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Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up vs. the Panthers

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up vs. the Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, November 20, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.

Five players who will need to shine on Sunday

The Redskins chances of upsetting the Panthers are pretty slim but, as we said here the other day, yes, we’re saying there’s a chance. If they are going to pull it off some players are going to have to step up and play big.

QB Kirk Cousins—They have held opposing quarterbacks to a miniscule passer rating of 69.1. If Cousins has a day like that, which would be completing 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, the Redskins will be in trouble.

RB Chris Thompson—Alfred Morris and Matt Jones should be able to ground out some yards against the Panthers. But they are going to need some chunks of yardage and Thompson is the guy who could get them on the ground or with a quick pass out of the backfield.

WR DeSean Jackson—Thompson can get the Redskins some chunks of yardage; Jackson can get them huge chunks of yardage. This will be his third game back after missing most of the first seven games with a hamstring injury. He made one big play early in the game last week and then pretty much disappeared. Jackson needs to have four productive quarters not only for the sake of having a chance against the Panthers but to give the team a life down the stretch run.

S Dashon Goldson—I’d think that he will have a role in covering tight end Greg Olsen. Goldson hasn’t exactly excelled in coverage this year but he has improved lately and he’ll need to be at his best on Sunday.

ILB Will Compton—Someone at inside linebacker will need to try to keep Cam Newton from rushing for 70 yards. I would have gone with Keenan Robinson up until a few weeks ago but it appears that either injuries or perhaps him worrying about his contract status have made this a lost year for Robinson. I don’t think that Joe Barry will use Compton as a spy on Newton but Compton will be tracking him a lot and he will need to bring the quarterback down or at least hold him up until help arrives.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Panthers 2; Giants @ Redskins 9; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 17

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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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.