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Need to Know: Do the Redskins have enough of a running game to get by?

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Need to Know: Do the Redskins have enough of a running game to get by?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 15, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Buffalo Bills.

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bears

—The Redskins sort of got their running game going on Sunday, They came a mere yard short of hitting the 100-yard mark, picking up 99 yards on 33 carries. They would like to do better, of course, but a hundred yards a game is about in the middle of the NFL pack in terms of an average on the season. They need to have at least a token threat to keep the defense off balance and to make defenses honor play-action fakes. A hundred yards a game represents that token level of a running game.

—Kirk Cousins targeted 11 different players against the Bears, including Pierre Thomas, who has been on the roster for a little more than 48 hours. He has done a pretty good job of distributing the ball this year. Nine different players have been targeted at least 20 times and seven have over 200 receiving yards.

—Joe Barry has put together a pretty good bend but don’t break defense. Yesterday the Redskins were outgained by three yards (377 yards to 374). But they allowed just two touchdown drives, not counting the 21-yard Bears drive after Cousins’ interception. That’s after allowing 2 TD’s to the Giants and one to Dallas, with the one against the Cowboys coming after a 15-yard drive following DeSean Jackson’s fumble on an ill-advised punt return. They are 21st in the league in yards allowed but ninth in takeaways with 21.

—Not that Matt Jones didn’t make a mistake when he tossed the ball aside after his third-down catch with four minutes left, but Jamison Crowder goofed a bit, too. He came up behind Jones when the back was on the ground and tagged him, just like a defender would make contact to get a runner who had gone to the ground on his own down. Jones couldn’t see Crowder so he made an assumption that he perhaps should not have made, thinking he was down and the flipping the ball to the side. Fortunately he got the ball back. Bottom line was there was no harm and perhaps two rookies learned valuable lessons. Jones needs to hold on to the ball until he hears the whistle and Crowder needs to make sure he’s not imitating the actions of a defensive player in a situation like that.

—I looked at the playoff position in some detail yesterday. Now that we have the result of the Giants game I’ll do a deeper dive sometime later today or early tomorrow. My gut feeling is that they will go 2-1 in their last three games. Barring some big upsets like the Giants beating Carolina, that should be enough to make them an 8-8 division champion.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Bills @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Eagles 11; Redskins @Cowboys 19

In case you missed it

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Scot McCloughan jokes about not being much help to wife's fantasy league draft

Scot McCloughan jokes about not being much help to wife's fantasy league draft

Scot McCloughan helped the Redskins with their draft picks as the General Manager of the team for almost two years. He's considered to be one of the best in the league at evaluating talent.

Prior to the Redskins, he was the GM of the San Francisco 49ers and a senior personnel executive for the Seattle Seahawks. He's helped draft the likes of Russell Wilson, Frank Gore, Golden Tate, Richard Sherman and Jamison Crowder.

RELATED: REDSKINS OUSTED GM TAKES TO TWITTER

But one draft McCloughan doesn't expect to be good at is his wife's fantasy league draft.

"My wife is [in a league] this year and I'm going to try to help her with the draft but I'll probably screw it up, I'm sure. But I'm going to try," McCloughan told ESPN's Adam Schefter during his 'Know Them From Adam' podcast. 

Schefter warned McCloughan that being apart of a fantasy league changes the way you watch the game, how you follow the game and how you root for a team.

Anyone who's been apart of one can understand the stress it brings on game days.

"I can believe it because some teams you've played against for a long time and never really liked them because they're better than you or whatever. Now you're pulling for one guy so you're pulling for them to win. I can only imagine. It will be very interesting."

McCloughan said he didn't even have a successful track record with helping his son pick college games. 

"When I was an area scout I'd help my son out with picking college games each week, not for betting but just like little club, and I was awful on it. I'd do a school call that week and I'd know exactly the team. They're playing well or not playing well or who's playing or not playing, and I was awful at it. You stick yourself, I'm done." 

Luckily for McCloughan, who is running his own scouting service after being fired by the Redskins in March, is really good at drafting when it matters.

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Offensive line

Starters: Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses
Other roster locks: Ty Nsekhe, Chase Roullier
On the bubble: Vinston Painter, Arie Kouandjio, Kyle Kalis,

How the offensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: Over the course of 16 games they should be better because Williams is unlikely to get his with another four-game suspension. He may miss a game or two with an injury as he did in 2014 and 2015 but they can manage that. With all five starters returning, they may be only marginally better on a game-to-game basis. Lauvao was hampered by injuries last year and he looks healthier. Long will be going into his second season at center so he could learn more and improve. Still, the improvements will be marginal. They were a top 5-10 unit last year and they should be this year. Marginally better

To the rest of the NFL: As noted, it’s a top 10 unit easily and you could make the case that it’s in the top five. Yes, even though the Redskins were 21st in the league in rushing last year. The thing is, they were eighth in the league with 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. When they ran the ball, they ran it well. And their sack percentage was fourth in the league. They should set aside the "Hogs 2.0" nickname until the accomplish more as a team but they are very good right now.  Top five

RELATED: 2017 REDSKINS--5 REASONS FOR CONCERN

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Scherff was the fifth pick of the 2015 draft. He nominally was taken as a tackle although many analysts, including some at Redskins Park, figured he would end up as a guard. He is off to a good start in his career, playing nearly every snap over his two seasons and making the Pro Bowl last year. But he can get better and he has the mindset to do it.

Most to prove: Long is injured right now and that has been a minor issue with him since he became a starter. Last year he played well after taking over at center when Kory Lichtensteiger was injured but he still has a lot to learn. His contract is up after this year and if he is going to earn a solid contract from the Redskins or from any other team he must take a couple of steps up and show that he is worth a significant financial investment.

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Rookie watch: With Long sidelined until the season opener, the focus turns to Roullier. Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan have shown extraordinary confidence in the sixth-round pick, not shopping for a veteran backup center after seeing Roullier in the offseason program and in training camp. They have a better idea of what they have in him after he starts against the Bengals’ first-team defense on Sunday.

Bottom line: The offensive line is one of the strengths of the team. Williams and Scherff could go back to the Pro Bowl. Moses won’t but that’s primarily because right tackles don’t get Pro Bowl invitations. They will keep Kirk Cousins upright and on what is likely to continue to be a pass-first team, that is critical. Run blocking could be better but that top-10 average of 4.5 yards per carry last year points to issues in the run game beyond the O-line.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Trent Williams:

I think he’s going to get better. He’s lost a little bit of weight and I think he might even be a vegan, whatever that means. The things that he can do with his body and athleticism is incredible. He’s by far I think the best tackle in the league and we’re glad we have him. But it’s also good to see a guy with that type of talent and skill set work as hard as he does. That rubs off on the younger guys, the guys that are up and coming young players. They see a guy like that with much talent, that much production over the years – and Pro Bowls – work that hard, you know, it makes the other guys say, ‘Hey, I better work harder because I’m not as talented as him.’

2017 Redskins position outlook series: Wide receiver | Defensive line |

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.