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Need to Know: Five Redskins with a lot at stake in 2016

Need to Know: Five Redskins with a lot at stake in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 19, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 161 days ago. It will be 85 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 39; Preseason opener @ Falcons 53; Final roster cut 76

Hot topics from the Redskins Week that was

All NFL players are under pressure to perform. But some have a lot at stake personally in 2016. Here are five Redskins who are under pressure this year both on and off the field.

QB Kirk Cousins—The Redskins’ defense and running game may improve but they are still a passing team in a passing league and a lot of games will come down to Cousins’ right arm. If he plays the season out under the franchise tag he will be trying to make his case for big bucks; if he signs he will be under pressure to live up to it.

RB Matt Jones—It doesn’t look like the Redskins have a backup chute here; the running game will live or die with Jones. He will need to add nearly a yard to the league-worst 3.4 per carry average he had last year and cut down significantly on his fumbles if he is going to get it done. This is probably his one shot; running backs rarely get more than two seasons to develop. If Jones can’t get it done in 2016 the team will search for another solution in 2017 and Jones could end up fighting for snaps.

WR DeSean Jackson—There is a lot going on here. The Redskins offense was at its best last year when he was in the lineup and functioning at 100 percent. Jackson needs to stay healthy and in the lineup and play well. He put a big target on his back by deciding to skip a good portion of offseason workouts. On a personal level he will turn 30 late in the season and he needs to have a good year if he is going to get another lucrative contract, whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere.

CB Bashaud Breeland—Earlier this week Breeland said, “my opinion is that I can be the next Darrell Green.” It’s not as though the guy needed to put any more pressure on himself. Playing opposite Josh Normal is likely to cause plenty of passes to be thrown his way. Plus he has one more year before he is eligible for a contract extension. Breeland could be set for some time to come if he plays well in 2016.

S DeAngelo Hall—The Redskins are cautiously optimistic about Hall’s ability to lock down a safety job but the emphasis has to be on caution. He’ll be 33 in November, he has missed 19 games due to injuries in the last two year, and he’s playing a new position. Hall doesn’t have a huge contract but he doesn’t come cheap either, with cap hits of just over $5 million in each of the next two years. The team will be able to show some degree of patience as he adjusts to playing safety but his rope will not be unlimited.

Is there anyone you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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

 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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.