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Need to Know: Redskins could try inexperienced options in Breeland's absence

Need to Know: Redskins could try inexperienced options in Breeland's absence

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, August 2, 12 days before Washington Redskins open their preseason against the Browns.

If you need to catch up on what's happening in Richmond, scroll to the bottom for a list of our posts from the last 24 hours. 

Redskins deep at corner—for now

RICHMOND—Somehow, Bashaud Breeland escaped major injury on Friday when he slipped while in coverage and bent his knee at an unnatural angle. It didn’t look good after it happened, as Breeland stayed on the ground for several minutes before being carted off the field. He was in obvious pain as he the cart headed to the locker room.

The prognosis that came back, however, was quite optimistic given initial expectations. Jay Gruden said on Saturday that they expect him to be out four to six weeks with a sprained MCL. The Redskins’ season opener is six weeks from today. Breeland has been suspended for that game so he is first eligible to play on September 20 in Week 2 against the Rams. Should there be a setback he could miss that game and return the next Thursday night against the Giants or, since that is a short week, possibly on October 4 against the Eagles.

The Redskins’ depth chart at cornerback should be able to handle a one to three-game Breeland absence. Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall are the starters. With Breeland out many thought we might see David Amerson work in at the nickel spot. But Justin Rogers, who played some for the Redskins last year, lined up in the nickel spot after Breeland went out on Friday.

Jay Gruden said the team would sort through some options.

“We have Justin Rogers, we drafted Tevin Mitchel. He was a nickel in college at Arkansas and he's going to get some reps,” said Gruden. “We're going to try Kyshoen [Jarrett] in there a little bit today so we’ve got some guys in there to fill in.”

The surprise name in the mix was Jarrett, who was drafted out of Virginia Tech as a safety. It would be surprising if the team used a rookie who is a converted safety as their first option at nickel back with Breeland out. But he may be their best option

Gruden said that the team viewed Amerson as more of an outside corner. As a rookie, Amerson usually came in for passing situations but he would go to the outside with Josh Wilson taking the slot receiver.

Whichever inexperienced corner gets the roster spot that will be vacated by Breeland’s Week 1 absence from the roster will have to get up to speed in a hurry. The fourth corner on game days usually takes at least a handful of snaps and, of course, he has to be ready if any of the top three goes down with an injury.

Like most teams, the Redskins can survive one short-term injury at a position. The issues come with multiple injuries at a position. The Redskins will hope that the rest of the group stays healthy. They will be keeping a particularly close eye on Hall’s twice-torn Achilles tendon. It might be wise to give him a few extra days off to increase the chances that he remains on the field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins walkthrough, 10:35 a.m.; Jay Gruden news conference approx. 2:45; Redskins practice, 3 p.m.

—It’s been 217 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 42 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Browns 11; final cuts 34; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 53

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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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