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Need to Know: How many wins to take the NFC East?

Need to Know: How many wins to take the NFC East?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 7, 21 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 179 days ago. It will be 67 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 8; Preseason opener @ Falcons 35; Final roster cut 58

The Redskins by the numbers

Last year, for the second time since 2011, a team won the NFC East with fewer than 10 wins. Back in 2011 it was the Giants who claimed the division with a 9-7 record. There are two things to note about that season. One was that they were outscored by the opposition on the season; the other is that they won the Super Bowl.

Last year it was the 9-7 Redskins who won the division. They did outscore the opposition but they went one and done on the playoffs.

Will the NFC East have another down year in 2016? How many wins will it take to win the division title? Let’s dust off the $100 in imaginary casino chips and place bets on the possible outcomes.

Eight or fewer wins, $10—This actually isn’t that hard a scenario to paint. The Eagles and Giants suffer from adjustment pains with their new coaches. In Dallas, Romo gets injured again and/or the defense is a steaming hot mess. With the Redskins, Kirk Cousins turns out to be who many thought he was before the 2015 season. Nobody can get anything going and the Cowboys and Redskins both finish 8-8 and sort out the playoff spot with tiebreakers.

Nine wins, $30—A carbon copy of last year, anyone? After facing the AFC West last year, everyone takes on the AFC North, a tougher, more balanced division assuming the Ravens bounce back after an injury plagued season. It’s not easy going against the NFC North, either. In short, I envision a lot of NFCE teams being road underdogs outside of the division. If a team goes 4-2 in the division they will have to fight for another five wins outside of the NFC East.

10 wins, $40—Despite a difficult schedule, I think this could be where Washington lands. The question is, will Dallas or the Eagles be able to catch them here? Sorry, Giants, but I don’t think that Eli to OBJ is enough to get you above .500. The Cowboys will be able to score and the Eagles have the best defense in the division.

11 or more wins, $20—This used to be the norm in the division. From 2000-2009 the division winner had 11 wins or more nine times. From 2010 through last year only the 2014 Cowboys, who went 12-4, took it with more than 10 wins.

How many wins do you think it will take to win the East? Let me know in the comments or vote in the poll!

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Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 23, 21 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 142 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 110 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 21
—Training camp starts (7/27) 65
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 79

Who will surprise in 2017?

As OTAs start today, all 90 players on the roster have something to work for. But few dozen of them don’t have to work for a job. These are players who either because of their contracts or draft status or importance to the team who are locks to make the 53-man roster. Here are the 2017 roster locks.

Offense (18)

Backs: QB’s Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, and Nate Sudfeld; RB’s Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine.

I’ve had Sudfeld on the bubble ever since the Redskins drafted him but he’s past the point where they are going to give up on him and risk putting him on the practice squad. A year ago, Kelley was on the outside of the bubble and now he is a mortal lock.

WR/TE: WR’s Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder; TEs Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Receivers Maurice Harris and Robert Davis are close to being locks but there is a lot of competition going on in the bottom of the depth chart. Jeremy Sprinkle is likely to make it as a tight end but he may have to beat out special teams stalwart Niles Paul.

O-line: OT’s Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, G’s Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio; C Spencer Long

You can argue about Lauvao but the fact that the team did not draft or sign serious competition for him tells me he is safe. Someone who can back up a center is a lock to make the roster. That could be sixth-round pick Chase Roullier or a veteran plucked off waivers.

Defense (18)

D-line: Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Jonathan Allen, Anthony Lanier, Ziggy Hood

Lanier will still be a project but after keeping him last year the Redskins will hang on to him again to see if he can develop into a pass-rushing threat. Matt Ioannidis could be the sixth defensive lineman but he could get beaten out.

Linebackers: OLB’s Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson; ILB’s Will Compton, Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Trent Murphy will be suspended for the first four games so he won’t be on the initial 53. Martrell Spaight is close to being a lock but competition will be fierce for that last inside linebacker spot.

Backs: CB’s Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar; Safeties Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

Five or possibly six positions are up for grabs here. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau is a lock to be with the organization but he could be on the PUP list.  

Specialists (3): LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way, K Dustin Hopkins

It would be very surprising if they brought in competition for Hopkins.

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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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE WITH PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM

He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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