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Need to Know: Redskins rookie to watch--WR Evan Spencer

evan-spencer-rookie-camp.png

Need to Know: Redskins rookie to watch--WR Evan Spencer

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 21, 9 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today’s question comes from Twitter:

The Redskins got an interesting group of players on draft Saturday, picking up wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Evan Spencer, guard Arie Kouandjio, linebacker Martrell Spaight, defensive backs Kyshoen Jarrett and Tevin Mitchel, and center Austin Reiter. They will all warrant close inspection during training camp and the preseason.

But since I was asked to pick just one, I’m going to go with Spencer, a sixth-round pick out of Ohio State. Of course I want to see his development as a receiver. He caught just 15 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games for Ohio State last year so he will need some work running routes and receiving.

Spencer, however, won’t be expected to contribute much catching passes. He’s probably the sixth of six options at wide receiver. Barring injury to other players it would be surprising if he lined up for as many as 100 snaps at wide receiver.

Even if he doesn’t play a single snap as a wide receiver, he could be of great help to the unit that arguably was the worst on the team last year—special teams. One of the many problems the unit has had is a shortage of enthusiastic participants. Too many draft picks have come in and turned their noses up at the thought of playing on the kicking units. That has been a particular issue with wide receivers, who should be core special teams players. The team has not had a wide receiver as a primary special teams player since James Thrash in the middle of the last decade.

Spencer is under no illusions. He can read a depth chart as well as anyone. The rookie is well aware that if he wants to see the field for the next two seasons it will be on special teams.

It is rather difficult to tell much about a special teams player from training camp practice. Even in full pads they don’t go at anything approaching full speed. But I’ll be interested to see where he lines up, how enthusiastically he attacks the drills, and how many units he is involved with. It will take preseason games to get an idea of how quickly he makes the adjustment to playing on special teams in the NFL.

If I’m going to pick a 1-A to watch it’s going to be Crowder. The fourth-round pick also will help out on special teams as a returner. He looked very elusive in minicamp; he knows what to do with the ball in his hands. How will he look when things get more physical with the pads on?

Timeline

—It’s been 205 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 54 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 9; Preseason opener @ Browns 23; final cuts 46

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In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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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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