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Need to Know: How much will Jones line up with Redskins' first team?

Need to Know: How much will Jones line up with Redskins' first team?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 10, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

We’re a shade less than three weeks away from the start of training camp and I’m starting to review my “what to look for” notes. Here are five of them on the offense side of the ball, I’ll look at some on defense in the next few days.

Will the walking wounded be in action? Trent Williams (ankle), Jordan Reed (knee), and Morgan Moses (foot) missed most or all of OTAs and minicamp with injuries. Although we got the usual happy talk that they should be fine for camp, I don’t believe it until I see them lining up in pads for 11 on 11 work. Missing Williams, of course, would be a major problem. They have kind of gotten used to playing without Reed given his injury problems and Moses is slated for a backup role.

Does Robert Griffin III continue the progress he displayed in the spring? He was not razor sharp in what we saw but it looked like most of what was wrong was fairly easily correctable. However, the eye can be deceiving when they are playing in shorts and helmets. The speed and intensity pick up when the pads go on and we’ll see if Griffin continues to look good.

Who wins the backup quarterback battle? From what we saw in OTAs and minicamp Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins were fairly even with Cousins perhaps holding a slight edge. They also seemed to split the reps with the second team. But the media wasn’t there for all of the OTAs and it will be good to get a day-to-day picture of how they are performing in pads.

How much does Matt Jones line up with first offense? The third-round pick was in there with the first team early and often this spring. That could have been in part because Alfred Morris doesn’t need that much work and Jay Gruden repeatedly said that Morris was still the primary running back. But I want to see it and if Jones gets a lot of time with the first team in practice I have to think he’ll get a lot of snaps when the games count.

How is the revamped right side of the line doing? Spencer Long has scant NFL experience and Brandon Scherff has none. The will be counted on to upgrade the pass protection on that side and handle run blocking on a team that is tends to be right handed in the running game (144 rushes to right, 120 to the left). They looked fine in shorts but, again, pads will reveal much, much more about their progress.

Timeline

—It’s been 194 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 65 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 20; Preseason opener @ Browns 34; final cuts 57

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.