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Need to Know: The 2016 Redskins' strengths and weaknesses

Need to Know: The 2016 Redskins' strengths and weaknesses

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, September 5, seven days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 10:50; Jay Gruden news conference after practice approx. 12:00

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 239 days ago. It will be seven days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 13; Browns @ Redskins 27; Redskins @ Ravens 34

The best and worst units on the Redskins

Now that the 53-man roster is set, what are the best units on the Redskins? And which ones didn’t get enough needed improvement during the offseason? Let’s take a look.

Strong

Receivers—Now that it appears that Josh Doctson is well on his way to being able to contribute this year we can crank up the talk about this being the best receiving corps in the NFL again. They were still up there near the top with DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, and others. But if Doctson lives up to even part of his potential this year Kirk Cousins will be like the proverbial kid in the candy store.

Cornerbacks—Last year this unit was a mess, with Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall suffering injuries and players like Will Blackmon being forced to learn the defense on the fly. It’s amazing that the injection of a $15 million per year, All-Pro performer will do for how a unit is perceived. Josh Norman and the rest are starting the year healthy and with Breeland improving every year, Dashaun Phillips and Greg Toler emerging as strong contributors this group has gone from awful to pretty good.

Need improvement

Defensive line—My working theory is that there aren’t enough defensive linemen in the draft pool who fit Scot McCloughan’s criteria (loves football, strong work ethic, etc.) to stock the Redskins’ line. Why else would he have made 17 draft picks in two seasons and picked only one D-lineman, a player who couldn’t make the 53. It’s a good thing Chris Baker had a breakout season. Otherwise this group would be a total disaster. I mean, if Ziggy Hood is your savior . . .

Running backs—Yeah, I know this one is a little too obvious. Right now the unit consists of an injury prone starter, a third-down back who is wary of being anything more than that, and an undrafted rookie without a single NFL carry. I won’t rule out Matt Jones having a good year but there is much more of a logical case for skepticism.

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In case you missed it 

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

After a poor first preseason showing and some questions about the physicality of Redskins training camp, JP Finlay talks with Patriots Insider Phil Perry from CSN New England to discuss the differences between Washington's camp and how they run things in New England.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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!

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

Few Redskins players draw more heated fan reaction than Ryan Grant. In three seasons with Washington, Grant has never missed a game, but he also hasn't produced much. His career stats: 39 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. 

Regardless, Jay Gruden and the Redskins coaching staff appreciates Grant in a way few fans understand. Grant is able to back up both the slot and outside receivers, and knows the roles of all the players.

"He’s really strong, he’s in great shape, and he’s Mr. Consistent," Gruden said of Grant. "Everything we ask him to do he does, and he does it right."

When Jamison Crowder missed time in Richmond with a hamstring strain, Grant stepped into Crowder's slot role. When Josh Doctson hurt his hamstring and missed time, Grant stepped into his role on the outside of the offense.

Throughout camp, Grant has displayed good hands and an adept knowledge of the offense. 

"No matter where he lines up, no matter what we ask him to do, he can come in the core and block the safety, whatever we want him to do, he can run whatever route from whatever positon and he runs at the right depth, perfect angles coming out of them," Gruden said. "He’s just ‘Steady Eddie,’ and that’s why I like him. I like consistent, smart players and that’s what Ryan is."

Against the Ravens in the Redskins first preseason game, Grant hung on to a tough catch over the middle to give the team one of very few offensive sparks. The problem for fans as it relates to Grant has not been preseason play. It's been inconsistent play in regular season games. 

Gruden believes that could change this year.

"I think people may be surprised with how many balls Ryan Grant might catch. Either way, could happen, I don’t know. I can’t foresee the future there, but I would be just fine with Ryan Grant being the target of a lot of balls."

To state the obvious: Grant is definitely making the roster. Behind Terrelle Pyror, Crowder and Doctson, Grant is the Redskins fourth wideout and one of the few players on the roster that is interchangeable among the Washington receiver positions. 

Grant's career best season came in 2015 when he caught 23 balls for 268 yards and two TDs. Based on his preseason, it seems Grant could surpass those totals in 2017. Much of his early season work has been a result of injuries to Doctson and Crowder, but make no mistake, Grant has been impressive in practice. 

Will it translate to the real games? The opprotunity seems only likely to arise if the Redskins deal with injuries at the receiver spot. 

Last year, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon accounted for more than 2,000 of those yards. Doctson, Crowder and certainly Pryor are likely to be the major recepients of Cousins' aerial prowess. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson accounted for another 1,618 yards last year.

Keep in mind, this is the last year of Grant's rookie contract. If there was ever a time to show in games what coaches have long seen and loved in practice, this would be the year. It seems only an injury would give him a major opportunity. If the situation came to pass, Gruden would have faith in Grant. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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!