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Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 29, 26 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on McCloughan at the Senior Bowl

On if the Redskins would use the franchise tag on Cousins: "Well it’s an option, of course you’d rather not, you’d rather get a long term deal done . . . ”

Some believe that just tagging Cousins and giving him another year to show what he’s worth in a long-term deal is the best way to go. But it’s not the route that McCloughan wants to take. The tag is fraught with problems, including the fact that the player really isn’t under contract until he signs it and he doesn’t have to sign it until he wants to. It doesn’t seem like Cousins is the type to hold out but he’s never been put in such a position before. And if he plays well, it would become more difficult and costly to agree on a contract in 2017; another tag will cost about $23 million for a year. The tag is there to be used but it's not like slapping a $7 million tag on Fred Davis. It’s better to trust your judgment, make a deal, and take your chances.

On if he feels the team is ahead of schedule: "You know, I wouldn’t say ahead of schedule, I think it’s going in the right direction . . . “

It’s tough to say what a “schedule” for the Redskins, a team that had double-digit losses in five of six seasons before McCloughan came aboard a year ago, should look like. They took some steps in the right direction last year and they were good enough to take advantage of a fairly weak schedule and performances by the other teams in the division that were below expectations. The Redskins also had some bad luck in the form of injuries (only three teams lost more man-games to injuries). They could take a few more steps in the right direction this year and they might not win as many games and not make the playoffs. Improvement in the NFL isn’t always linear. All McCloughan can do is try to get better every year, and hold on to as much of the improvement made in previous years as he can.

On the team’s plan with QB Robert Griffin III: "Well you know what, the thing is, and I’m looking forward to getting back because we had the playoff game, of course, then you had the loss . . . “

This went on for another hundred words or so, with McCloughan not wanting to say that the team is going to release Griffin at some point. I don’t think that this should give false hope to those RG3 diehards who think he could somehow end up with the Redskins in 2016. A player is on your roster until he’s not. There is much more potential harm in announcing that you’re going to let a player go before you can do so than there is in not talking about it and just sending out the press release after you’ve done it.

On if there is confirmation or clarity on if DT Jason Hatcher is retiring: “No. I talked to him too and I said, 'Listen, you do what’s best for you and your family. You’ve had a really good career and we’d love to have you back.'

McCloughan said a couple of times that he wasn’t going to discuss contracts so nobody asked about whether they would love to have Hatcher back at his current cap number, which is $8.7 million. His contract has the look of a deal that was set to be either terminated after two years or at least redone. Hatcher’s salary jumps to $6.25 million with another $250,000 due to him as a roster bonus. I can’t see the Redskins paying that to a player who is coming off of a two-sack season and will turn 34 before training camp starts.

On making possible changes to the team’s scouting staff: "Not right now; nope. We’re going forward."

Looking at the results to date—and that consists of one draft—it appears that the Redskins’ unproductive drafts were due more to the man making the final call than it was an inadequate scouting staff. In particular, Mike Shanahan was notorious for ignoring the recommendation of the personnel department and making his own picks. It’s hard to blame the area scouts, director of college scouting Scott Campbell, and others responsible for evaluating draft talent if their work goes out the window when the card is turned in during the draft. But before we apologize to the current group for wondering about their competence when they worked for Shanahan let’s see what McCloughan can come up with in the next couple of drafts.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 19 days ago. It will be about 226 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 26; NFL free agency starts 40; 2016 NFL draft 90

In case you missed it

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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.