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Need to Know: How many changes on the Redskins' OL in 2015?

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Need to Know: How many changes on the Redskins' OL in 2015?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 15, three days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

This is going to make people mad so I’ll get it out of the way right off the bat—the coaching staff does not believe that the offensive line is the five-alarm dumpster fire that most fans seem to believe it is. Yes, there were too many sacks but the blame for many of them was on the quarterbacks, particularly Robert Griffin III and Colt McCoy, and the tight ends and running backs. As far as running the ball, they averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which is the NFL average.

Before you go straight down to the comments second and start angrily pounding on your keyboard, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes, even though every starter that finished the 2014 season is still under contract (technically, Tom Compton is an exclusive rights free agent but he is likely to be back since he has no other options). It’s just not going to be the wholesale changes that many out there want.

Trent Williams is not going anywhere. At under 300 pounds, Kory Lichtensteiger may not be the big body that Scot McCloughan would like to see in there in the long term. But with other issues throughout the roster and as well as Steiger played last year replacing him is a low priority.

In between those two is Shawn Lauvao and he is likely to maintain his starting job. He is more comfortable in a power-blocking scheme and indications are that the Redskins will switch away from being a zone-based team to more of that power blocking. Besides, cutting him would create $3 million in dead cap so he will stick around another year.

It is the right side where changes seem most likely to take place. It’s hard to see them paying 32-year-old Chris Chester $4 million in salary and bonuses and have Spencer Long, last year’s third-round draft pick, ride the pine for another year. If they aren’t confident in Long, they likely will find someone else who is younger and cheaper in this year’s draft.

Does Compton start at right tackle? He’ll be in the mix but I think that either a mid-range free agent or Morgan Moses, if his Lisfranc injury heals in time for camp, could end up starting in September.

What about draft picks? I don’t see them taking an offensive lineman with their first-round pick. If they take a guard or tackle in the second, he could have a shot at starting. Any linemen picked from the third round on is likely to spend the year watching and learning, barring an injury.

Timeline

—It’s been 49 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 210 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 23; Redskins offseason workouts start 64; 2015 NFL Draft 74

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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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”