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Need to Know: Enemy Intel—Eagles, Giants may go shopping at key positions

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Need to Know: Enemy Intel—Eagles, Giants may go shopping at key positions

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 21, three days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Enemy intel: A spin around the NFC East and more

On Sundays we’re going to take a look around at what is going on the NFC East including an angle on the Redskins plus what’s up with another team that is on Washington’s 2016 schedule. We’ll try it for a while; if it’s fun and you readers find it interesting we’ll keep doing it.

The East

Eagles want to keep Sam Bradford but won’t tag him—When free agency starts Philly could be in the market for a quarterback or they may be set for the next several years. They won’t apply the franchise tag to Bradford; GM Howie Roseman said that he hopes that they can find a contract that “makes sense on both sides”. Apparently Roseman thinks that the $19.6 million tag tender doesn’t make sense for his side so if a team offers Bradford something close to that in average income in a long-term deal that it will be bye-bye Bradford and the Eagles will be looking for an alternative to Mark Sanchez, who would be their only quarterback under contract.

Giants’ Prince Amukamara won’t hear from Giants until March 9—New York GM Jerry Reese told the team’s first-round pick in the 2011 draft that he shouldn’t expect any contact from the Giants until free agency starts. That indicates a fairly low level of interest in re-signing him. The Nebraska product, who will be 27 before training camp starts, has played fairly well when he has been in the lineup but due to injuries he has played just one complete season in his five years in the league.

Cowboys’ Sean Lee says team could not overcome adversity—Talking on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via FoxSports.com), the Dallas middle linebacker said that his team went 4-12 because they couldn’t “overcome adversity” created by injuries to QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant. Lee insisted that the Cowboys players had no issues with DE Greg Hardy, who quarreled with teammates and coaches on the sidelines and generally acted like a fool. He’s very believable on both counts. Few teams can do without a quarterback of Romo’s caliber and still thrive and a locker room can ignore one idiot no matter how much the owner is praising him.

Teammates tweet support for Cousins—There is no indication as of yet that the Redskins tend to try to lowball Kirk Cousins in negotiations for a new contract for the Redskins quarterback. Still, teammates WR Pierre Garçon and DE Chris Baker tweeted that the team brass should “pay the man”. That’s a good sign of solidarity although it won’t have much of an effect on the negotiations.

Around the NFL

Steelers TE Heath Miller retires—The team announced that the 11-year veteran is calling it quits. The Redskins won’t have to deal with the Pittsburgh’s all-time leading tight end in catches (592), yards (6,569) and touchdown receptions (45) when they play at FedEx Field. In two games against the Redskins Miller had four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown. Miller’s retirement does clear $4 million in cap space for Pittsburgh.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 41 days ago. It will be about 205 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 4; NFL free agency starts 18; 2016 NFL draft 68

In case you missed it

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.