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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens—'Next man up' comes up big

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens—'Next man up' comes up big

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 11, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Lions 12; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 19

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens Next man up comes up big

—In 2013 the Redskins special teams were a disaster, the worst in the league by a long shot. Enter Ben Kotwica and in 2014 the kicking units were merely bad. Last year they made a few negative plays but the team did score three special teams touchdowns, albeit in blowout losses. Now, in 2016, the special teams have been excellent (fourth in the NFL through Week 4 per DVOA) and yesterday they got a punt return for a touchdown that was the difference in the game. The gradual improvement is a tribute to Kotwica and to the Redskins for sticking by him through some tough times, realizing he had a huge task when he got here after the disasters of 2013.

—One under discussed area of improvement for the Redskins on Sunday was in penalties. There were four accepted penalties against them for 46 yards. The majority of the yards, 26 of them, came on a very shaky pass interference call against Will Compton. It didn’t look like there was any contact with the receiver until the ball arrived. There were no false starts called against the offensive line during the road game; the only flag for that infraction was drawn by wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Like many other aspects of the team's performance both good and bad this is a week to week thing but still a positive thing to note.

—There were 16 players who participated in at least a third of the defensive snaps against the Ravens. Of those, seven played little or not at all during the season opener against the Steelers. Some, like Will Blackmon and Kendall Fuller, were inactive. Others, like Greg Toler and Quinton Dunbar, played only on special teams. Matt Ioannidis was on the practice squad and Cullen Jenkins wasn’t even on the team. You hear “next man up” all the time; this is that mantra in action and with solid results.

—I never thought for a second that Marc Trestman would be the savior of the Bears and I was unimpressed when the Ravens brought him on board as their offensive coordinator. He always seemed to want to out-clever the opposition rather than just designing a solid scheme and calling it well during a game. Not only did he abandon a running game that was working well in the first quarter, he stayed away from it even though it worked well even as the Ravens ran very little (8 carries, 44 yards, 5.5 average in last three quarters). The Ravens are better off without him.

—Redskins fans should be used to their team winning close games, at least when they're not playing a certain hated division foe. Going back to Week 4 of last season the Redskins have won six out of nine games decided by one score. Two of the three losses, of course, were to the Cowboys, losses the team will not be able to avenge until Thanksgiving Day.

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Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

With Memorial Day weekend between now and the Redskins next batch of OTAs, let's look at the three best quotes from the first organized team session. For Redskins fans, the biggest looming issue remains the contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the organization, but there are plenty of other spots worth watching. 

1) Bad recruiting - A long-term deal might not get done, but that doesn't mean the talks aren't moving along. Cousins sounded almost optimistic but also knows that football is never a sure thing. To explain, he told a story from his high school days:

I’ve just kind of learned from previous experiences and if you know my story going back to high school, I played my senior year of high school with no scholarship offers, in fact there was a coach here from Northwestern today who was my recruiting coach at Northwestern, he’s still the running backs coach 10 years later at Northwestern and I was getting recruited by Northwestern, wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me, and it was just a reminder that you never know what’s going to happen. 

2) Sky's the limit - Despite the high-cost addition of Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary in 2016 was hardly a strength. Much of that came from poor safety play, where the team had few experienced options and spent little. This offseason, Washington invested in the position, bringing in D.J. Swearinger from the Arizona Cardinals. The new safety thinks the secondary can become a strength, quickly.

We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out I think this group can be one of the best. We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit.

3) Does it even matter - The NFL gives out a lot of awards, but at least publicly, there is no hardware for the funniest head coach. If there was a trophy, Jay Gruden should win it. Earlier this week the league announced a number of rule changes, most noticeably a change to stodgy TD celebration penalties. Another rule change: Overtime will shrink from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Gruden wasn't impressed when asked about it. 

Who cares?

Bonus - Who you calling fat? Gruden is too funny to only make the list once. Asked about second-year running back Robert Kelley, the coach made sure people know the difference between a nickname and reality.

That was just a nickname, he wasn’t actually fat. I think when you’re a 22-year-old kid, 21-year-old guy out of Tulane and you understand the wear and tear that the NFL is going to give you, you better get yourself into shape if you want to maintain a career in the NFL as a running back.

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Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 26, 18 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 145 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 107 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 18
—Training camp starts (7/27) 62
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 76

A top 10 team? Or No. 22?

Former Cowboys VP and current SiriusXM commentator and NFL.com writer Gill Brandt did a list of his top 10 NFL teams in terms of talent. At the top of the list was the consensus pick for the best team in the league, the New England Patriots. Also on the list were some of the regulars on lists like this one—the Steelers, Falcons, Cowboys, etc.

But the team at No. 10 on the list was something of a surprise. Since it’s being mentioned here you’ve probably figured out that it’s the Washington Redskins.

Brandt points out that they have a significant number of quality players in what should be the prime seasons of their careers, which he says, “portends good things”.

Judging talent is always subjective, especially when you don’t know how new players who arrived as free agents or draft picks will fit in. But good players are good players. Do the Redskins really have enough of them to stack up as a top-10 team?

One way to gauge this is to try to figure out how many of a team’s players could start for at least half of the other teams in the NFL. That is subjective but that’s what we do here so here we go.

On the offensive line, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses could start for most teams. Of the skill players, Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, and Jamison Crowder are on the list.

Defense is a little trickier since not all the players in the front seven would be scheme fits everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say that most teams could find some way to utilize Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Zach Brown as starters. Josh Norman is probably the only member of the secondary who would qualify here although with as weak as the safety position is around the league you could make a case for D.J. Swearinger.

Not counting the safety, that makes a total of 10 who start for at least 16 teams, just less than half of the starters. There are some who could make it there is they take some steps towards reaching their potential. Brandy mentions Josh Doctson and Preston Smith. I would add Spencer Long and, if healthy, Junior Galette.

On the other side of the coin, where are the Redskins clearly below average? Left guard is the weak spot on the O-line. While the running backs aren’t awful I’m not sure many teams would trade their group for Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson. Despite the addition of Allen, the D-line remains suspect.

It is interesting to note that the Redskins are one of three NFC East teams on Brandy’s list; the Cowboys are fifth and the Giants are sixth.

You can look at the strong and weak points of the Redskins and write almost any 2017 storyline you want to. Peter King of The MMQB has his doubts about Pryor and Doctson being able to adequately compensate for the free agency losses of Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson and his power ranking have Washington at 22nd.

Two respected analysts, two very different views of how the Redskins stack up in 2017. We have a little more than 100 days before we start to find out who’s right.

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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