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Need to Know: Five things to watch during Redskins rookie camp

Need to Know: Five things to watch during Redskins rookie camp

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 16, 75 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

Nickel coverage

Here are five things I’ll be looking for at today’s rookie camp at Redskins Park.

The top picks—It’s hard tell much about linemen in a no-pads practice session but it will be interesting to watch Brandon Scherff at work. I presume they will line him up on the right side because that’s where he’s going to be playing. Preston Smith will normally line up against the left side of the opposing offense so they may not go head to head much. But I have to think they’ll move Smith around. Tough to get a good feel for the defensive front and power-blocking linemen without pads but it’s possible to get a feel for their technique and how they handle themselves.

Receivers vs. defensive backs—My eyes will be on Jamison Crowder, who could push Andre Roberts for snaps at slot receiver at some point this year. Does he run routes and catch with his hands like an NFL receiver does? He should be able to get some separation against fellow rookies but how well does he attack the ball when a catch is contested? And Jay Gruden seemed to be pretty excited about sixth-round cornerback Tevin Mitchel, we’ll see what the coach likes about him.

Tryout quarterbacks—The Redskins had planned on having Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday there but he apparently is no longer interested in playing football. Now the Redskins will line up with Anthony Neyer of USC and Hutson Mason of Georgia behind center. Mason started all 13 games for the Bulldogs last year and completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 2,168 yards and 21 touchdowns. Neyer is considerably less experienced; he did not attempt a pass in a game for the Trojans. It will be interesting to see what they have.

Running backs—I’ll be most interested in the biggest running back there and in the smallest one. Matt Jones nearly has linebacker size, but how well does he move? And I expect Trey Williams, the 5-7, 195-lb. undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, to put on a pretty good show and outrun some defensive backs and make an impressive move or two. There also is a curiosity factor in seeing former Alabama QB Blake Sims try out as a running back. That’s where he played as a freshman for the Crimson Tide so he’s not totally unfamiliar with it.

Undrafted gems—It is likely that two or three undrafted players who are not on our radar right now will crack the 53-man roster when September rolls around. I could pull out a few names like Virginia Tech safety Detrick Bonner (a tryout player) or Duke offensive tackle Takoby Cofield. But it’s better just to watch and see who stands out enough to get a shot at the next round. That’s OTA’s starting the last week of this month.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Rookie minicamp, Redskins Park. Two sessions, 10:25 and 3:25, both open to the media. Jay Gruden will speak to media after the first practice. Players are available after both practices.

—It’s been 139 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 120 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 31; Redskins training camp starts 75; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 131

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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