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Need to Know: Should the Redskins be the NFC East favorites?

Need to Know: Should the Redskins be the NFC East favorites?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 25, three days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

Schedule @ Redskins Park: 12 noon, Scot McCloughan pre-draft news conference; 1:15 Josh Norman

—The Redskins last played a game 106 days ago. It will be 140 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: 2016 NFL draft 3; Rookie minicamp 18; Redskins training camp starts 94

Hot topic

Are the Redskins now the favorites to win the NFC East?

That’s what Adam Caplan, who is one of the few no-agenda, no-B.S. NFL analysts on ESPN. He believes that the addition of Josh Norman to the Redskins defense pushes them over the top and makes them the “clear favorites” to take the division.

That’s a pretty bold prediction. Is it out of whack? Maybe. The other three teams have their strengths but they also have prominent weaknesses.

—The Cowboys have a top QB and WR combo in Romo and Dez but their defense is shaky, especially in their first four games when Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence will be under suspension for substance abuse violations.

—In Philly, the Eagles have a solid-looking defense but their quarterback group will consist of the perpetually disappointing Sam Bradford, career backup Chase Daniel, and a rookie who attempted 208 passes at North Dakota State last year. A rookie head coach, Dough Pederson, will be in charge.

—The Giants have Eli and OBJ but just about everything else is suspect including their running game, pass rush, and secondary. They did throw a bunch of free agent money at their defensive issues but that is far from a certain cure. New York also has a rookie head coach in Ben McAdoo.

It's not as though the Redskins are loaded for bear going into 2016. In fact, right now it’s hard to find a strength that the Redskins can hang their hats on. Kirk Cousins had a fine 2015 but he’s hardy the established, consistent starter that Eli and Romo are. The running game was atrocious last year as was the defense against the run. The secondary did pretty well considering all of the injuries, but the presence of Norman could improve it by a quantum leap and the unit would still be middle of the pack. And see the Giants comment above on the certainty of a free agent signee making a major impact.

It’s easy to paint a rosy scenario here. Say Cousins builds on last year, Jordan Reed emerges as one of the game’s top tight ends, the line gels enough so that a running back by committee can put together a decent ground game, Junior Galette, Preston Smith, and Ryan Kerrigan terrorize opposing quarterbacks and Norman is in All-Pro form again and sparks the secondary to a solid performance.

Each of those possibilities is realistic. But the chance of all of them happening is fairly slim. It’s like drawing to an inside straight.

The good thing for the 2016 Redskins is that they don’t need everything to fall right for them. Cousins-to-Reed clicking, a better rushing attack, and the secondary picking off a half dozen more passes could make the best team in the division.

It may be going too far to say that the Redskins are the favorites in the division. But unlike previous years, it’s not difficult to see them having a realistic path to the division title.

Stat of the day

The Redskins have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1996-1997. They have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1991-1992.

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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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