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Need to Know: How much change on the Redskins O-line?

Need to Know: How much change on the Redskins O-line?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 12, 63 days before the start of NFL free agency.

Five thoughts on the 2015 Redskins

—We won’t know if the 2015 Redskins had a good season until we see a good chunk of the 2016 season. In isolation, a 9-7 season with no wins over a team that finished with a winning record and a playoff spot by virtue of winning a very down NFC East is not a great accomplishment. But it they are able to consolidate their gains and build on this year and win double-digit games next year then 2015 or at least post a winning record and content for a playoff spot will have been a very valuable stepping stone. Back-to-back playoff seasons have eluded this franchise since 1991-1992. But if they slide back to six wins or worse then 2015 will have been a fluke of a weak schedule and a weak division.

—Both Colt McCoy and Jay Gruden had high praise for quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. McCoy said that he was the team “MVP” even though he wasn’t a player. Gruden said that his presence “was a big benefit to all of us.” The more I look at the quarterback play this year compared to last year and how much smoother the whole offensive operation was in 2015, I have to wonder why in the world they came up with the idea that they could do without a QB coach in 2014.

—The position I am going to watch very closely is the offensive line. Based on pass protection you could make a case that they should stand pat. But looking at how poorly the run game went, wholesale changes could be in order. On top of that, Gruden and Scot McCloughan need to decide if they are going put Kory Lichtensteiger and Shaun Lauvao, both of whom missed a good chunk of the season with injuries, back in as starters. It will be an interesting puzzle to put together.

—Will DeSean Jackson be back? This is a tough one. In 2015 he was a rare weapon at times and he can be a waste of well over half a million dollars of cap space per game at other times. Cutting him would save a net of $6.75 million in 2016 cap space. What Gruden and McCloughan will have to figure out is how much the presence of Jackson had to do with Kirk Cousins scalding-hot finish to the season. Because if he wasn’t providing some benefits beyond his 30 receptions for 328 yards and five touchdowns for his $9.25 million cap hit then there needs to be a serious cost-benefit analysis applied to his situation. And I don’t want to hear that he was injured; if he hadn’t blown off a lot of OTAs and hadn’t taken it easy in camp after suffering a mild shoulder sprain he probably would not have suffered the hamstring pull a few plays into the season (that’s by his own admission, by the way).

—I’m somewhat skeptical of talk that DeAngelo Hall will be a starting safety next year. He just turned 32 and he has missed more games due to injuries in the last two years (20) than he has played (12). His salary jumps up to $4.25 million next year, giving him a cap hit of just over $5 million. Given that confidence in his ability to be able to make it for the majority of the 16 games has to be fairly low it’s hard to justify that salary cap expense. Perhaps a redone contract with a lower base salary and some per-game roster bonuses would be a better fit.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game two days ago. It will be about 243 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL combine 43; NFL free agency starts 63; 2016 NFL draft 107

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle 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.