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Need to Know: Norman deal will force tough choices for Redskins in 2017

Need to Know: Norman deal will force tough choices for Redskins in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 24, four days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 105 days ago. It will be 141 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: 2016 NFL draft 4; Rookie minicamp 19; Redskins training camp starts 95

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A look at a few more aspects of the Josh Norman signing:

—I think that the deal increases the likelihood that the Redskins will draft a wide receiver early. They had the 2017 cap room to be able to re-sign one or both of Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson. Now they may have to choose to let both of them go. It generally takes a season for a receiver to become productive. If both of their starters are going to be departing McCloughan may want to get a head start on finding their replacements.

—By making this deal the Redskins are gambling that they will be able to get Kirk Cousins under contract this year or at least prior to the start of the 2017 league year. If they need to franchise tag him again it will cost $24 million. With Norman set to carry a $20 million cap hit, that would mean that two players would be taking up 26 percent of a cap that should be around $165 million.

—No matter how the Cousins contract situation unfolds, the Redskins will have to make some tough choices in 2017. It will be very difficult to get Cousins, Jordan Reed, Junior Galette, the two receivers, and Chris Baker signed. It might have been hard before Norman signed but now it may be too much to ask. Of course, perhaps McCloughan never intended to keep all of them anyway. But it seems almost certain that some fan favorites will be heading elsewhere next year.

—I might do an article looking at this in a little more depth but I saw one NFL analyst compare how the Redskins are building their defense to the way that the Broncos did—from the outside in. The keys to Denver’s Super Bowl winning unit were edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller and cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Certainly, the Broncos had some strong players on the inside such as DT Maik Jackson and the Redskins don’t have anyone like that. But they have potential matches on the edges with Norman and Breeland at corner and edge rushers Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Junior Galette.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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