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Need to Know: The top five takeaways from Gruden's presser

Need to Know: The top five takeaways from Gruden's presser

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 27, 11 days before the Redskins start their offseason workouts.

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Here are the top five takeaways from Jay Gruden’s press availability at the NFL owners meetings:

Orakpo needs to prove it—Gruden said that he would be fine with having Brian Orakpo play out the season on the franchise tag. If you read this blog regularly you know that I’ve been saying that the team really has no interest in giving him a long-term deal for a variety of reasons, among them his need to show that he can get it done two years in a row among them.

The offensive line shuffle is official—As many expected, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger will slide into the center spot that became vacant when Will Montgomery was released and free agent signee Shawn Lauvao will be the starting left guard.

Phillip Thomas should be ready to go—He suffered a Lisfranc injury in August and Gruden thinks he’ll be ready to play. However, he wasn’t specific about whether or not Thomas will be able to be fully participant in the offseason program that starts April 7. But he did indicate that they would like to see him step up into a substantial role so he must have some confidence that he will be able to get in a lot of practice before the season starts.

He doesn’t care if RG3 wears a knee brace—“His knee is strong” said Gruden and he said that braces are so light that it really shouldn’t hinder him if the doctors do recommend that he wear one.

He likes having two good QB’s—Well, he said “great” quarterbacks but I’m not quite sure either Griffin or Kirk Cousins qualify. But he does like having Cousins around, especially since Griffin tends to put himself in harm’s way from time to time. Gruden said that the team hasn't received any trade offers for Cousins so far.

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Timeline

—It’s been 88 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 164 days until they play another one.

Days until: Offseason workouts start 11; NFL Draft 42; Training camp starts 118

In case you missed it

Gruden: Hatcher "was a priority for us" due to pass rush

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Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

The next time Robert Kelley plows over a helpless linebacker, he'll do it with a new number on his uniform.

The second-year running back is switching from No. 32 to No. 20, according to Redskins.com. And he's not the only returning player who'll take the field in 2017 with a new pair of digits.

Su'a Cravens will no longer be No. 36 for Washington. Instead, he'll change to No. 30. DJ Swearinger will be taking over No. 36 after coming over from the Cardinals, a number that he reportedly purchased from Cravens for $75,000

Then there's Colt McCoy. McCoy has donned No. 16 for the past three seasons, but he's throwing it back to his college days and will now rock No. 12.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ULTIMATE REDSKINS DRAFT PREVIEW

Finally, second-year corner Kendall Fuller only spent one year with No. 38. As he hopes to improve in his sophomore campaign, he'll be doing so with No. 29.

As for the free agents, Terrelle Pryor will be replacing DeSean Jackson in more ways than one when kickoff rolls around. Not only will the ex-Brown have to shine as a top receiver for Kirk Cousins like Jackson did, but he'll also be sporting Jackson's No. 11.

New linebacker Zach Brown, meanwhile, is now No. 56, linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are Nos. 92 and 97 respectively and Brian Quick will keep No. 83 from his Rams days.

For a complete list of all the changes, click here.

RELATED: IS REUBEN FOSTER WORTH THE RISK?

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

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USA TODAY Sports Images

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.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

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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