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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.

In case you missed it

 

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Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

As Jay Gruden stepped to the podium to read the injury report, he warned, “This will be a while.”

He was right, as he rattled off one the longest injury reports of the season.

Out were G Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion), DE Chris Baker (ankle), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Anthony Lanier (lower leg), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), and S Donte Whitner (illness).

Of that group, all but Jean Francois, Lanier, and Nsekhe are starters. Between them and the limited players listed below it was difficult for the Redskin to conduct a normal practice.

“It was a challenge,” said Gruden of getting through it. “Practice was modified quite a bit today. We did more walkthrough today than we ever have on a Wednesday.”

“Sometimes you have to taper back just a hair to make it through practice, try to get the mental reps in with walkthrough and then hopefully the physical part will come maybe tomorrow. Friday we can open them up a bit.”

Limited in practice were TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and TE Derek Carrier (knee).

READ MORE: FULL UPDATE ON JORDAN REED

Reed returned to practice for the first time since suffering a Grade 3 sprain to the AC joint in his left shoulder in the game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He missed the game in Arizona. While his limited participation was a good sign for his return it’ is way too early in the week to say with any degree of certainty that he will be playing against the Eagles.

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Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

RGIII is finally getting another chance to play.

Plagued by injury after injury — most recently breaking a bone in his left shoulder in the Brown’s 29-10 loss to the Eagles in their season opener — the former Redskin is set to start for Cleveland against the Bengals on Sunday, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports.

Griffin was cleared for contact last week after missing the majority of the Browns’ 0-12 season, and the team is coming off a bye week after its last loss to the Giants over Thanksgiving weekend.

In 2015, Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin as starting quarterback, and the Redskins released him at the end of the season. He signed a two-year, $15 million contract with Cleveland in March.  

In Griffin’s absence, the Browns have relied on Cody Kessler and Josh McCown, who boast a 65.5 and 54.5 completion percentage, respectively. The two combine for just 12 touchdowns this season.

Will Griffin be the key to ending the Browns’ winless season? We’ll find out Sunday.

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