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Need to Know: Predicting the results of the Redskins' 2016 schedule

Need to Know: Predicting the results of the Redskins' 2016 schedule

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, April 15, 13 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 96 days ago. It will be 150 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 3; 2016 NFL draft 13; Redskins training camp starts 104

Hot topic

The NFL released the 2016 schedule last night and now it’s time for my annual foolish endeavor. Even though it’s difficult to pick the winner of an NFL game five minutes before kickoff, I’m going to try to pick the winners of each of the Redskins’ games right now, almost five months before the first one kicks off. Here we go:

Week 1—Steelers 24, @Redskins 20 I’m not sure that the Steelers fans will take over FedEx Field to the extent that they did in 2008 but the Redskins had better be ready with their silent counts just in case the Terrible Towels get rolling. A tough opener against Big Ben and company. (0-1)

Week 2—@Redskins 24, Cowboys 21 I’m not so sure the Redskins will have revenge for their 2015 home loss to Dallas on the top of their minds but any motivation will help. The visitors should have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant at full strength so the Redskins had better have an improved defense. (1-1)

Week 3—@Giants 17, Redskins 14 Are they good enough to win in the Meadowlands yet? They went to MetLife in Week 3 last year feeling pretty confident and they got beaten pretty soundly. Big test but I don’t think they are there yet. (1-2)

Week 4—@Redskins 34, Browns 17 RG3 or not RG3? The NFL may have waited a week or two too long for this one if they want to have Griffin returning to his former field of glory. We’ll know a lot more in a couple of weeks when we see if and when the Browns draft a quarterback. (2-2)

Week 5—@Ravens 24, Redskins 21 The Ravens will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year. Were their problems last year injury related or have they taken a step back that will take a year or two to recover from? If they’re even part of the way back they will be tough to beat at home. (2-3)

Week 6—@Redskins 20, Eagles 10 They have a new head coach, an unsettled situation at quarterback, and some other issues. They have the look of a 6-10 team and the Redskins should be able to handle them at home. (3-3)

Week 7—Redskins 30, @ Lions 13 The Redskins get that first road win of the year before December this time around. With no Calvin Johnson, the Lions are rebuilding as they have been since 1956. (4-3)

Week 8—Redskins 24, Bengals 20 (London) A week after their road breakthrough they go across the Atlantic and beat a team that will finish the season with a winning record. The Redskins have a much stronger fan base in the UK and it should resemble a home game in terms of crowd noise. (5-3)

Week 9—Bye Right smack in the middle of the schedule.

Week 10—Vikings 24, @ Redskins 17 There will be plenty of reasons to think that the Redskins will win this one, at home, on a three-game winning streak, and coming off of the bye. Sounds like a trap. (5-4)

Week 11—@ Redskins 35, Packers 31 Right after they lose one you think they should win they do the opposite. (6-4)

Week 12—@ Cowboys 28, Redskins 20 Maybe they can play Sunday night, prepare for two days, get on a plane to Dallas, and beat the Cowboys. But it’s hard for me to see it. (6-5)

Week 13—@Cardinals 31, Redskins 30 We’re in December now and who knows who will be healthy for either team by then. (6-6)

Week 14—Redskins 27, @Eagles 10 The Redskins score their second consecutive sweep of their division rivals. (7-6)

Week 15—Panthers 28, @ Redskins 21 I think the Redskins will have closed the gap with the Panthers and they will have home field advantage but I still don’t think the home team will quite be ready for prime time. (7-7)

Week 16—@ Bears 17, Redskins 14 The Bears will be better under John Fox. The Redskins had a couple of breaks go their way and escaped with a win at Soldier Field last December. I think the breaks will even out in December of 2016 and the Bears will get the win (7-8)

Week 17—@ Redskins 35, Giants 21 The Redskins go in needing three other teams to lose to have a shot at the playoffs. The do their part but they don’t get in. (8-8)

In case you missed it

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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