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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins need to do to beat the NFC East

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins need to do to beat the NFC East

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 17, 111 days before the NFL Draft.

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The Redskins went winless against the NFC East last year and have finished last four out of the last five years. Here are five things the Redskins have to do compete in their division.

1. Stop speedy receivers—They have done pretty well against bigger, more physical receivers in the division. Players like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have had their moments against the Redskins but players like DeSean Jackson on Philly (32 receptions, 17.9 yards/catch, 5 TD’s in 11 games) and Victor Cruz (23/15.6/1) have burned them. Their lack of speed on defense really shows here.

2. Stop tight ends—The big wide receivers have been held in check but the big tight ends haven’t. Jason Witten and Brent Celek along have gained almost 1,500 yards and have scored 10 touchdowns against the Redskins. This is a general issue for the Redskins but it gets exposed in division games because of the presence of players like Witten and Celek.

3. Make a special teams play—Yes we know this was a major problem in 2013 in general and during the loss in Dallas in particular. But prior to that six of the Redskins’ division losses were by a touchdown or less and none of those games featured a big, positive play by the Redskins special teams. A return TD, a blocked kick, just about any play from the kicking game could have turned the tide.

4. Contain scrambling QB’s—Every week before facing Romo, Vick or, last year, Foles all the talk is about keeping contain and not letting him beat you with his feet. And almost always the quarterback finds a way to beat the Redskins with his legs. It’s always easier said than done, for sure, but they need to do a better job.

5. Make clutch plays—Yes, that is straight from the keyboard of Capt. Obvious. But this has been a particularly acute problem in the division. You don’t have to look back any further than the Dallas game in December for evidence of that. It’s always the other team scoring the late touchdown (@NYG in 2012) or kicking the late field goal (Dallas 2X in 2011) to grab the win in the late going.

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Timeline

—It’s been 19 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 233 days until they play another one.

—Days until: NFL Combine 33; NFL free agency 53; Offseason workouts start 80

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Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Since the dismissal of former general manager Scot McCloughan, there's been little question who was in charge at Redskins Park. Unofficially anyway. 

Bruce Allen is back running the show, if he ever stopped, and will be at the center of the Redskins draft room and decision making process.

For weeks, Allen and Jay Gruden made clear that the entire Redskins front office - from scouts to the top brass - have input on draft grades. Those grades will determine what players the 'Skins take, and the team is unlikely to deviate from their draft board. 

On Monday, however, Washington director of college scouting Scott Campbell addressed the media and explained that when a decision needs to be made, it will be Allen's call. 

From Campbell:

The way we have the room when the draft is ongoing is we have Eric Schaffer and Alex Santos are constantly calling teams above us. They’re taking the phone calls from the other teams – also behind [us]. A lot of times per Bruce’s instructions, he’ll say, ‘Hey, you take these five teams. You take the next five teams. Start making calls.’ And then we’re receiving calls too at the same time. Once they get that information, they’ll tell the table in the front and say, ‘Hey, we can trade back for this, we can trade up for that.’ It would be me and Bruce and Jay saying ‘No, no, we’ve got enough guys there’ or say ‘I like these guys,’ or like, “Hey, there’s guys there.’ So it’s kind of a discussion amongst the people, and most times it’s Bruce saying, ‘Just tell them we’re not interested,’ or he says, ‘Get the league on the phone. We’re going to make that trade.’”

Campbell's comments reveal quite a lot. To start, it's interesting to know the roles of Schaffer and Santos during the draft. Both men carry a lot of impact in the team's personnel selection. Also, and it was fairly obvious since McCloughan's firing, but Jay Gruden's role continues to increase.

The biggest tell, however, is that ultimately Bruce Allen makes the decisions. It's not a surprise, but it is important to know. Officially.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

The Redskins may or may not have one of the most polarizing members of the 2017 draft class on their draft board. But they do believe that character counts.

Scott Campbell, the Redskins’ director of college scouting, would not say if  Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who is seen on video striking a woman and knocking her to the floor in an incident that occurred in July of 2014, is on the team’s board.

“We don't announce who's on and off the board for strategic reasons,” said Campbell on Monday at the team’s pre-draft news conference, saying that it’s the team’s policy.

He added that incidents like the one that Mixon was a part of do come into consideration.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

“Character is very important to me, it's very important to the Redskins,” said Campbell.

He explained that early in the scouting process, character issues are not taken into account.

“What I always told the scouts and how I was trained 30 years ago when I started is when you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don't factor in the character, you don't grade character, you grade talent,” said Campbell, who has been with the Redskins organization for 16 years. “You don't throw away somebody early who may have some redeeming quality or a part of the story you didn't know about.”

It’s later on that the scouts gather information on such incidents as problems with the law, failed drug tests, and other quarters of character.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often 

“Our scouts do a great job getting a lot of information,” said Campbell. “Some of the incidents you brought up happened after the season, at the combine, and just a few days ago. All those things are factored into an evaluation as they are gathered.”

With that information at hand, they start the process of elimination, deciding who fits and who doesn’t.

“When it comes close to the draft, you start weeding out all that, getting more information, deciding, OK, that guy's not our kind of guy, that guy's not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted but good luck to them,” said Campbell.

It seems like much more of a gut feel type of process than anything rigid. There is not much of a clue there as to whether or not the team will consider bringing Mixon aboard, who is inarguably one of the most talented running backs in the draft. The upside is that Mixon could provide a jolt to the team’s offense. The downside would be an immediate public relations hit. The team also must consider what will happen if Mixon were to run afoul of the NFL’s domestic abuse policy in the future, which calls for a six-game suspension for a first offense with penalties getting progressively worse if problems persist.

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.