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Need to Know: The week that was at Redskins Park--It's still win and in

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Need to Know: The week that was at Redskins Park--It's still win and in

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 19, one day before the Washington Redskins host the Buffalo Bills.

The week that was at Redskins Park

A look back on the headlines of the week:

Redskins playoff scenarios—Resting the starters in Dallas?—All of the teams in the NFC East won last Sunday so the playoff scenarios keep playing out based on a three-way tie for first place. The Redskins' simplest scenario is to win all three of their remaining games to get in but they could get away with a loss or maybe even two. The ideal scenario would have them clinch the NFC East with a win over the Eagles and being able to do what the want in the season finale in Dallas.

Carrier out for the season with knee injury—It didn’t look good the moment he went down after catching a pass early in the Bears game. Carrier was obtained via a trade with the 49ers on August 21 after the team lost Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen to injuries earlier in the month. It took him a while to pick up the offense and he caught 17 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Carrier is still under contract for 2016 but his rehab could extend into next season.

Redskins sign veteran tight end Alex Smith—He was available and he knows the offense thanks to having spent time with Jay Gruden in Cincinnati. His role will be mostly as a blocker but he will occasionally sneak out on a pass pattern to keep the defense honest. At age 33 and coming off of a couple of injuries Smith isn’t a long-term solution. But the Redskins just need someone who can get them through three more regular season games and possibly a playoff game or two and Smith seems to be capable of doing that.

DeAngelo Hall is looking forward to facing "little brother" Tyrod Taylor—Hall and Taylor both grew up in the Tidewater region and both went to Virginia Tech. Those connections led to a friendship that will be set aside on Sunday as they will be on opposite sides of the ball at FedEx Field. Although there is a lot of mutual respect there, make no mistake that Taylor would love to burn Hall for a long gain and that Hall would be delighted to pick off one of his younger friend’s passes.

Redskins WR Andre Roberts could need surgery—A disappointing season could come to an early end if the medical staff decides he should have surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Even if he can play in these last few games his season has not been good. For a cap hit of $3.75 million the Redskins got nine games and 11 receptions for 135 yards. He did provide one highlight with a 99-yard kickoff return against the Panthers but that’s still not enough bang for the buck.

Cousins' 2016 price tag likely in $13-$17 million range—As the Redskins remain in playoff contention their quarterback’s value in a 2016 free agent contract continues to climb and it becomes a topic of discussion. He has a chance to push his earnings to the higher end of the range if he can help the Redskins get to the playoffs and maybe win a game or two. But first things first—they need to beat the Bills.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park; no media availability

Days until: Bills @ Redskins 1; Redskins @ Eagles 7; Redskins @Cowboys 15

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. 

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