threat ability. When he gets into open space when carrying the ball, defenders are left grasping at air.But weve also been reminded quite often, actually that hes still a rookie. Griffin has, at times, struggled with his accuracy and shown the tendency to hold onto the ball for too long while reading the defense.It should also be noted that Griffin has been put on an accelerated track in practice, where the coaching staff has constantly challenged him.We feel that the harder it is in practice the easier it will be in the games, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. We know its going to be tough and were trying to put him in all these tough situations so he is prepared.Added Griffin, who is expected to take 12-20 snaps: It helps me learn what Coach is going to call in those situations, so I can get my mind set on what I need to be ready to do as far as play calling goes.The encouraging news is that Griffin has made progress in each of the teams 11 practices. By his own admission, he struggled mightily on Day 1 of training camp. And, by many accounts, Tuesdays practice was his sharpest.The question now is whether hes prepared to take the next step: making plays in a live game against defenders who are not only allowed to hit him but will relish the opportunity to do so.Mike Shanahans advice to his protg?Let the plays happen, the head coach said, dont try to make it happen.2) The injury-riddled offensive line. Griffins success against the Bills might hinge on how well the big guys up front protect him.Sidelined are starters Kory Lichtensteinger (knee) and Jammal Brown (hip). Another starter, Chris Chester, is questionable after spraining his ankle Monday.If Chester joins the others on the sideline, expect backup Adam Gettis to join fellow reserves Maurice Hurt and Tyler Polumbus in lining up with the first team.Recent acquisitions Jordan Black and Tony Moll also figure to see some playing time.If the patchwork offensive line doesnt get the job done, its going to be difficult to fairly assess Griffin.3) The kicking competition. Incumbent Graham Gano is expected to get the first kickoff. After that, the battle between Gano and veteran Neil Rackers will begin in earnest.On Wednesday, special teams coach Danny Smith explained how he plans to ensure each kicker gets ample time to prove himself. Gano and Rackers will attempt a field goal or extra point and make the ensuing kickoff, Smith said, then theyll switch.Gano is 10 years younger, a familiar face in Washington after spending three seasons here and boasts the stronger leg. But, Smith said, that doesnt necessarily mean hes got an advantage very Rackers, who has an additional nine years of NFL experience and a better career field goal percentage (80.0 vs. 73.8). Obviously I know Graham better, but my job is to get to know the other guy well too, and we have four games to do so, Smith said. You guys will know it too, Im sure most of you will be able to pick it after four preseason games. Its going to be on production.Unofficially, both kickers are 16 for 19 in three head-to-head kicking competitions. But Smith said hell place more emphasis on games.Ultimately its games, Smith added. Its execution under pressure.

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Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 23, 14 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 6
—NFL Combine (3/2) 7
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 53
—NFL Draft (4/27) 63
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 199

Free agent moves—Offense

Free agency starts two weeks from today. The Redskins have plenty of needs, both big and small. Let’s take a look around and see what offensive positions they might be looking to bolster when things get going. I’ll follow up with the defense in the next few days.

Quarterback—It could be a yawner at this position or there could be plenty of drama. If Kirk Cousins gets franchise tagged or defies current expectations and signs a long-term deal, the depth chart will remain the same. If he is gone via a trade, things could be shaken up. While they may draft a QB in late April they could go for a mid-priced veteran as insurance.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Running back—The Redskins have a depth chart loaded with young, unproven talent at this position. If they want a veteran presence in the meeting room they could look at someone like Robert Turbin (McCloughan had a hand in drafting him in Seattle in 2012) or maybe Knile Davis.

Wide receiver—Things will get very interesting if the word on the street comes to pass and both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson are gone. They have a presumably healthy Josh Doctson in line to replace one but they would need a veteran. Maybe Kenny Stills or Kenny Britt, both young and productive, could be under consideration. If one of the veterans stays they likely will get depth in the draft.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Tight end—Vernon Davis seems likely to be back. If he’s not, the Redskins probably would rather have an alternative to Niles Paul as Jordan Reed’s primary backup. The probably won’t swim in the deep end of the pool with Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook. But maybe they will look at Jermaine Gresham, who made the Pro Bowl twice in Cincinnati while Jay Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

Offensive line—Yesterday, JP and I discussed what they might do at left guard if they want to upgrade from Shawn Lauvao. Perhaps they could go for Kevin Zeitler, another Bengal who played under Gruden. But he will command a contract in the $8-$10 million range and with Brandon Scherff coming up for an extension next year that might be too much to spend at the guard position. Look for the Redskins to take an eventual Lauvao replacement in the draft.

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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.

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If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

It still seems like a long-shot the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins, but if there is one persistent rumor, it's that the San Francisco 49ers want the Washington passer. The story is too familiar at this point: New Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was in D.C. when Cousins was drafted and wants the quarterback to come run his offense in San Francisco. With the second overall pick, the 49ers have a tremendous asset they can dangle in trade talks.

<<<CLICK HERE TO SEE 5 PROSPECTS FOR THE REDSKINS AT NO. 2 PICK>>>

Whether or not any of this rumor is true, it sure makes for engrossing speculation. With the NFL Draft Combine next week in Indianapolis, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he wouldn't be shocked to see the trade go down.

That's the backdrop. Beyond the debate of the merits of trading an established QB like Cousins, which is a very serious debate, there's also the notion of what player the 'Skins would select with the second overall pick.  

MORE REDSKINS: 2017 top heavy Cap could be a problem

It's worth examining the impact players available to Washington with the second selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the options are varied, including perhaps a new QB. Check it out. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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