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Need to Know: What Redskins could be surprise contributors?

Need to Know: What Redskins could be surprise contributors?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 13, three days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

https://twitter.com/RackEmWillee/status/609399000219914240

Let me take your last question first. I don’t see any surprise starters. I get a lot of questions about the possibility of Martrell Spaight starting over Perry Riley or Jamison Crowder beating out Andre Roberts for the slot receiver role. But it would be highly unusual for fourth- and fifth-round picks to push past established veterans.

So, at least at the start of the year I think the 22 starters will be who the current conventional wisdom say they will be. Certainly things could change in Richmond in July and August but right now it’s hard to see an unexpected leap to the top of the depth chart.

But there almost certainly could be some players who will make unexpected contributions with some solid play. Last year it was veteran Frank Kearse, who went from the roster bubble to recording three sacks, and rookie Bashaud Breeland, who appeared to be a season away from contributing a year ago but ended up starting and making some big plays.

A few months ago it didn’t look like Duke Ihenacho had much of a chance of contributing this year, especially after the team signed Jeron Johnson to start a strong safety. But he has been splitting time with Johnson in OTAs and even if he doesn’t start he could have a role in the defense.

And Josh LeRibeus may have a new life as a backup center. With Chris Chester out the team needs an emergency backup center and LeRibeus, a 2013 third-round pick who seemed destined for bust status, LeRibeus has been working as a fill in with decent results. Here is a good place to insert the no-pads warning; things will get more difficult in July and August and we’ll find out a lot more about LeRibeus and other bubble players then.

I’ll throw one more name out among players who were on the roster last year. I’m hearing that the coaches would like for Chris Thompson to emerge as the third-down back. If he can defy his history and stay healthy he has a very good shot at the role and could be a key player on offense.

Some of the players drafted late this year could make some noise. Spaight should be a special teams standout and CB Tevin Mitchell could be an injury or two away from having a somewhat prominent role.

You have to think that an undrafted free agent or two will make the team. None have really jumped out so far but their big chances will come in camp and in the preseason games. Among the undrafted rookies I’ll be keeping an eye on are TE Devin Mahina and RB Trey Williams.

Timeline

—It’s been 167 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 92 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 3; Redskins training camp starts 47; Preseason opener @ Browns 61

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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