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Need to Know: Could the Redskins be better than we think?

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Need to Know: Could the Redskins be better than we think?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 22, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Will the Redskins be better than we think?

The Redskins are coming off of back to back seasons with a total of seven wins. They have an unproven head coach, an uncertain quarterback situation, and lines on both sides of the ball that have undergone major changes.

Many in the media look at this situation and place the team somewhere in the lower twenties in their power rankings and figure that an improvement of a game or two is the likely outcome for the 2015 season

I was in that group before minicamp started. After seeing the practices at Redskins Park and assessing the new pieces to the puzzle the Redskins obtained over the offseason I’m starting to think that they might be better than I thought they were. Not a whole lot better. Not deep in the playoffs better. But maybe 8-8 better, or something like that.

What did I see that I liked? For one thing, offensive line coach Bill Callahan. While I disagree with those who say that the Redskins’ O-line was awful last year, there is no question that it wasn’t particularly strong, either. Seeing Callahan keeping his players out well after the end of practice to work on details makes me think that the line could grow into one of the stronger units on the team. And the addition of Brandon Scherff obviously will help as well. There will be a learning curve for him but he will get it figured out sooner rather than later.

I also liked what I saw out of Terrance Knighton. He’s not just another fat guy nicknamed Pot Roast. He is amazingly quick for his size and he will be that disruptive force that is needed in the middle of the defense. Cornerback Chris Culliver also is a major upgrade.

This team should rank higher than 19th in rushing yards gained this year. Alfred Morris is going into his contract year and while he said that he doesn’t think about it you know it has to be motivating him to some extent. And even if money doesn’t give Morris an extra kick, the presence of Matt Jones will. The rookie will get some snaps and carries. But if the team runs more, which is likely if the defense takes a step or two up, Jones won’t take much away from Morris, if anything.

While I don’t see Robert Griffin III getting back to his 2012 form, I like his prospects for this year a bit better after minicamp. He has a lot more to prove but I’ve gone from seeing the odds being against him having a successful 2015 season to it being a coin toss. That’s far from ideal and not necessarily encouraging but improvement is still improvement.

I look at Jay Gruden the same way. At times last year he appeared to be in over his head. With his rookie season behind him, it looks like Gruden has a better handle on things. The addition of a quarterbacks coach in Matt Cavanaugh is one tangible move that will help him out considerably this year. As with Griffin, I’m not sure that Gruden can succeed but after seeing him the past few weeks the chances that he can seem brighter.

What is holding me back from believing that the Redskins can be considerably better this year is how bad they were last year. They were outscored by an average of 8.6 points per game in 2014, the 29th worst scoring margin in the NFL. The team has a long way to go to get to break even. Washington could be a lot better and still not have a much better record.

There is plenty of time to revise my prediction before the season starts. And while I think things are looking up I’ll hold off for right now.

Timeline

—It’s been 176 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 83 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 38; Preseason opener @ Browns 52; final cuts 75

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins draft countdown: Can Temple's Haason Reddick make the move from end to LB?

Redskins draft countdown: Can Temple's Haason Reddick make the move from end to LB?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 34 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Haason Reddick

Inside linebacker
Temple

Height: 6-1
Weight: 237
40-yard dash: 4.52

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Explosive, quick-twitch athlete. Great flexibility with loose hips to turn, twist, and chase. Excellent reactive quickness and change-of-direction agility. Dynamic playmaker in space. Locks onto targets and instantly accelerates to the ball. Finished 2016 regular season with 21.5 tackles for loss. Fluid mover around field. Has chase range over extended territory.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have devoted major resources to the edges of their defense with free agent dollars and high draft picks going to get Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Josh Norman. But the middle—nose tackle, inside linebacker, and safety—remains shaky at best. Reddick could give them an immediate boost in the core of the defense.

At 185 pounds, he walked on at Temple as a safety, bulked up and finished as a two-year starter. Reddick played defensive end and dominated in many games, recording 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss. But he doesn’t have the bulk to compete on the edge in the NFL so he will be either an outside linebacker in a 4-3 or an inside backer in a 3-4. The Redskins would have him on the inside in base defense and could have him roam when the go to a four-man line.

Film review: vs. Cincinnati, vs. USF

Reddick played on both sides of the line in two- and three-point stance. He seemed to be more effective standing up; he lacked the size to tangle with the Cincinnati and USF offensive tackles.

He seemed to be a bit slow in recognition. There were times where he reacted after the play already was by him.

Reddick wasn’t asked to cover often but he can drop back and cover a zone. I did not see any man coverage. His backpedal will need work.

He showed good hustle and pursuit, got in on a few plays when lined up on the right side and play went wide to the left.

Against USF he played off the line of scrimmage on about 30 percent of the snaps. He didn’t do anything notable good or bad from there but it was a small sample size.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to see how well he could play at inside linebacker based on the tape. It will take a lot of projection by the scouts, something that I will readily admit is beyond the scope of my capabilities.

Potential issues: After playing defensive end at Temple, Reddick needs to adjust to playing on two feet. Inside linebacker in a 3-4 is a complex position to master and there could be a substantial learning curve involved.

There is a little bit of off-field trouble in his past. He was suspended from the program for three months in 2015 following an off-campus fight but assault charges were later dropped. That appears to be a blip on the radar with no issues reported before or since.

Bottom line: Reddick certainly has great athleticism. Among defensive linemen and linebackers who tested at the combine, Reddick had the best performances in the 40 (4.52 seconds) and in the broad jump (11 feet, 1 inch). It seems that he has the potential to be a good linebacker. And with Will Compton and Mason Foster in place now, Reddick could get some time to develop in Washington.

However, the Redskins defense needs some instant impact. If they want an inside linebacker they might prefer to go with one who is better prepared to contribute now like Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt or, if he’s available, Reuben Foster of Alabama.

Jay Gruden has expressed frustration about the lack of impact he has been able to get from the team’s last two first-round picks. He could be complaining about a third if Reddick is the pick.

However, if other teams decide to pass on Reddick and he is available in the second round (which seems unlikely after his combine performance but in the draft you never know), the Redskins should give him a hard look.

In his own words:

Reddick on changing from defensive end to playing in space as a linebacker:

I feel really comfortable. At the end of the day, I’m a competitor. That’s what I like to do. That’s what I do. There’s no question about that. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of me, or what they ask me to do. I’m just going to try to do it as best as I can. That’s the approach I took at Senior Bowl.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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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Need to Know: Examining the Redskins' roster locks and bubble dwellers

Need to Know: Examining the Redskins' roster locks and bubble dwellers

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 24, 34 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 23
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 49
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 61
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 113
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 170

Redskins locks and bubble players

Yesterday I looked at players who will not be returning to the Redskins in 2016. Today the focus shifts to the players who are on the roster and separating them into who is certain to be on the Week 1 roster and who is on the bubble.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Here are the players I see as roster locks:

Offense (15)

  • QB Kirk Cousins
  • QB Colt McCoy
  • RB Rob Kelley
  • RB Chris Thompson
  • WR Jamison Crowder
  • WR Josh Doctson
  • WR Terrelle Pryor
  • TE Jordan Reed
  • TE Vernon Davis
  • G Shawn Lauvao
  • G Brandon Scherff
  • C Spencer Long
  • OT Morgan Moses
  • OT Trent Williams
  • OT Ty Nsekhe

Defense (15)

  • DE Anthony Lanier
  • DE Terrell McClain
  • DE Stacy McGee
  • LB Will Compton
  • LB Mason Foster
  • OLB Junior Galette
  • OLB Ryan Kerrigan
  • OLB Preston Smith
  • OLB Trent Murphy
  • CB Bashaud Breeland
  • CB Quinton Dunbar
  • CB Kendall Fuller
  • CB Josh Norman
  • S Su’a Cravens
  • S D.J. Swearinger

Specialists (3)

  • K Dustin Hopkins
  • P Tress Way
  • LS Nick Sundberg

That totals 33 locks. These are players who are on the bubble; only players who were on the team last year or were notable signings are included here. The other street free agents signed are long shots.

Offense (9)

  • G Arie Kouandjio
  • OL Vinston Painter
  • QB Nate Sudfeld
  • RB Mack Brown
  • RB Matt Jones
  • TE Derek Carrier
  • TE Niles Paul
  • WR Maurice Harris
  • WR Ryan Grant

Most of these bubble players will be watching the draft closely. A quarterback drafted early would be bad news for Sudfeld. A third-round guard could be an ominous sign for Kouandjio. The three I most strongly considered putting the lock list were Jones, Paul, and Harris but too much can happen to call them sure things.

Defense (15)

  • DE Ziggy Hood
  • DE Matt Ioannidis
  • DE A.J. Francis
  • NT Phil Taylor
  • OLB Houston Bates
  • LB Chris Carter
  • LB Steven Daniels
  • LB Martrell Spaight
  • OLB Lynden Trail
  • LB Zach Vigil
  • CB Tharold Simon
  • S Josh Evans
  • S Deshazor Everett
  • S DeAngelo Hall
  • S Earl Wolff

The three closest to being locks here are Hall, Hood, and Spaight. Hall has to show that he can come back from his ACL, Hood could get bumped out by promising draft picks, and Spaight needs to fend off potential draft picks and possibly Daniels and Vigil.

I’ll take another look at this after the draft to see how things shift.

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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