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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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In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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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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