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Need to Know: The Redskins' strongest and weakest positions

Need to Know: The Redskins' strongest and weakest positions

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 5, eight days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Best and worst position groups on the 2015 Redskins

The Redskins have not yet quite set the 53-man roster yet but we still have a pretty good idea of who will be on it. Let’s take a look at where the Redskins are strongest and weakest on each side of the ball.

Offense

Strongest: The running backs are a strong, versatile group. Alfred Morris has three seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing under his belt, Matt Jones has one of the most talked about rookie backs during the preseason and it looks like Chris Thompson is finally healthy and running with both speed and, unexpectedly, power. And Darrel Young is solid blocking fullback who can catch passes out of the backfield.

Weakest: It’s hard to overlook the issues at quarterback. Kirk Cousins will start but he has a lot to prove in regards to cutting down on interceptions. Colt McCoy is a journeyman who has never consistently been able to lead an offense to points. And the trials and tribulations of Robert Griffin III are well known to anyone reading this.

Defense

Strongest: Even after losing Junior Galette to a season-ending Achilles injury, the linebacker group looks pretty strong. Ryan Kerrigan is the team’s best player on defense and Keenan Robinson could be the second best. Opposite Kerrigan, second-round picks Preston Smith and Trent Murphy will compete for playing time; one or both could be very effective. And while fans love to complain about Perry Riley’s coverage issues, there are many worse inside linebackers in the league.

Weakest: The Redskins added two veteran safeties, drafted one, and got Duke Ihenacho back after he missed most of 2014 with an injury. But the unit may not be much better than the one that struggled last year. The last time we saw Dashon Goldson he was trying to chase down Steve Smith of the Ravens and failing to do so. Ihenacho can force the run well but he needs to work on coverage. In Seattle, Jeron Johnson backed up Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas but he has been injured during camp and did not stand out in any way against the Jaguars’ backups on Thursday. Add in a shaky cornerback group and you have to hope that the line and linebackers are able to get a pass rush.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Off day, no availability; Final roster cuts due 4 p.m.

—It’s been 251 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 8 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 15; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 19

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.