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Need to Know: How many new starters on the Redskins' offensive line?

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Need to Know: How many new starters on the Redskins' offensive line?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 10, 81 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

Question of the day

A few days a week 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.

It's Sunday so I'm going to empty out the mailbag and answer some that don't require long answers. Let's get started with the Quick Hits:

 

Although I wouldn’t expect the Redskins to discuss their Plan B at quarterback should they not renew Griffin’s contract I have to think that it has been discussed internally. And if they decide to withdraw Griffin’s option and not negotiate another deal with him, it’s back on the QB carousel. I’d have to think that after taking a quick breather after the 2015 draft the personnel department will start work on 2016 draft–eligible quarterbacks like Cardale Jones of Ohio State and Connor Cook of Michigan State. They will look at potential free agents but that list usually resembles the proverbial waiver wire from hell. In short, if they need a quarterback they will have to keep on trying until they find one.

There’s no question about Culliver; his contract and his ability have him locked into a starting job, possibly following the opposition’s No. 1 receiver from side to side. Breeland was good enough last year to warrant having the first crack at the other starting job. DeAngelo Hall is not going to get cut but you can’t rule out him starting the season on the PUP list (yes, we’ve seen him do a backflip but backpedaling and cutting are a different deal). I have heard that Amerson realizes that he needs to take preparation more seriously so he could be the nickel corner. I’m not sure where Tracy Porter and Tevin Mitchel fit in, we’ll have to see how it plays out in the preseason.

I got a similar question from @deseanparker20, his centering on Phillip Thomas so we’ll combine them there with a quick look at the safety spot. As of right now Jeron Johnson and Dashon Goldson are the starting strong and free safeties, respectively. If Thomas is going to challenge for a spot it will be at strong. He got a few starts last year after Brandon Meriweather’s season ended early with an injury. Thomas was spotty at best and they brought in Johnson as a free agent. Certainly Thomas should have a shot at the job. Johnson signed a relatively modest deal, appropriate for a player with one career start in four years in the league. It is unclear who will back up Goldson and there doesn’t appear to be a succession plan in place for the 31-year-old whose salary balloons to $7 million next year. We will see if Goldson’s eventual replacement surfaces this year or if it will wait until 2016.

I suppose anything is possible, James, but an 80 percent turnover of the starters on the offensive line doesn’t seem very likely. Trent Williams and Shawn Lauvao are locked in on the left side. Yes, Lauvao wasn’t very good for a good chunk of last year but he did get better as the year went on and power blocking is more suited to his strengths. It’s likely that Kory Lichtensteiger is safe even though he’s not an ideal fit in the revamped scheme. On the right side, one change is certain, as Brandon Scherff will start at right tackle. Although I’m not ruling out the possibility that Chris Chester holds on to his right guard job, I think the chances are pretty good that Spencer Long can push past him on the depth chart. So, the chances are that there will be two new starters not four. As they say, James, half a loaf is better than none.

Timeline

—It’s been 133 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 126 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 38; Redskins training camp starts 81; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 137

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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True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on their roster this year.

Rich Tandler: True

The Redskins added a tight end to a roster that had four experienced players at the position already on it. But, make no mistake, fifth-round selection Jeremy Sprinkle was not a “luxury” pick.

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both stone cold locks to make the roster. They are the pass catchers who are expected to combine for perhaps 1,500 yards and at least a dozen touchdowns.

The third tight end could be Niles Paul, a veteran who has battled injuries the last two years. He appears to be healthy and if he stays that way he can play tight end, be the fullback on the six or eight snaps per game the Redskins use one, and be a strong contributor on special teams.

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Sprinkle can fill a role that those three can’t—blocking tight end. Jay Gruden had to put tackle Ty Nsekhe on the field when they needed a three-tight end set. That made the job of the defense easier with essentially four eligible receivers to deal with.

With a well-defined role for each player, it would make perfect sense for the Redskins to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster rather than the customary three. Of course, if they carry four at tight end they have to go with one fewer player elsewhere. They will find a spot.

Running back seems to be the logical place to go for that spot. If they keep, say, Mack Brown as the fourth running back, you then have a player without a defined role. He’s the backup to the backup to the backup. Sure, he can do special teams, but not as well as Paul.

Perhaps if you want to keep Brown you let go of Paul with his recent injury history and his $2.2 million cap number in mind. Or you can let Sprinkle get some seasoning on the practice squad.

But I think that the Redskins drafted Sprinkle with the plan to keep four tight ends. If they are going to go with their best, most versatile 53 that is what they will do.

JP Finlay: False

Man, this is tough. If you asked me this in May, I thought Niles Paul would be caught in a roster crunch. After watching the guys on the field through OTAs and minicamp, this decision becomes much harder. 

Paul played well in those sessions, showed no rust from the injuries and impressed regardless what quarterback he was paired up with. Sprinkle looked like a rookie with a lot to learn, and while he's really big, he still seemed like his upper body could fill out in the NFL. 

In a vacuum it's easy to say the Redskins should keep four tight ends. Like Tandler laid out above, Reed and Davis are roster locks. Paul can help in a ton of spots, and Sprinkle should evolve into the blocking tight end for the jumbo set. 

But NFL rosters aren't made in vacuums. To keep a fourth tight end, the Redskins will have to make a cut, and Tandler suggested Mack Brown could be the guy. I don't see that happening. Jay Gruden and Randy Jordan speak glowingly about Brown. 

This will be a fun roster spot to watch, but in June, before any injuries or the competition of training camp, I think the Redskins keep Reed, Davis and Paul. Then they really, really hope they can sneak the rookie Sprinkle to their practice squad.

Washington has not kept three healthy tight ends on their roster in the last few seasons, and if that trend continues, Sprinkle would make the NFL roster before the end of the year. Keeping four tight ends just isn't a luxury the Redskins have, especially keeping three quarterbacks like they're expected to do. 

Tandler-Finlay True or False series: Leading rusher | Leading receiver

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Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Much can be learned looking to the past, at least that's what thousands of college students hear every fall when they sit down for History 101. Assuming the premise is true, perhaps something can be learned from looking back at Bruce Allen's tenure across the NFL and the quarterbacks that started for those teams. 

A refresher: Allen worked with the Raiders and Bucs before coming to the Redskins. Allen started with the Raiders in 1995, and worked his way up through the front office, earning the NFL's Executive of the Year award in 2002. He left the Raiders to work with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2004, after the pair experienced much success together with the Raiders. Tampa fired Allen in 2008, and he came to work with the Redskins in 2010. 

His tenure with the Raiders showcased the best QB find in his file: Rich Gannon. Before coming to Oakland, Gannon earned the journeyman title, starting 58 games over 11 seasons for the Chiefs, Vikings and, yes, the Redskins.

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Once Gannon and Gruden worked together, everything clicked. The Raiders started winning games and Gannon started to pile up impressive offensive stats. He was the quarterback when Oakland lost the infamous 'Tuck Rule' playoff game against New England, and won an NFL MVP award in 2002 while guiding the Raiders to the Super Bowl (which they lost to a Jon Gruden coached Tampa team). 

Gannon was a find, undoubtedly. Beyond that, Allen's resume on quarterbacks gets pretty ugly.

In fact, Kirk Cousins would probably rank as the second best QB of all Bruce Allen teams. In Tampa, the quarterback position was a revolving door, and included luminaries (sarcasm font) like Chris Simms, Brian Griese and Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs added Jeff Garcia in 2007, and he had some success, but was 37 years old at that point. 

Once he got to Washington, the Redskins trotted out a collection of subpar passers like a past-his-prime Donovan McNabb, a-never-actually-good John Beck and Rex Grossman. Rex needs no introduction. 

In 2012, the Redskins quarterback fortunes changed. The team made a very aggressive trade to draft Robert Griffin III. RG3 was supposed to be the franchise savior, and for much of his rookie season, that plan seemed to be working. 

Injuries and infighting ruined Griffin's time with the Redskins, and opened the door for 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to emerge. 

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Now, in 2017, Cousins has twice broken the Redskins single season passing yards record and cemented himself as a quality NFL starter. His long-term future with the organization remains uncertain, as Cousins will play this season on a one-year contract and the prospect of a multi-year contract seems slim. 

It's hard to draw too many conclusions looking the quarterbacks throughout Allen's tenure. Before Gannon in Oakland, the Raiders tried a variety of other journeyman QBs (Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George). One could argue they got lucky with Gannon, or that the organization brought out his best tools. Either way it's a positive grade.

In Tampa, the results look much worse. On paper, it seemed the Bucs tried to get cheap, available quarterbacks and make them work, believing strongly in their offensive system. It didn't work. 

In Washington, particularly during the Grossman/Beck season, it seemed the Redskins tried a similar approach. That ended in 2012 with the trade for RG3. The Redskins paid up big time, in the form of draft picks. 

Now it's arguable that a deal with Cousins can even be reached, but if that does happen, it will be because the Redskins pay up. Recent history doesn't suggest it, but this situation has never presented itself either. Cousins is a fourth-round pick that emerged after a few volatile seasons to establish himself as a Top 15 NFL starter.

There's no lesson for that in the history books. 

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