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Need to Know: Redskins' 5 biggest one-year improvements

Need to Know: Redskins' 5 biggest one-year improvements

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 23, four days before the start of OTAs.

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Some are saying that the Redskins have a shot at winning the NFC East title in 2014. If they are going to do that, they likely will have to win nine or more games. That would be the biggest single-season improvement in team history. Here are the top five season-to-season improvements in wins for the Redskins since 1970:

+5, 2011-2012—The Redskins were floundering under Mike Shanahan until a pair of rookies, quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, spurred a seven-game winning streak to push the Redskins from five wins in 2011 to 10 wins and the NFC East title.

+4, 2006-2007—It looked like the Redskins were headed to their second straight losing season under Joe Gibbs, especially after the shooting death of star safety Sean Taylor. But they overcame that and an injury to Jason Campbell to roll off four straight wins to finish the season at 9-7. That was up from five wins the year before and it got the Redskins a wild card playoff spot.

+4, 2004-2005—Yes, the Joe Gibbs II era was very up and down. Gibbs’ first year back was a 6-10 disappointment and the second year was shaping up to be the same as the team sat at 5-6. But five straight wins to close out the season got them to a 10-6 finish and a wild card berth.

+4, 1998-1999—The 1998 team was floundering at 2-9 before winning four largely meaningless games in a row to finish at 6-10. Dan Snyder bought the Redskins prior to the 1999 season and his message to Norv Turner was that he could keep his job as long as he made the playoffs. The Redskins did just that, going 10-6 to take the NFC East.

+4, 1990-1991—The 1990 team was pretty good, going 10-6 and winning a playoff game. The 1991 Redskins were one of the best teams of all time. They won their first 11 games, finished 14-2 and steamrolled to the last Super Bowl title.

Note: The Redskins did go from eight wins in 1982 to 14 in 1983, an improvement of +6. However, that ’82 season was shortened to nine games due to a players strike so it’s an uneven comparison.

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Timeline

—It’s been 145 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be 107 days until they play the Texans in the 2014 season opener.

Days until: OTAs 4; Training camp starts 61; Redskins @ Eagles 121

In case you missed it

Morris talks about being a veteran

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Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan spoke to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco about the loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl and how the Falcons will rebound in 2017. 

In the process, he took a shot at former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and put some of the blame on his style of coaching for the disastrous fourth quarter.

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan said. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

Those are some harsh words from Ryan and not exactly a ringing endorsement of Kyle Shanahan. This loss will surely haunt him should he never get back to another Super Bowl.

"There's always going to be a little sting," Ryan said. "You never lose that. Hopefully we've got four Super Bowl victories after this one, but that doesn't mean we won't still be like, 'Damn, let's talk about the other one we should've had."

Redskins fans may be able to relate to Matt Ryan's pain as some were vocal about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling during his time in Washington. Maybe Kirk Cousins takes notice of Ryan's comments as well before he considers San Francisco next off-season.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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