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Need to Know: Five things we've learned about the Redskins so far

Need to Know: Five things we've learned about the Redskins so far

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, August 22, 12 days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 players.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:10; Player availability and Jay Gruden press conference after practice, approx. 3:15

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 225 days ago. It will be 21 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 27; Browns @ Redskins 41; Redskins @ Ravens 48

Five things we have learned about the Redskins so far

The Redskins have been through two and a half weeks of training camp and they have played two preseason games. While we have no definitive answers about the team yet, there are some things that we have learned:

The running game still needs work—Perhaps a lot of it. Matt Jones had a solid camp but two of his big issues, fumbling and injury, sprang up against the Jets. Rookies Keith Marshall and Robert Kelley haven’t done much yet and the team has an average of 3.3 yards per carry so far.

DeSean Jackson is ready for a big year—The veteran is entering a contract year and he is ready for it. Jackson has been one of the stars of camp, hauling in deep passes from Kirk Cousins on multiple occasions. He did not miss a practice or even take a traditional veteran’s da off, a very good sign for a player who struggled to stay healthy last year.

The defense could be improved—During the preseason last year the Redskins had trouble when the other team’s No. 1 quarterback was in the game. Not so this year. Against the Falcons and Matt Ryan the defense forced two three and outs. The Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to generate two three and outs and then six plays and a punt. Ryan and Fitzpatrick combined to complete 4 of 13 passes for 43 yards. That comes to a combined passer rating of 30.8. There is a small sample size warning here but it is an improvement.

Josh Norman could be worth the money—All big-money free agents say they are going to work to show that they deserved their mega paydays but Norman is putting his work ethic where his mouth is. He stays at least 30 minutes after practice working on his game. After one practice in Richmond he caught 500 passes from the JUGS machine. Then after working overtime in training camp he spent more time with the fans signing autographs and posing for pictures than just about any other player. All of that is no guarantee of success on the field but it does show that, unlike many other Redskins free agents, he is doing all he can to be successful.

There is a real competition at left guard—Many thought that Spencer Long was just a placeholder for Shawn Lauvao at left guard. But with just one preseason game to go to decide (the fourth one doesn’t count) Long pulls the duties most often associated with being the starter. He has had the majority of the first-team reps and he has started both preseason games. Lauvao may end up with the job but he still has some work to do to get it.

Su’a Cravens will be well worth the draft pick—The Redskins’ second-round pick has made some plays in practice and he was all over the field in Atlanta. He’s going to make some mistakes but he will more than make up for them with some big plays.

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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.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

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.