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Need to Know: The draft will be the key to improvement for the 2017 Redskins

Need to Know: The draft will be the key to improvement for the 2017 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 20, 38 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 28
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 53
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 65
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 117
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 174

Monday morning three and out

1. The Redskins’ offseason workouts start four weeks from today. At that point it’s really more conditioning and pumping iron than it is about actual football. The date also happens to be 10 days prior to the NFL draft. The coaches will get one last look at what they have before they draft replacements for some of them.

2. A fan complains about the lack of progress in free agecy.

I warned anyone who would listen that the Redskins were not going to get much better in free agency. I said it when Scot McCloughan was the GM and I said it again recently. The free agent pool was very shallow and there were a lot of teams with a lot of cap space. Once the top handful of players at each position were gone the players left were not a significant upgrade.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 5.0

3. If the Redskins are going to get better this year they will need to get significant contributions from their top two draft picks and have a sleeper pick or two come through from one of the seven players they will be able to pick in rounds 4-7. It’s a deep draft so upgrading there is doable. Not easy, not a given, especially after the team gave McCloughan, one of the best draft talent evaluators in the business, the boot but possible. 

Out—it appears, is Duke Ihenacho.

Ihenacho’s career with the Redskins never really got any traction. He landed on injured reserve early in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The ’15 injury was particularly bad for him because he had won a starting job in training camp, beating out free agent acquisition Jeron Johnson. Last year he was inactive early but he wound up starting 10 games due to injuries. The coaches thought the freelanced too much and he missed team-high 15 tackles even though nine players played more snaps. Between the game tape and the addition of D.J. Swearinger, the move of Su’a Cravens to safety, and the likely return of DeAngelo Hall, there apparently wasn’t any support for keeping him around.

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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Someone commented that it may be difficult to tell a Redskins best player available pick from a need pick.

In case you missed it

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.