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Need to Know: How will the Redskins' safety situation shake out?

Need to Know: How will the Redskins' safety situation shake out?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 21, 34 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on the Redskins as the offseason sets in

—Did Jay Gruden and Sean McVay underutilize Jamison Crowder? The rookie slot receiver was targeted 78 times during the season. In 2014 slot receiver Andre Roberts was targeted 73 times. Considering that Crowder was a clear upgrade over Roberts he should have had a lot more opportunities. After nine games Crowder was on pace to catch 75 passes. He ended up with 59.

—The situation with Terrance Knighton shows why leaning so hard on free agency hurts the team building process. Knighton played OK and he got better as the year went on. But “not horrible and improving” is not the standard that a team that wants to make the playoffs and advance should be striving for. They might be inclined to let him go but unless they can attract one of the very few quality nose tackles on the market they might end up without anyone qualified to play NT. They could wait for the draft but the chances of finding an immediate starter at nose tackle in the draft are very slim. If they sign Knighton to a multi-year deal and then find a NT in the draft, the draft pick will be at least halfway through his rookie contract before a position opens up for him. They are kind of stuck in the free agent market.

—It will be interesting to see how the safety situation will shake out. They have Dashon Goldson and DeAngelo Hall under contract but their cap hits total just over $13 million. Both have their strong points but they could sign the Chiefs’ 27-year-old All-Pro Eric Barry and another mid-range free agent for that money. Duke Ihenacho, who won a starting job but broke his wrist in the season opener, is a restricted free agent. If the Redskins want to have the right to match any offers for him they’ll have to tender him at around $1.5 million. They might try to get him to sign for less. Jeron Johnson is still under contract and Kyshoen Jarrett should continue to grow. I don’t see all five of them being back, at least not at full price, but it will be interesting to see who takes their places.

—Would Scot McCloughan draft RB Ezekiel Elliott if he is sitting there at pick No. 21? It’s very early in the draft process but many of the mocks and rankings I’ve see have Elliott going right about there. Whether he does go to the Redskins or not, it won’t be because McCloughan won’t be held back by the conventional wisdom that says that you don’t draft a running back in the first round. He drafted a right tackle who converted to guard No. 5, something you’re not supposed to do, and the word was that he might have tabbed Todd Gurley if the Redskins had traded back. If Elliott is the best player on the board when the Redskins’ pick comes up McCloughan won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on him.

—I’ll start taking a look at draft prospects here starting soon but it’s more a matter of trying to identify McCloughan/Redskins-type players the team might be interested in. What we can’t determine as observers is the results of the background checks, what the trainer in the weight room has to say about a player’s work habits, how that broken leg the player had in high school has healed up, and other such details. But it’s fun to do and maybe we can learn something.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 11 days ago. It will be about 234 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 34; NFL free agency starts 48; 2016 NFL draft 98

In case you missed it

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3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

Championship Sunday produced a flurry of Redskins news. A pair of internal promotions erased the team's vacant coordinator positions, as Greg Manusky landed the defensive coordinator spot and Matt Cavanaugh will take over as offensive coordinator. When Sean McVay left to coach the Rams, many expected Cavanaugh to take over his spot. Here are three reasons why:

  1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it - There was plenty to criticize from the Redskins the last two seasons, but not much of it came on offense. Cavanaugh joined the organization in 2015 as quarterback coach, and the offense has consistently improved in those two seasons. Though the team struggled to score TDs in the Red Zone, the 2016 version of the Redskins moved the ball at a team-record clip and ranked among the top offensive teams in NFL yardage. When something is working as well as the 'Skins offense, it's not wise to change it dramatically.
  2. Impressive work - Cavanaugh began coaching QBs for the Redskins in 2015. Kirk Cousins took over as Redskins starting quarterback in 2015. In two years working together, Cousins twice broke the Redskins franchise passing record and is now poised to get a mega-contract in free agency. Talking after the 'Skins loss to the Giants earlier this month, Jay Gruden said, "I think [Cousins'] really improved his game a lot in the last couple years. And a lot of it has to do with Matt Cavanaugh and Sean McVay."
  3. Make the call - The biggest question remaining for the Redskins - outside of the HUGE unknown surrounding Cousins - will be about play calling. All indications are that Jay Gruden will return to calling the plays from the Washington sideline, and obviously, that's a situation Cavanaugh understands. For two seasons now, Cavanaugh along with McVay, Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan have had input on play calling. With McVay gone, Cavanaugh and Callahan will likely contribute even more in support of Gruden. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Poll: What is your approval rating for the Manusky hire?

Poll: What is your approval rating for the Manusky hire?

Hit the poll and then come back here to comment or just replay on Twitter. Thanks!