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Need to Know: How much will the Redskins defense improve?

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Need to Know: How much will the Redskins defense improve?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 3, 25 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. It will be 71 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 12; Preseason opener @ Falcons 39; Final roster cut 62

Fan questions: How much will the defense improve?

I figured I would take these two Facebook questions together since they are closely related.

When talking about improvement we have to look at last year and see how the defense played. I believe they were better than the popular fan perception said they were. Yes, they were “ranked” 28th but that just looks at yards allowed, at best a rough measure of the quality of a defense. They were 13th in red zone efficiency, 12th when it came to preventing touchdowns in goal to go situations and 8th in takeaways.

Those numbers are a big part of why they were 17th in points allowed. Due to their playmaking with the takeaways and coming together in key situations I'd put them in the lower middle of the pack; not awful but with plenty of room for improvement.

They certainly can get a lot better against the run. They were 26th in rushing yards per game and 31st in yards allowed per carry. Improvement in the defense will start there.

If they do get better against the run they are going to have to do it without a significant upgrade in talent on the defensive line. They added some interesting players in free agent Kendall Reyes, who worked with the first team at right end a lot during the offseason practices that were open to the media, and draft pick Matt Ioannidis. Trent Murphy, who was moved from outside linebacker, will contribute. But none of those players is going to transform the defensive line into a run-stuffing machine.

And they will have to try to get better against the run without a true 3-4 nose tackle. They let Terrance Knighton walk as a free agent and they don’t have a replacement.

I don't want to pin all of the team's rushing defense woes on the line. They allowed 55 runs of 10 yards or longer; only three teams allowed more. That tells me that when ball carriers got past the first line of defense they weren't getting much support from the second level. That needs to improve as well.

They might get better against the run with a second year in Joe Barry’s defense but I still see opposing offenses testing them early and often.

I do, however, think the pass defense will improve. They were 25th in yards allowed per pass play and that should get better. They are adding two potentially transformational talents in free agent CB Josh Norman and pass rusher Junior Galette, who is back from an injury. Another year of growth for OLB Preston Smith and CB Bashaud Breeland could give the defense two more Pro Bowl caliber talents. Both the pass rush and the coverage will be better.

Since teams pass more often than they run some improvement in pass defense will go a long way towards making the overall defense better. They are a couple of drafts away from being anything close to dominant but there should be improvement.

Feel free to hit me up with your questions at Facebook.com/RealRedskins or on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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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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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

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