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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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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Raiders

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Raiders

 

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 20, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Raiders at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1:45; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins press conferences, open locker room after practice, approx. 3:30

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 12
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (11/23) 23
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 39

First look at Redskins vs. Raiders

—This tweet seems a bit audacious. It’s from Vic Tafur, who writes about the Raiders for the pay site The Athletic.

They are second in the NFL in offensive yards and first in points scored. Oakland is fourth in rushing yards and 13th in passing yards. QB Derek Carr is third in the NFL with a stellar 126.5 passer rating and Marshawn Lynch has a bruising 121 yards rushing. They’re good but I would reserve phrases like “doing whatever they want” for teams like the Greatest Show on Turf or the ’07 Patriots. The Raiders aren’t there yet.

—Defensively, the Raiders are just OK, especially considering they have played a Titans team that is solid but not an offensive juggernaut and the putrid Jets. They are 17th in yards given up and tied for 11th in points allowed. They haven’t intercepted a pass although they have two fumble recoveries. They have five sacks, one more than a Redskins team that talks a lot about a need to get to the quarterback.

—Carr and Kirk Cousins have very similar numbers in the two seasons plus two games that they both have been starters. One area where Carr has an edge is in the touchdown passes column. Carr has 65 while Cousins has just 46. The Raiders have some quality receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. But Cousins could throw to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon up until this season and Washington also has tight end Jordan Reed. It’s at least a wash in terms of quality of targets if not an advantage to the Redskins. It is something that Carr has solved that Cousins has not. Carr’s ability to get the ball into the end zone helped him become the NFL’s highest-paid player, albeit temporarily.

—Although the Raiders’ offense is not going to make history, the Redskins still need to be prepared to be in a shootout on Sunday night. To be sure, the Redskins defense has improved but it’s hard to see the Raiders scoring less than somewhere in the mid to upper twenties. That means that the Redskins will have to score at least as many points as they did against the Rams, maybe more. They started and ended well in LA; to win next Sunday they probably won’t be able to get away with zero second-half points until after the two-minute warning.

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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Giants TE grabs crotch, immediately introduced to NFL's celebration rules

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Giants TE grabs crotch, immediately introduced to NFL's celebration rules

It took the New York Giants a full game and another quarter before they scored their first touchdown of the 2017-18 NFL season.

Giants rookie Evan Engram was the recipient of their first touchdown of the season, scoring the first of his career on Monday Night Football.

Naturally he began to celebrate his accomplishment, but perhaps his celebration was too natural. 

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In the clip, right in front of the cameraman, the 23-year-old proceeds to dance with a finishing move crotch grab in the midst of his teammates.

Apparently the loosened NFL celebration rules from this off-season did not take out any sexually suggestive actions. 

It resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kick-off for the Giants.

With the ball then kicked out of bounds the Lions had the ball at their own 45-yard line.

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Likely the grab will give Engram a fine from the NFL.

Last season Antonio Brown was fined for a similar celebration, by twerking following a score.

The touchdown remains the only time New York has found the end-zone through two games.

With only 13 points it is the lowest scoring two game start in 70 years for the franchise.