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Need to Know: Redskins have a big mountain to climb to improve their record

Need to Know: Redskins have a big mountain to climb to improve their record

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 6, 24 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

A big mountain to climb

A few weeks ago here I looked at some reasons why the Redskins could be better than we think. If you’ve been looking for the other side of that coin, reasons why the Redskins might not have a record much better than the 4-12 they posted last year, here it is.

If they do again end up with double-digit losses it won’t necessarily be due to not having improved personnel or the coaching staff. Scot McCloughan has done a good job of shoring up the team’s major weaknesses (and the hiring of McCloughan filled a major weak spot in the front office).

But the Redskins have a big mountain to climb. As Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post pointed out, the Redskins weren’t just bad last year. They were really bad.

They were outscored by 137 points, an average of 8.6 per game. Only three other teams had a worse point differential. If you look at the 15 games they played against teams not named the Jacksonville Jaguars that per-game deficit increases to 10.5 points per game. Their 12 losses came by an average of over two touchdowns (14.6 points).

The Redskins did not lose many games that they were in late. Only in the losses to the Eagles, Vikings and 49ers were they truly competitive throughout. If you want to say that they “shoulda” won those games, that’s fine. But they also “coulda” lost to the Titans, Cowboys, and Eagles.

In short, they were what their record said they were.

A tremendous improvement for the 2015 Redskins would be to cut the scoring deficit by about six points per game. If they can do that, they would be around -40 in scoring. What kind of record could that get them?

Last year the Browns were outscored by 38 and went 7-9. The Falcons were -36 in net points and went 6-10. The Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1 while going -35 in net points. Going back to 2013 the Bills were -49 in points and 6-10 in the standings.

So we could expect some modest improvement in their record if they can shave that scoring deficit down to a few points per game. How likely is such an improvement? It would be unusual but not unheard of. Since Joe Gibbs’ first departure from the Redskins head coaching job in 1992, they have improved by at least 85 net points from one season to the next five times. The most recent was from 2011-2012 when they went from -79 to +48, a 127-point swing in the positive direction.

That improvement lifted the Redskins from 5-11 in last place to 10-6 and the NFC East title. Rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris got the team’s offense rolling and led the turnaround. Is there a similar transformational force this time around?

Perhaps at least a partial return to form by Griffin, a revitalized rushing game featuring Morris and rookie Matt Jones and a solid defensive improvement will spur some solid improvement.

It’s possible but far from certain that they will experience the type of turnaround they have seen once every four years or so in the past 20 years. They also could be better, maybe substantially better, and still not have it show up in the "W" column. We will see if they can take a giant leap forward or if any progress is more in the form of baby steps.

Timeline

—It’s been 190 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 69 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 24; Preseason opener @ Browns 38; final cuts 61

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Redskins' decision on Su'a Cravens doesn't change much immediately

Redskins' decision on Su'a Cravens doesn't change much immediately

When the Redskins announced that safety Su’a Cravens has been placed on the reserve/left team list, ending his 2017 season, some things changed. But mostly, in the short term anyway, things stayed the same.

Before diving into this, let’s acknowledge that Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that Cravens was going to show up at Redskins Park today and the Redskins put him on the reserve/left team list “out of the blue” and without the five-day notice that the team is required to give the player before putting him on that list. A grievance is a possibility. We will follow that aspect of it carefully but for now, we don’t know much about it and will let Florio’s report stand on its own.

What does not change now is the Redskins’ roster. Since he was on the exempt/left team list he did not count against the 53-man roster. The Redskins started Deshazor Everett at strong safety Week 1 against the Eagles and rookie Montae Nicholson got the nod Sunday against the Rams. It is likely that one of those two gets the start for the rest of the year.

RELATED: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS' WIN IN LA

Had Cravens reported the Redskins would have had to make a roster move to make room for him. When he left the team right after final cuts were made, offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings was picked up on waivers. He presumably is the 53rd man on the roster but he is safe for now.

So, what changes? The Redskins save some money. Cravens was slated to make $651,408 in salary this year. The money was guaranteed; however, leaving the team voided that guarantee. The team also could send him a bill for $335,631, the one-year prorated portion of his $1.422 million signing bonus he got last year.

It should be noted that the financial aspects of this are pending any grievance proceedings. If the Redskins did not give Cravens proper notice and he reports for work, he could make the case that he is entitled to his money. But, again, that is something that we’ll see about in the coming days and weeks.

MORE REDSKINS: INJURY LIST LONG, PAINFUL BUT NONE SERIOUS

Cravens’ status will be a topic of discussion during Jay Gruden’s podium session and in the locker room on Wednesday. But after that, the focus will return to playing the Raiders and the whole saga will go on the back burner.

What happens after this year? As far as I can gather, the reserve/left team list only applies to the 2017 season. If Cravens follows the terms of his contract and reports for work when required in 2018 the Redskins would have to either let him play, release him, or trade him.

But that is down the road. For now, the Redskins will move on as though he is out for the season with an injury and play with the guys they have.

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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Need to Know: Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

Need to Know: Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 19, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Raiders at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 13
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (11/23) 24
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 40

Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

—Before the game, I confidently told someone on Twitter that Ryan Grant would get about as many targets (6) against the Rams as he did against the Eagles. But as it turned out, Grant was targeted just twice. The second time was on the game-winning touchdown in the last two minutes. A big difference between this week and last was that Kirk Cousins attempted just 27 passes against LA compared to 40 vs. the Eagles. That led to fewer opportunities for receivers and Grant was one of those who saw his chances drop the most.

—Cousins started well and finished strong but he didn’t do much in the middle. It seems that he was rolling along well until he misfired on a fade pattern to Josh Doctson and then on another throw to Chris Thompson. That ended a goal to go opportunity in a situation where a touchdown would have given the Redskins a commanding 17-0 lead. The next time the Redskins had the ball Cousins was sacked on his first passing attempt and he fumbled a snap a little later. In the third quarter and early in the fourth he completed some passes but many of them were for a minimal gain. To his credit, he didn’t panic and force a turnover. And, of course, he came through on the final drive, completing three of three passes for 42 yards including the 11-yard game winner to Grant.

—During the week leading up to the game, Jay Gruden emphasized the importance of getting to the quarterback. It didn’t play out as well as I’m sure Gruden would have liked. They got two sacks of Jared Goff, one by Preston Smith and one by Ryan Kerrigan, both in the Rams’ possession late in the first half. They pressured Goff on other occasions but overall their pass rush possibly was not as good as it was against the Eagles. Then, they at least got to Carson Wentz even though they had issues bringing him down. Too often, Goff had plenty of time to operate and that helped keep the Rams in the game until near the end.

—Chris Thompson has been the Redskins’ offensive MVP so far. He has improved each year and yesterday he was at his peak. What you really had to like on the 61-yard touchdown run on the draw play was his patience. He was almost standing still as he took the handoff from Cousins as he carried out the pass-blocking fake and chose his path for when he got the ball. He said that the play was designed for him to go one way but his read took him someplace else. It took him to the end zone for the second time that game.

—One surprise early in the game was that Montae Nicholson started at strong safety in place of DeShazor Everett. Nicholson made no glaring errors before he left the game with an AC joint sprain. The depth chart here apparently is set after the team announced that Su'a Cravens, the starter until he left the team to contemplate retirement, will not return this season. 

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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