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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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#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

As the Redskins settle into the offseason without both an offensive and defensive coordinator, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler debate who will get the jobs, and when they will be announced. 

Related: NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

The Redskins have interviewed some high-profile candidates for their open defensive coordinator position. When it was reported that they will meet with former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, the reaction among the fans was, “Who?”

Let’s take a look at what Tarver’s qualifications are to get the job of running the Redskins’ defense.

Before becoming a coordinator: At the age of 22, Tarver took a coaching job at West Valley College in California, and did that while earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Santa Clara. After that he was a graduate assistant at UCLA for three years before getting into the NFL in 2001, when the 49ers hired him as a quality control coach. Tarver worked his way up to outside linebackers coach in 2005 and did that job until 2010, when he was let go went Mike Singletary was fired as the head coach. After a year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Dennis Allen hired Tarver to run the Raiders defense in 2012.

More Redskins: Early first-round draft possibilities

Note: If you want more complete stats on Tarver’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2012 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,672 (18th), points 443 (28th), takeaways 19 (26th), 3rd down 39.1% (20th), DVOA 12.5% 29th
Notable players: DT Richard Seymour, DE Lamarr Houston

It should be noted that Allen had a defensive background so he had a hand in these numbers. This team just wasn’t very good as indicated by the fact that Seymour, at age 33, was one of their best defensive players.

2013 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,918 (22nd), points 453 (29th), takeaways 22 (21st), 3rd down 43.1% (28th), DVOA 10.3% (26th)
Notable players: S Charles Woodson

They did make an effort to shore up the defense by bringing back Woodson and drafting cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round. But Hayden only played in eight games and Woodson could only contribute so much at age 37. The pass defense struggled, ranking 29th in DVOA.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

2014 Raiders (3-13)

Rankings: 5,721 (21st), points 452 (32nd), takeaways 14 (30th), 3rd down 38.5% (14th), DVOA 6.3% (26th)
Notable players: LB Khalil Mack, S Woodson

Allen was fired after an 0-4 start and Tony Sparano took over as interim head coach the rest of the way. Sparano has an offensive background so perhaps Tarver is more fully accountable for these results than those in other seasons. They did draft Mack with the fifth overall pick but his impact as a rookie was limited as recorded four sacks. Hayden again missed half of the season and, again, the defense was near the bottom of the NFL.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.