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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster bubble ready to pop for many

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster bubble ready to pop for many

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, August 28, six days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 players.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day, no availability

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 231 days ago. It will be 15 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 21; Browns @ Redskins 35; Redskins @ Ravens 42

The Redskins week that was

NTK: A look at five Redskins on the roster bubble—This was written prior to the game on Friday and before the Redskins made their first 10 cuts on Saturday. And all five remain squarely on the bubble. Perhaps one, OLB Houston Bates, can breathe easier now because one player thought to be among his main competition at his position, Willie Jefferson, got cut. But the rest are still sweating it out and probably will keep doing so until the final 53 is settled next weekend.

Should Redskins look, what's available in trade market for RB?—This was before Keith Marshall suffered a sprained elbow against the Bills. We’re still not sure how serious that injury is or if Marshall was going to make the team even if he didn’t get hurt in light of how well Robert Kelley played. In any case there has been zero trade talk when it comes to running backs. If the Redskins are going to acquire an additional back it looks like they might wait until teams start making cuts and bolster their running back corps.

Gruden makes late decision to sit Cousins, other starters—This is from after the Jets game but it's still relevant because of how Cousins and the offense looked out of sync in the early going against the Bills. Did the decision to sit Cousins and other key starters on both sides of the ball leave them rusty? And, perhaps more importantly, is 54 snaps of action in the preseason enough for Cousins, commencing his second year as a full-time starter, to get ready for the season?

Projecting the Redskins roster: First cuts approaching—I’m happy to say that none of the final 53 I picked for this article got the ax on Saturday. It’s never easy to do this but there probably are more bubble players this year than there have been in recent years. The most difficult issues this year were fitting CB Greg Toler onto the roster and figuring out just where to count Su’a Cravens. Still, I'm pretty confident that I'll hit on 50 of the 53.

NTK: 5 things we've learned about the Redskins so far—I’m most confident about what I said about DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman here. I think they both will have big seasons.

Tandler on Twitter

The news that the Redskins are likely to face Dak Prescott when the Cowboys come to town in Week 2 brought up this discussion of the Redskins' record against rookie QBs. Here's the link if you want to see details of the Redskins vs. rookie QBs since 2010.

In case you missed it 

 

 

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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