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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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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back