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Need to Know: Five moments that led to the Redskins' NFC East title

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Need to Know: Five moments that led to the Redskins' NFC East title

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 29, five days before the Washington Redskins travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys.

Five moments that led to the Redskins’ 2015 NFC East title

The Redskins clinched the 2015 division title on Saturday when DeAngelo Hall scooped up Demarco Murray’s fumble and ran 17 yards to the end zone. It was at that point where the Eagles’ win probability plummeted to just about zero. But other moments led up to that. Here is a look at a few of them.

The 2015 NFL draft—There wasn’t one moment there but rather a series of moments when the Redskins turned in cards for some players who proved to be very productive. It’s hard to see the Redskins being as successful as they were this year without the steady play of Brandon Scherff at guard, Preston Smith’s pass rush in the latter stages of the season, some big plays by Matt Jones, some spectacular catches by Jamison Crowder, and the versatility of safety/nickel corner Kyshoen Jarrett.

“It’s Kirk’s team”—On August 31, Jay Gruden announced that Kirk Cousins would be the starting quarterback for the season. Many predicted that controversy and turmoil would still be standard operating procedure at Redskins Park. After a somewhat shaky start for Cousins, with the Redskins going 2-4, things started to click and they haven’t looked back.

Onside kick vs. the Bucs—The Redskins were on the comeback trail after falling behind Tampa Bay 24-0 in the first half. But they needed a boost and after Cousins threw to Ryan Grant for a touchdown to make it 24-14 in the third quarter they created one. Dustin Hopkins perfectly executed a surprise onside kick and Trenton Robinson recovered for the Redskins. Seven plays later Cousins threw to Jordan Reed for three yards to make it a three-point game and the Redskins eventually came out with a 31-30 win.

Matt Jones’ catch against the Bears—The Redskins had led 14-0 and 21-7 in Chicago but they were very much in danger of having their first road win of the season slip from their grasp. Up 24-21, the Redskins were trying to burn the clock out with about four minutes to play. On third and five, Cousins scrambled to the right, stopped, and fired a pass across the field to Jordan Reed. The ball went off of Reed’s hands But Matt Jones was there to grab the ball before it hit the ground, giving the Redskins a key first down at the Bears 45. Although the Redskins had to punt, the play gave them enough time off the clock and enough field position to hold off the Bears for the win.

DeSean Jackson’s 77-yard TD catch against the Bills—The Redskins led 21-3 in the third quarter and the Bills were starting to move the ball. On first down from the 23, Jackson went down the left sideline. He had to slow down around midfield to gather in Cousins’ pass. He evaded two defenders, ran through an attempted ankle tackle, and outran the defense to the end zone. That gave the Redskins the working margin they needed to survive a Bills push on offense and get out of FedEx Field with a 35-25 win.

I'm sure you have some additions to the list; feel free to chime in with them in the comments. 

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings at Redskins Park, no availability

Days until: Redskins @Cowboys 5; start of NFL playoffs 11; start of divisional round 18

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.