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Need to Know: The top five QBs the Redskins will face in 2015

Need to Know: The top five QBs the Redskins will face in 2015

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 8, 22 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage: The top passers

Training camp is just a few weeks away and it’s time to start honing in on the Redskins’ opponents for the 2015 season. Here are the quarterbacks who should provide the severest tests for the Redskins’ revamped secondary, the top five QB’s they will face this year (ranked by passer rating).

1. Tony Romo, Cowboys (113.2 rating, 1st in NFL)—I know Redskins fans like to laugh at Romo and talk about some issues he’s had with ill-timed interceptions. But he led the NFL in completion percentage, touchdown pass percentage and passer rating and engineered four fourth-quarter comebacks. He’s as dangerous as them come.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots (97.4, 5th)—Even if the footballs are properly inflated Brady should have a pretty good day against the Redskins. The Patriots don’t have a receiver who will keep Joe Barry up late and they don’t have a workhorse running back to wear down the defense. All they need is Brady.

3. Drew Brees, Saints (96.5, 6th)—He’ll put 350 yards up on you without breaking a sweat. One thing to watch is his problems with ball protection. His interception rate of 2.6 percent was higher than any other QB thought to be very good or elite except for Phillip Rivers. He has put the ball on the ground 19 times the last three years, a total that is alarming even considering he led the league in pass attempts.

4. Matt Ryan, Falcons (93.9, 11th)—Last year he got back Julio Jones, who missed most of 2013 with an injury, and added a full yard to his average net yards/attempt total. Ryan is a cut or two beneath the elite quarterbacks in the game but still a top-quality signal caller.

5. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (92.8, 14th)—Would the Redskins have been better off if they had stayed put with the sixth pick of the 2012 draft, taken Tannehill, and kept all those other picks they dealt away to move up to take Robert Griffin III? We won’t find out a definitive answer in the season opener but it will be interesting to get a firsthand look at the QB who hasn’t lit up the league but still was good enough for the Dolphins to believe he warranted a $95 million extension.

Timeline

—It’s been 192 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 67 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 22; Preseason opener @ Browns 36; final cuts 59

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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. 

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