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Need to Know: Are the Cowboys the Redskins' biggest threat in the NFC East?

Need to Know: Are the Cowboys the Redskins' biggest threat in the NFC East?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 30, 28 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 172 days ago. It will be 74 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 15; Preseason opener @ Falcons 42; Final roster cut 65

Three and out

—The more I think about it and the more I talk to other people the more I am convinced that the Redskins will pass the ball a lot more often than they run it. They are going to go where their talent takes them and that’s throwing the ball. They will be top five in the NFL in passing attempts (about 625 attempts or more). That may not be the way to win the Super Bowl and it shouldn’t be the long term play but passing does give them the best chance of winning in 2016.

—I’ve heard some chatter, mostly from fans, about the possibility of Reggie Bush signing with the team to be the veteran backup option. Bush has great name recognition but that’s about it. He has just 84 carries in 16 games the last two seasons combined. If you want someone as a backup because you’re concerned that Matt Jones is fragile you don’t go out a sign someone who is even more breakable. In 10 NFL seasons Bush has played 16 games twice.

—The Redskins’ biggest threat in the NFC East is supposed to be the revitalized Cowboys but the more I look at them the less I’m buying it. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com listed the Cowboys’ “blue chip” players and I wasn’t impressed. Jason Witten is 34 and averaged 9.3 yards per catch last year. Sean “If He Can Stay Healthy” Lee is turning 30 soon and he hasn’t played a full season in any of his six NFL seasons. How Orlando Scandrick, who missed all of last season and has never been to a Pro Bowl, is considered a blue chipper I have no idea. What you have left is a very good run blocking offensive line and Tony Romo passing to Dez Bryant. Doesn’t look like much more than a .500 team to me but we’ll see. The Redskins should be more concerned with the Eagles, who have the best defense in the division.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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