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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.

In case you missed it 

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NFL Power Rankings: Serious contenders already starting to emerge

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USA Today Sports

NFL Power Rankings: Serious contenders already starting to emerge

The NFL season is already one-eighth of the way done. That's a bit sad, isn't it?

Playing two games in professional football is roughly equivalent to playing 10 in the NBA or 20 in MLB. That means two things: 1) The season flies by, and 2) Contenders begin proving themselves early.

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

This year is no exception. So far, those trending toward the top of CSN's rankings have looked dominant, and figure to be in the hunt all season long. Those at the bottom, meanwhile? Hey, it's never too early to start doing some draft prep.

Wondering where your team is (and how far Dallas fell, because that's something everyone enjoys)? Check out the link above or below.

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

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Five things that aren't being talked about enough from the Redskins-Rams game

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CSN/Bob Youngentob

Five things that aren't being talked about enough from the Redskins-Rams game

In Sunday's Best Buddies Bowl, Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins came out on top versus Sean McVay and his band of former Redskins coaches.

But while you've read and listened to plenty about Ryan Grant's crunchtime catch and Mason Foster's sketchy but effective medical practices, there are some other storylines that are being overlooked.

Here are five things not being talked about enough from Washington's Week 2's win:

1) The Burgundy and Gold again avoided yellow flags

Have you noticed that the table in your TV room isn't dented as much, or your remote control isn't dinged up like it normally is at this stage of the NFL calendar?

That may be because of the Redskins' improved discipline in 2017, which means you aren't slamming things in frustration as often. Washington was penalized just four times in the Coliseum Sunday, moving their season total up to six through two weeks. Only the Dolphins and Bucs have been flagged fewer times, and they've of course played one less contest than the 'Skins.

MORE: SU'A CRAVENS OFFICIALLY WON'T RETURN THIS YEAR

2) Preston Smith answers the call for more production for second straight game

Preston Smith's second sack in 2016 didn't come until Week 10. Thanks to his takedown of Jared Goff on Sunday, Smith has reached that number already in 2017.

The third-year pass rusher is one of the handful of players that, if he shines, can really change the Redskins' fortunes this season. So far, he's wreaking havoc like he should be, and the fact that he's done it two Sundays in a row is particularly exciting because consistency is something he's lacked as a pro thus far.

3) Josh Norman's forced fumble

Probably because it preceded everyone's favorite red zone call — the always reliable fade — Josh Norman's forced fumble is being forgotten about. It shouldn't be.

On LA's first offensive play following Washington's opening TD, Norman jarred the ball loose from Todd Gurley, and Terrell McClain covered it up. And while the subsequent drive ended in a field goal, No. 24's forced turnover gave his offense an extra possession that led to three more points on the board. That's enormous.

4) Montae Nicholson's involvement

Montae Nicholson has flown up the depth chart after being selected in the fourth round this past April, and against the Rams, he appeared on 26 out of 50 snaps on defense. That's after seeing the field only three times on D in Week 1.

Nicholson is aggressive and very gifted physically, but most felt the Redskins grabbed him far too early in the draft. He's making their investment in him look smart, however, and with Su'a Cravens now done for 2017, he'll only be asked to do more.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN GIVES LENGTHY INJURY UPDATE

5) Some poor examples of tackling by two corners

Not everything was positive in the victory, so not everything in this post can be positive. So let's look at two important misses by Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland.

The two corners, who've both been much better in coverage than they were last season, each whiffed on Gurley in run support, as the running back hurdled them on two separate plays after each went in low and with their heads down. Washington will be facing plenty more talented backs in the coming 14 games, and those backs will continue to expose poor tackling technique.

Breeland, Fuller and others must get better here, instead of half-heartedly trying to take out the opponent's legs.