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Need to Know: Redskins' draft prep hits crunch time

Need to Know: Redskins' draft prep hits crunch time

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 17, 11 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 98 days ago. It will be 148 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 1; 2016 NFL draft 11; Redskins training camp starts 102

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A few thoughts about the Redskins as they start up their offseason workouts and get into crunch time with their draft preparations.

—The Redskins hosted Eastern Kentucky edge defender Noah Spence last week. He plays a position that isn’t believed to be a huge area of need as they have pretty good players there in Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Junior Galette. But Galette is only under contract through next year and if he has a good year he could command a substantial contract. Scot McCloughan might like to have the option to let him walk if the contract demands get out of hand. Drafting someone like Spence could give him that option.

—According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have $11.7 million in cap space remaining. The will need some of that to sign their draft picks but only a net of about $3 million (post coming with details in the next week or so). It seems inevitable that they will release Andre Roberts and perhaps Adam Hayward at some point, which would clear up nearly $3 million so that pays for their draft picks. They will want to go into the season with about $5 million in space to cover players on injured reserve and the practice squad. In short, they are in good shape and should have $5 million or so million to roll over to next year unless they sign Jordan Reed to a contract extension.

—I didn’t mention Perry Riley as a possible cap cut although there has been plenty of talk that the team would rather have the extra $4 million in cap space than his services for 2016. But now they appear to be leaning towards keeping him to maintain depth at the position. Last year they were fortunate to be able to find Mason Foster on the street and that Will Compton was ready to step up from being a backup to starting when Riley and Keenan Robinson were injured. Right now the thinking appears to be that they would rather have Riley around than rely on Martrell Spaight and Terence Garvin to provide backup. But Riley shouldn’t feel totally secure; the draft could provide a younger and cheaper backup and they could decide to let Riley walk.

—Last year the Redskins started with 7 draft picks and by the time McCloughan and Bruce Allen were done dealing they had 10 plus one in this year’s draft. The trade that triggered the dealing was the one they pulled off with the Seahawks, sending their 3rd-round pick, which was No. 69 overall, to Seattle for their third-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks, which were all late in those rounds. It will be more difficult to pull off a similar trade this year since the Redskins are picking about 15 spots further back in each round. In short, their third-round pick this year isn’t as valuable as their third rounder was last year so they won’t get as much in return for trading back with it. If McCloughan wants to stockpile picks he may need to trade back earlier, starting in the second round or perhaps the first.

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”