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

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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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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