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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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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.