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Need to Know: Focus on running backs as Redskins face Falcons

Need to Know: Focus on running backs as Redskins face Falcons

ATLANTA—Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 11, the day the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline
Today's schedule: Redskins @ Falcons 7 p.m., Georgia Dome, telecast on CSN Mid Atlantic

—The Redskins last played a game 214 days ago. It will be 32 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 8; Final roster cut 23; Cowboys @ Redskins 38
Focus on running backs in Atlanta

For the first time this decade, the focus of the Redskins’ preseason will be not on the quarterback but the player to whom he will be handing the ball off.

To refresh your memories on the quarterback circuses situations:

—In 2010 there was the arrival of Donovan McNabb.

—The next year we had the John Beck-Rex Grossman competition with Mike Shanahan staking his reputation on the success of the duo.

—Then in 2012 there was RG3 mania and every move of the second overall draft pick was under the microscope.

—The drama of Griffin’s recovery from a knee injury consumed the next year.

—Then in 2014 it was the arrival of Jay Gruden and questions over weather Griffin could be the answer in a West Coast offense.

—Finally, last year we had an unannounced QB competition, Griffin’s ugly performance against the Lions and Kirk Cousins getting elevated into the top spot.

This year, it’s the steady Cousins as the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback. His $20 million contract is enough to guarantee that nothing he does during the preseason will cause him to lose that job.

But there is plenty of mystery at the running back position:

—Second-year player Matt Jones is the starter and he probably won’t lose that job in August. But he needs to protect the football and improve on the 3.4-yard per carry average he had last year if he is going to sell Gruden and the fan base on his ability to hold the job the while season.

Chris Thompson is No. 2 on the depth chart but he is more the third down back than he is an alternative should Jones get injured or falter. It will be interesting to see what happens if they feed him the ball several times in a row to see if he can take some pounding.

Keith Marshall is where we get to the real mystery. He is a rare combination of size and speed but he lasted until the seventh round of the draft because he was unable to stay healthy at Georgia. He should see considerable action against the Falcons tonight and we’ll see about his ability and his durability. They want to know if he can be the No. 2 running back.

—Mack Brown should also get some carries. He seems to be a long shot after spending some of last year on the practice squad.

—The mystery man is Robert Kelley, an undrafted rookie. He looks good in no pads in the spring. But he has struggled in pads in Richmond. Kelley at least has to present a case to be able to make the practice squad. But it’s clear that his star, such as it was, has faded and he need to have a good game in order to become relevant in the running back conversation.

So there you have it. Five players, probably three jobs a stake and another one or two on the practice squad. It starts tonight in Atlanta.

Tandler on Twitter

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive 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.

Defensive line

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor
Other roster locks: Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier
On the bubble: Matt Ioannidis, A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu

How the defensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: The addition of Allen is a boost but the losses of Chris Baker (free agent) and Ricky Jean Francois (released) can’t be overlooked. Second-year players Lanier and Ioannidis should improve and Hood will be a rotational player instead of a starter, a role better suited to his ability. Andi new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will get the most out of them. The key to improvement will be McClain and McGee. If the two free agents live up to their contracts the line should be better than it was last year. If not, they will struggle again. Slightly better

To the rest of the NFL: But let’s not mistake an improved Redskins D-line for one of the better units in the league. While it’s tough to compare a 3-4 line to a 4-3 front, it still would be quite a leap for the Redskins to move from the bottom of the pack to the lower middle. Tomsula inherited a multi-year rebuild; one draft pick and a couple of free agents are not going to transform the line into a force. Bottom third

RELATED: 2017 OUTLOOK: WIDE RECEIVER

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Since I used his name in conjunction with that of Dave Butz above, that has to be Allen. He has both the physical ability and the mental makeup to be a very, very good one.

Most to prove: Nearly every player on the line has something to prove but only Phil Taylor has been out of football for the last two years. He has worked his way up from a brief retirement to a futures contract with the Redskins to a roster long shot to a probable starter. But he still only has 21 preseason snaps under his belt and he has a long way to go before he reestablishes himself as a legitimate NFL player.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: The only rookie with a realistic shot at making the roster is Allen. His Nick Saban-Alabama background has him well prepared to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a top draft pick and the expectations that come with playing in a place like Washington.

Bottom line: The best-case scenario here is that Taylor anchors the line in the middle, Allen’s learning curve is short, Lanier contributes six sacks in a nickel role, and the rest of the players make up a good rotation. Anything more would be a big bonus. Anything less would be back to being one of the worst defenses against the run.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Phil Taylor:

Well, I’ll tell you, I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose. He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain 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.

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Ranking the best Redskins Players to follow on Twitter in 2017

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CSNMA

Ranking the best Redskins Players to follow on Twitter in 2017

The 2017 NFL regular season is almost here. When Week 1 arrives, you will need to be ready for the 16-game grind. There is no room for error.

Following the NFL is not a job solely for the couch potatoes anymore.

It's for the bloggers, keyboard warriors and —sadly — Twitter trolls.

But that's what makes modern day sports consumption so much fun. The players are part of the conversation too. 

With the preseason wrapping up, CSN is here to provide you with a guide to the Redskins players on Twitter. 

Before we get to the breakdown, be sure to follow us — @CSNRedskins — on Twitter. We're pretty dang good too. 

Best Redskins Players to Follow on Twitter for 2017

Su'a Cravens — @Sua_Cravens (128K followers) — The second-year safety is arguably the Redskins' most proficient and outspoken player on Twitter. He responds with fans, doesn't hold back, and hits you with a ton of random thoughts. Did we mention that he speaks his mind, like, a lot? If you could only follow one player on the Redskins, we'd suggest you follow Su'a. 15/10, would follow.

Will Compton — @_willcompton (40.4K Followers) — Your girlfriend's favorite Redskin (Sorry, Ryan Kerrigan), is one of the most active players on Twitter. He has over 18,000 tweets, ranging from jokes, highlights, opinion and even some political discourse. He doesn't #StickToSports, much to the chagrin of Twitter trolls everywhere. But he does love to clown on his teammates when he get's a chance.

A.J. Francis@AJFrancis410 (11K followers) — The former Terp is a fan favorite and is as active on Twitter as any player on the team. If he's not promoting his rap album, he's tweeting about pro wrasslin', sports, movies, and — well — everything else. A personal favorite around these parts. Highly recommended. 

Josh Norman — @J_No24 (193K followers) — Josh Norman is outspoken on the field, at the podium and on Twitter. But he'll only clap back if you muddy up his timeline with ignorance. Otherwise, he's all about giving back, being fun, and soccer. Lots of soccer.

Vernon Davis — @VernonDavis85 (1.95 Million followers) — The veteran TE and former Terp is the unequivocal leader in the clubhouse when it comes to followers. He has almost has more followers than the rest of his team ... combined. Davis' account gives you a behind-the-scenes pass to his life, his goodwill efforts and life as a star NFL player. He's an ambassador, not just for the Redskins, but for pro athletes.

Junior Galette — @JovaisG (54.2K followers) — Galette has yet to make an impact on the field due to injury, but he's one of the most frequent users of Twitter on the Redskins. Come for the volume, stay for the #RealTalk. Galette is a high-volume user who doesn't mice words. It might not always be SFW, but it sure will be entertaining. 

Niles Paul — @NilesP_ (64.7K followers) — Niles Paul tweets. A lot. If you're one of those people who hates it when your timeline gets flooded by one person, the Redskins TE might drive you crazy, but his Twitter account is worth the follow. He's a wild man. He doesn't pull punches and shares every meme under the sun. 

Phil Taylor — @PhilTaylor98 (53.4K followers) — The DMV native and newest addition to the Redskins' defensive line is an all-around good dude and avid user of Twitter. He shares content, keeps you update on what he's up to and really just knows how to use Twitter properly. Not many pro athletes know how to, but Big Phil does. 

Mason Foster — @Mason_Foster (26.8K followers) — The reason I really like following Foster? He tweets like a sports fan. He watches games and tweets about it. It's not a difficult science, but it's nice to see that an NFL player is just like me.

DJ Swearinger — @JungleBoi_Swagg (72.3K followers) — If you want to stay updated on all things Redskins from a social media standpoint, the Redskins' offseason free agent signing is worth the follow. He RT's a ton of social content and is always willing to dish it out. 

Tress Way — @Tress_Way (14K followers) — Tress Way is a very nice dude. In fact, he might be THE NICEST dude. He's friendly, funny, just all-around pleasant. He also likes trivia (He created his own board game), which is a HUGE PLUS. 

Kirk Cousins — @KirkCousins8 (172K followers) — The Redskins' star QB isn't a frequent user of Twitter, but as the team's most high-profile player, his 140 characters carry weight.  He's honest, thoughtful and surprisingly self-depracating.

Joey Mbu — @NotoriousMbu (3.4K followers) — The DMV-born nose tackle mixes it up with fans and reporters. Not in a bad way, tho. He interacts, he engages. He shares his opinions. He does a good job. 

Bashaud Breeland@Bree2Land6 (24.2K followers) —You know what you're getting with Breeland. He's a firery guy and shoots from the hip. You don't want to hear it, but you probably should. 

Terrelle Pryor — @TerrellePryor (171K followers) — Nothing flashy about Pryor on Twitter, which is basically the exact opposite of his on-field work. But he's active, which is a major plus. He provides content, shares with fans and looks to interact. 

Nick Sundberg — @NickSundberg (17.1K followers) — Good dude who is good at Twitter. That sounds like a lame description, but it's written with the utmost sincerity. 

Zach Brown — @ZachBrown_55 (17.6K followers) — The new linebacker doesn't #StickToSports but he also does enjoy tweeting about sports. He's got versatillity, both on and off the field. 

Nico Marley — @Nico2Marley (6.3K followers) — Hey did you know Nico Marley is related to Bob Marley? 

Montae Nicholson — @MontaeNicholson (2,100 followers) — Here's an under-the-radar follow for Redskins fans. Nicolson doesn't tweet a lot, but he does keep his RT hand strong on viral videos, reaction GIFs and this video about a BOUNCY HOUSE!

 

How to follow the rest of the Redskins on Twitter:
Jonathan Allen - @jonallen95
Ryan Anderson - @Anderson_365
Chris Carter - @ccarter43
Tyler Catalina - @Tycat72
Robert Davis - @Robert_D13
Josh Doctson - @JDoc_son
Josh Evans - @JAY_E_9
Deshazor Everett - @DEverett22
Kendall Fuller - @KeFu11er
Kedric Golston - @Golston64
DeAngelo Hall - @DeAngeloHall23
Maurice Harris - @Maurice3Harris
Matt Hazel - @MattHazel_
Josh Holsey - @HeyItsJholsey
Tevin Homer - @tevinhomer3
Dustin Hopkins - @Dahop5
Matt Ionnaidis - @MattIoannidis
Levern Jacobs - @LevernJacobs
Matt Jones - @mattjonesrb
Rob Kelley - @Fatrob32
Ryan Kerrigan - @RyanKerrigan91
Arie Kouandjio - @AKouandjio74
Anthony Lanier - @Tspoon90
Shaun Lauvao - @Uce_Lauvao
Spencer Long - @slong_61
Terrell McClain - @McclainTerrell
Colt McCoy - @ColtMcCoy
Stacy McGee - @BigBuckMcGee92
Fabian Moreau - @fabianmoreau10
Trent Murphy - @TMurphy_93
Vinston Painter - @big_paint
Zach Pascal - @ZachPascal6
Semaje Perine - @samajp32
Ondre Pipkins - @PeeWeePipkins 
Brian Quick - @Bquick_SC
Jordan Reed - @Real_JordanReed
Brandon Scherff - @bscherff68
Preston Smith - @PrestonSmith94
Martrell Spaight - @spaight1
Jeremy Sprinkle - @sprinkle_memane
Nate Sudfeld - @NateSudfeld
Chris Thompson - @ChrisThompson_4
Ron Thompson Jr. - @RonCuse13
Lynden Trail - @LyndenTrail7
Trent Williams - @TrentW71