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Need to Know: The top five defenses the Redskins will face in 2016

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Need to Know: The top five defenses the Redskins will face in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 27, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 169 days ago. It will be 77 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 18; Preseason opener @ Falcons 45; Final roster cut 68

The five toughest defenses the Redskins will face in 2016

Ranked by defensive DVOA

Panthers (-18.4%, ranked 2nd in NFL)—They will be missing Josh Norman, their All-Pro cornerback. But their front seven, led by tackle Kawann Short and linebacker Luke Kuechly, will likely have them near the top of the heap defensively again this year.

Cardinals (-15.6%, 3rd)—They have top players at all levels of defense—DE Calais Campbell, LB Deone Bucannon, CB Patrick Peterson, and S Tyrann Mathieu. Their defense is well balanced, ranking second against the pass and fourth against the run.

Packers (-7.3%, 9th)—I’ll bet “top-10 defense” doesn’t come to mind when you talk about the Packers but it’s a solid unit. One thing that they have going for them is that coordinator Dom Capers is entering his eighth year in Green Bay and GM Ted Thompson knows what players will fit Capers’ scheme.

Bengals (-7.1%, 10th)—The Redskins’ offensive front had better tighten their chinstraps in London. That Bengals front seven with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap up front and Vontaze Burfict (assuming he’s not suspended again) at linebacker is among the best and nastiest in the game.

Steelers (-3.8%, 11th)—With Big Ben, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell we have come to think of the Steelers as a offensive minded team. And while they are not the Steel Curtain they did well enough to be one of 11 teams that held opponents under 20 points per game last year. They did it in part because they were third in the NFL with 30 takeaways and fourth with 48 sacks.

A DVOA of zero represents an average defense; negative numbers are good. For comparison purposes the Redskins had a DVOA of 5.4%, 21st in the NFL.

The Vikings are the only other team with a negative defensive DVOA on the Redskins’ schedule (-1.8%, 14th). The lowest-ranked defense they face belongs to the Bears (11.3%, 31st).

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What — if anything — can Redskins learn from Patriots situation with Jimmy Garoppolo?

What — if anything — can Redskins learn from Patriots situation with Jimmy Garoppolo?

Despite reports of a highly motivated trade market for Jimmy Garoppolo, the New England Patriots decided to hold on to their backup quarterback this offseason. It's easy to dismiss the notion of keeping Garoppolo as just one part of the unique genius of Pats coach Bill Belichick, but that might be overly simplistic.

In an article last week for MMQB.com, Albert Breer writes that New England ultimately decided there is more value in a QB a team trusts than a package of draft picks, even high draft picks.

Your off-season lesson for this week: Having a good young quarterback on your own roster is more important than what he’s worth as an asset.

The emphasis belongs to Breer, and it could be an interesting lesson for Redskins fans. 

A vocal part of the fan base believed that Washington should have moved QB Kirk Cousins before the draft. The logic went that since the Redskins can't get a long-term deal done with Cousins, the organiztion should maximize the value with the passer and trade him, potentially for the first or second overall pick in the 2017 draft.

Breer's argument, however, might poke holes in that theory. 

Belichick and the Pats decided to keep Garoppolo despite plenty of reasons to move the young signal caller. The first - and super obvious - reason being a healthy Tom Brady. That needs no explanation.

Beyond Brady, Breer explains that it seems more likely Garoppolo's stock will actually decrease in 2017, just because it's so high right now. Looking ahead to the 2018 draft, a number of quarterbacks are expected to be worth high selections, starting with USC quarterback Sam Darnold.

If there was a time to move Garoppolo, it would have been this offseason. And Belichick didn't do it. That suggests the Patriots want to keep the former Eastern Illinois product playing in Foxborough, especially if age ever catches up to the 39-year-old Brady. 

One more note on Garopollo - he is slated for free agency in 2018. Just like Cousins. It's entirely possible Jimmy G walks in free agency next season, and the Pats get no compensation. The exact same possibility is in play for Cousins and the Redskins. New England could franchise Garoppolo too next offseason, as has been the case for Cousins the last two seasons in Burgundy and Gold. 

The truth is Garoppolo has thrown less than 100 passes in the NFL. Cousins threw more than 600 just last season. There is no true comparison for Cousins' situation, just as there isn't for Garoppolo's. Both players have great value. Cousins has proved he's an NFL starter. Garoppolo certainly looked like one in two starts in 2016. 

One key takeaway: Belichick opted to keep Garoppolo this year, even though the Patriots could have recouped a lot of value, and knowing that the 2018 QB market should be significantly better than the 2017 crop. And that's with a very uncertain contract future for Garoppolo and the organization.

In some ways, the Redskins and Bruce Allen made the same decision with Cousins. It could certainly backfire. Cousins might leave next offseason and Washington gets nothing in return. Still, the Redskins will have their passer for 2017, and with an improved defense, should be an NFC playoff contender. It also remains possible the team finalizes a deal with Cousins before the July 15th deadline. It's not probably, but definitely possible. 

But in a league where most can only hope to emulate the success in New England, maybe, just maybe, Washington is following the Patriots handbook. 

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Need to Know: Which Redskins will surprise in 2017?

Need to Know: Which Redskins will surprise in 2017?

 

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 22, one day before the Washington Redskins start OTAs on May 23.

Timeline

It’s been 141 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 111 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 22
—Training camp starts (7/27) 66
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 80

Who will surprise in 2017?

Here are four Redskins who I think will surprise in 2017; two who will exceed expectations and two I think will fall short of expectations.

Two up

OLB Preston Smith—If you have been reading this space for a while you know that I have predicted that Smith is on the verge of a breakout multiple time. Here is one more time. We have seen the good-to-great version of Smith on multiple occasions—the last four games of the 2015 season including the playoff game, when he terrorized Sam Bradford and saved that Vikings game with an interception, and against the Bears when he blocked a field goal. I think that competition from rookie Ryan Anderson will give him the jolt he needs to become a consistent defensive force.

CB Bashaud Breeland—Breeland never quite seemed to find his groove last year. When he started off the year he was guarding the likes of Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant as teams took advantage of Joe Barry’s reluctance to have Josh Norman follow the opposition’s top receiver. Later in the year he reportedly had disputes with former secondary coach Perry Fewell over how he was being utilized. This year he should be more comfortable defending mostly No. 2 receivers. That, and the fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract should propel him to a solid year.

Two down

TE Vernon Davis—I don’t think that Davis will fall off terribly at age 33, even though Father Time is undefeated. But he isn’t going to sneak up on anybody this year and the added attention from defenses could depress his production. His numbers (receptions, yards per catch, catch percentage) all fell off in the second half of 2016 compare to the first half. The stats could take another dip in 2017.

DE Jonathan Allen—No, Allen is not going to be a draft bust. He will be just fine. But some are expecting him to be the second coming of J.J. Watt right off the bat. Watt was good as a rookie, recording 5.5 sacks, but not great. It wasn’t until his second season that he started to rack up double-digit sacks and became a perennial All-Pro. So, don’t be surprised if Allen doesn’t wow you right off the bat. There is a big adjustment when going from college to the NFL, even after playing in the SEC. Allen will put in the work it takes to develop into a very good player. But the work may not bear fruit until towards the end of this season or many not until 2018.

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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