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Need to Know: Redskins' Long still 'finding his way' while learning center

Need to Know: Redskins' Long still 'finding his way' while learning center

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 6, 52 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

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

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 52; Preseason opener @ Falcons 66; Final roster cut to 53, 89

Hot topics from the Redskins week that was

I’m still getting up to speed after being on vacation last week. I have a few thoughts on what Jay Gruden and Joe Barry had to say after last week’s OTA session.

—Gruden was asked about Spencer Long’s progress. “Yeah, at guard you see the improvement quite a bit – just the knowledge and the confidence that all the players get going into their second and third year,” he said. But he added, “Center is a different story – it is brand new to him and he’s finding his way there.” I would not expect to see Long as the team’s starting center anytime soon, and by that I mean in 2016, barring some sort of an emergency.

—Asked about the competition at left guard, Gruden mentioned Long and Shawn Lauvao. “It’s good to have two good guys at that position,” he said. Hmmm, there was no mention of Arie Kouandjio, who seems to be the fan’s choice at the position. You never know what might happen but you may have to wait until at least 2017 to see him lined up as a regular.

—Barry said that they have to have two safeties with the No. 1 defense right now and for the time being those two are DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton but that could be a temporary situation. “Hall and David Bruton are going with the first group, but we’re rolling guys in there,” he said. “Our depth chart is in pencil, it’s not in Sharpie.” So Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon will get their chances; while Hall and Bruton may have the inside track on the starting jobs for now the matter is far from settled.

—Everyone wants to know right now what role Su’a Cravens will play in the defense. Barry said that while he will play the weakside ILB spot for now, they think he can do a lot more. “You can play him at inside backer, you can play him at outside backer and rush him off the edge or drop him into coverage,” he said. “You can play him in the slot in a nickel position and do a bunch of things with him.” But he won’t learn all of those spots immediately. “He’s a new kid coming in, learning the playbook, learning all new terminology,” said Barry. “He’ll be the first one to tell you, the rookie minicamp, it was like we were speaking a different language, which is understandable. It’s hard for young guys at any position to come in and learn the terminology of a new playbook.”

—On the subject of DE Stephen Paea, Barry rattled off some reasons for his disappointing performance in 2015. “I think as I mentioned before, I think anytime that a player changes teams, changes systems as a veteran, there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve both in scheme and terminology and then to add into it that he got banged up, hurt his foot,” he said. Of course, what are reasons to some are excuses to others. Barry forgot to include that the dog may have eaten Paea’s homework. Free agent signings are no sure thing and Paea is going to have to prove on the field that he is ready to perform.

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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

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

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

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back