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Need to Know: Redskins' D-line depth chart is in flux

Need to Know: Redskins' D-line depth chart is in flux

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 28, 10 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

D-line transformation just beginning

In 2011 the Redskins drafted Jarvis Jenkins in the second round and soon after the lockout ended they signed Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield as free agents. Jenkins missed his rookie season with a torn ACL but since 2012 those three players have been mainstays on the defensive line.

Now Bowen and Cofield are gone, released in a move that saved the team some $9.6 million in salary cap space. Jenkins is a pending unrestricted free agent and his future with the team after free agency gets underway on March 10 is far from certain. The same goes for fellow free agent and 2011 draft pick (7th round) Chris Neild. He is a decent backup nose tackle when he’s on the field but he has missed two of the last three seasons with ACL injuries.

With at least two and possibly three linemen from last year gone, the process of building the line back up started on Thursday when the Redskins signed former Scot McCloughan draft pick Ricky Jean Francois. But obviously they will need more than him to replace Bowen, Cofield, and, if he leaves, Jenkins.

The four holdover defensive linemen the Redskins have under contract are Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Kedric Golston, and Frank Kearse. Hatcher is likely to be around this year and Golston might be but neither will around for the long haul. They are temporary placeholders at best.

McCloughan has stated that he will build the Redskins through the draft. Prospects like USC end Leonard Williams and Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton are potential picks for the Redskins with their top draft pick. But immediate help after the first round may be hard to come by. There may be another free agent or two on the way.

It’s impossible to craft a depth chart now because there are too many moving parts. You could start the season tomorrow with Hatcher and Jean Francois at end, Baker at end with Golston and Kearse as backup. Robert Thomas, who was on the practice squad last year, could be the backup nose tackle.

Fortunately the season doesn't start tomorrow. You could get by with a line like that but the goal should be to improve. And the Redskins would be back into a hole again in 2016 with Golston and Hatcher likely gone. Look for more big guys to be added in free agency and the draft to strengthen it for 2015 and beyond.

Timeline

—It’s been 62 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 197 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 10; Redskins offseason workouts start 51; 2015 NFL Draft 61

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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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