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Need to Know: Preston Smith could be the key to Redskins' defense

Need to Know: Preston Smith could be the key to Redskins' defense

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 3, nine days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day, no availability

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 237 days ago. It will be nine days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 15; Browns @ Redskins 29; Redskins @ Ravens 36

Stock up/stock down vs. the Bucs

—The key to the Redskins’ defense could be Preston Smith. He has been playing well ever since the start of OTAs. The second-year player gets it in terms of what it takes to prepare to be successful. If that translates onto the field he will be a player opposing offenses will have to account for on every snap. That will make the whole unit better. I’m not sure how good he will be, but I’ll predict that he gets at least one interception, a rarity for a Redskins OLB. That’s because he takes pride in working on coverage and studies it, unlike others who have viewed it as a chore.

—Last year the offensive line was pretty good in pass blocking (4.6 percent sack rate, 5th in NFL) and not very good in run blocking (3.7 yards/carry, 30th in NFL). Given a choice in 2016 I’d rather have a line that can pass block well but, of course, you want a group that can be competent in both. Rushing in the preseason is a hodgepodge of different backs and linemen with no game planning so at this point it’s hard to tell how much progress the Redskins O-line has made in the run blocking department. They should be better but time will tell.

—I’m more bullish on Matt Jones’ chances of becoming a solid running back than most. I get the knocks on him, with his NFL-low average of 3.4 yards per carry. But that stat requires some context. Alfred Morris, who ran behind the same line last year, had an average of 3.7 yards per carry. That is by far the worst of his career. His worst before that was 4.1 per carry in 2014. It’s probably not a coincidence that both backs struggled behind that offensive line (and the tight ends might as well be thrown under the same bus here). If the line gets its act together in run blocking Jones can produce. If they don’t Adrian Peterson couldn’t produce behind them.

—As the O-line struggled last year, Bill Callahan, that unit’s position coach, didn’t come under much criticism. He also is the run game coordinator and the Redskins didn’t run the ball well. There were some good reasons for giving him a pass, primarily that it was his first year on the job and it wasn’t reasonable to expect an instant turnaround. And Callahan does have a good track record. But he did inherit a Pro Bowl performer at the most important position on the line and the No. 5 overall pick in the draft went to his unit. If things don’t start to turn around at some point this season Callahan should get more scrutiny than he has.

—Things haven’t been this quiet around the quarterback position in years. Kirk Cousins came in, played his 54 snaps, and went about his business. No controversy, no noise, no injuries, just some pretty good quarterback play. That doesn’t mean that he’s Pro Bowl bound or anything but it will be an interesting experiment to see if tranquility at the position contributes to competence and winning.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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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Bruce Allen goes full Belichick when talking about Snapchat

Bruce Allen goes full Belichick when talking about Snapchat

When it comes to incorrectly identifying the names of social media platforms, Bill Belichick is the standard-bearer and industry leader. Examples of terms recently uttered by the head coach include gems like "MyFace" and "Yearbook," as the football icon has demonstrated he's somewhat aware of the sites and apps yet doesn't really care about them.

Bruce Allen, though, may have just laid claim to Belichick's crown. In a 1-on-1 interview with CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay, Allen discussed how he's not involved at all on social media and then proceeded to give Snapchat a glorious new name.

"I don't get to pay attention to everything," Allen told Finlay when asked if the team president keeps up with the constant rumors surrounding Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.

"You're not on Twitter all the time?" Finlay interjected.

"No, I don't have Twitter," Allen answered, laughing, "and I'm not on Snapper-chapper or whatever it's called."

Allen was in the neighborhood by starting off with "Snap," but the rest of his attempt showed he's not exactly on the right street. Fortunately, unlike Belichick, Jay Gruden has gotten Snapchat's name right in the past, and could likely help Allen get used to the app if Allen ever decides to start using it.

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