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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: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.