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Need to Know: McCloughan, Redskins play 3D chess in free agency

Need to Know: McCloughan, Redskins play 3D chess in free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 26, 33 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 76 days ago. It will be about 169 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 23; 2016 NFL draft 33; Redskins training camp starts 124

Hot topics

A look at five of the most popular posts of the week here and on CSNmidatlantic.com.

Robert Griffin III signs with new team—It’s much easier to wish Griffin well in Cleveland, an AFC team. The Browns do appear on the Redskins’ schedule this year, a game that will be at FedEx Field. My prediction is that it would make for a good Week 2 Thursday night game. It has to be scheduled fairly early in the season because if the Browns draft a quarterback Griffin may not start for very long.

NFL Mock Draft 6.0: The two-round version—Our Ben Standig has the Redskins going with back-to-back defensive linemen with their top two picks. Considering the extent to which the team has neglected the defensive line in the draft in recent years decades, it would be hard to object too strenuously. However, I do think that the wide receiver position has been equally neglected so that should be some attention in the first two rounds as well.

You don't know pain until you see Alfred Morris Cowboys jerseys—It was one thing to have Morris leave and join the hated Cowboys. It was another to see No. 46 Dallas Jerseys with Morris’ name on them. It had many fans wishing him well—but not too well.

Saving cap dollars for 2017?—Scot McCloughan doesn’t like to do much in free agency as a rule. But he has been particularly quiet this year, signing just three players from outside of the organization. It appears that the strategy is to save cap money for 2017, when six key players are set to be free agents. It’s indicative of the multi-dimensional game of chess that building a team with a salary cap has become.

Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back—At the time this was written, I was reading tea leaves and my take was based on the fact that it looked like Alfred Morris was going to depart and no other back had been brought in as a free agent. Then at the owners meetings, Jay Gruden said that they were going to go with Jones. “We’re taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock,” said Gruden.

Stat of the day

The 2014 Redskins were outscored by 137 points; last year they outscored their opponents by nine points. The year-to-year improvement of 146 net points was the second best in team history.

In case you missed it

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Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

As Jay Gruden stepped to the podium to read the injury report, he warned, “This will be a while.”

He was right, as he rattled off one the longest injury reports of the season.

Out were G Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion), DE Chris Baker (ankle), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Anthony Lanier (lower leg), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), and S Donte Whitner (illness).

Of that group, all but Jean Francois, Lanier, and Nsekhe are starters. Between them and the limited players listed below it was difficult for the Redskin to conduct a normal practice.

“It was a challenge,” said Gruden of getting through it. “Practice was modified quite a bit today. We did more walkthrough today than we ever have on a Wednesday.”

“Sometimes you have to taper back just a hair to make it through practice, try to get the mental reps in with walkthrough and then hopefully the physical part will come maybe tomorrow. Friday we can open them up a bit.”

Limited in practice were TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and TE Derek Carrier (knee).

Reed returned to practice for the first time since suffering a Grade 3 sprain to the AC joint in his left shoulder in the game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He missed the game in Arizona. While his limited participation was a good sign for his return it’ is way too early in the week to say with any degree of certainty that he will be playing against the Eagles.

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Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

RGIII is finally getting another chance to play.

Plagued by injury after injury — most recently breaking a bone in his left shoulder in the Brown’s 29-10 loss to the Eagles in their season opener — the former Redskin is set to start for Cleveland against the Bengals on Sunday, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports.

Griffin was cleared for contact last week after missing the majority of the Browns’ 0-12 season, and the team is coming off a bye week after its last loss to the Giants over Thanksgiving weekend.

In 2015, Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin as starting quarterback, and the Redskins released him at the end of the season. He signed a two-year, $15 million contract with Cleveland in March.  

In Griffin’s absence, the Browns have relied on Cody Kessler and Josh McCown, who boast a 65.5 and 54.5 completion percentage, respectively. The two combine for just 12 touchdowns this season.

Will Griffin be the key to ending the Browns’ winless season? We’ll find out Sunday.

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