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Need to Know: Piecing together McCloughan's draft strategy

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Need to Know: Piecing together McCloughan's draft strategy

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 7, six days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 118 days ago. It will be 128 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 6; OTAs start 17; Redskins training camp starts 83

Hot topic

Here are five of the most popular posts from the Redskins week that was.

Grading the Redskins' draft—Just like mock drafts, fans love to say that they hate draft grades that come out soon after the draft. But just like the mocks, they read the grades. It’s one of the most popular posts of the month every year. I try to recognize here that this is more of an interim grade and not a final judgement on the Redskins' performance last weekend.

The cap implications of the Redskins cutting Culliver—The Redskins haven’t done an advance June 1 release in quite some time so I walked the readers through the process. The important thing to remember is that the post-June 1 designation doesn’t “save” any money. Instead of taking the dead cap hit associated with cutting a player in the current year, part of the charge is moved to the following league year.

McCloughan may use extra 2017 picks this year—The Redskins’ GM wanted to come out of the draft with 12 picks but he made only seven. But he did make three deals that got the team picks in the 2017 draft. McCloughan says that the players acquired with those picks may be contributing this season.

Skins plan be careful with Fuller—Third-round pick Kendall Fuller needed microfracture surgery last fall. A full recovery is expected but the Redskins aren’t going to rush it. Quinton Dunbar can cover in the slot until Fuller is good to go.

Need to Know: Needs are low on McCloughan’s list of draft considerations—Many scoff at the suggestion that McCloughan doesn’t worry much about need when he is making draft picks. But here is some evidence that he does what he says he does.

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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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