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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—the draft, Aikman on RG3

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—the draft, Aikman on RG3

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 30, 25 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

A look at the Redskins week that was

Looking back at some of our most popular Redskins posts of the week:

Troy Aikman could see RG3 in Cowboys uniform, with one caveatThis is one of those silly season stories, where the former Dallas quarterback says that he could envision either Robert Griffin III or Johnny Manziel in a Cowboys uniform in 2016. You can’t dismiss it out of hand because of the source. Aikman is wired in to the organization and it’s likely that he has heard of some interest in Griffin on the part of the Cowboys. But that is a long way from a contract offer and Griffin agreeing to go to a situation where he would have to go and wait for the starter to get injured before getting a chance to play. Tony Romo isn’t going to get benched.

Which Redskin might be a surprise cap casualty in 2016?—The Redskins will have some cap room to work with and they will have more when they release Griffin. But there are some high-priced vets who might need to be released to create some more room to be able to sign Kirk Cousins, perhaps extend Jordan Reed, and add some needed players in free agency. Check out the post to see who Tandler and Tarik think could go.

How many draft picks do the Redskins have?—We’re still about three months away from the draft but interest is high which is why this draft basics post got so many page views. There are probably two or three dozen players that Scot McCloughan could take with their first pick, which is No. 21 overall. It seems like every fan has his or her favorite. We’ll talk about the draft plenty in the months leading up to it and, of course, during and after.

Giving odds on the return or departure of every Skins' free agent—Free agency comes well before the draft and the Redskins have 16 players with expiring contracts. Some will be back, many won’t. We looked at every Redskins pending free agent and the odds of him being back in burgundy and gold for the 2016 season.

Ertz contract gives Redskins guidance on new deal for Reed—Jordan Reed isn’t going to be a free agent this year but the Redskins may look to lock up their standout tight end before he is. They got some help in figuring out what a deal with Reed should look like when the Eagles locked up Zach Ertz, their top tight end, through 2021 a year before his rookie contract expired. They have comparable career numbers up to this point but Reed is considered to be more of an impact player and he likely will make more than Ertz, who got a five-year deal worth $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 20 days ago. It will be about 225 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 25; NFL free agency starts 39; 2016 NFL draft 89

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

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