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Need to Know: Where do the Redskins' top two cornerbacks rank?

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Need to Know: Where do the Redskins' top two cornerbacks rank?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 12, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 184 days ago. It will be 62 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 3; Preseason opener @ Falcons 30; Final roster cut 53

Where does the Norman-Breeland duo rank?

Last week on NFL.com, former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor ranked the top cornerback tandems in the NFL going into the 2016 season. His top duo was the Broncos’ Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. It’s hard to argue with ranking the pair of cornerbacks on the defense that spearheaded the Broncos’ run to the Lombardi Trophy at the top.

Taylor goes through his top five in detail. He ranks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu of the Cardinals second (Taylor admits he’s fudging a bit as Mathieu is a safety/slot corner), followed by the Bengals’ duo of Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, the Giants Donimique Roders-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, and Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter of the Bears.

He also mentioned the Chargers’ and Bills’ corner tandems as just having missed the list.

The issue with this ranking, besides the fact that it’s not complete, is that it looks at duos. With NFL teams lining up with three or more wide receivers on over half of the snaps it makes more sense to talk about corners in groups of three.

But that’s not the way this was done so let’s look at how the Redskins’ top two corners, Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, stack up against Taylor’s top picks.

Norman, a first-team All-Pro in 2015, playing opposite a replacement-level cornerback likely would qualify the Redskins’ corners for a spot in the top half of the league. Breeland is still learning. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks throwing at him had a 93.1 passer rating. That’s better than the league average rating of 88.4. You have to be careful putting too fine a point on PFF’s numbers like this but it’s still safe to say that he’s somewhere around average in that department. And Breeland had just two interceptions last year, the same number he had as a rookie.

Those of us who follow the Redskins closely see a player on the rise. I don’t think that Breeland is quite there yet and in the eyes of the rest of the league he still has a lot to prove.

Then again, the numbers don’t show that Jenkins, who was lured from the Rams to the Giants with a mega free agent contract, is all that much better than Breeland. Quarterbacks threw for a 93.8 passer rating against him and he has five interceptions in the last two years. If you want to give Jenkins a bit of an edge because he has been around for two years longer and has made more big plays (six career return TDs) that’s fine but it’s not like Jenkins is miles ahead of Breeland.

And you would have to say that Norman is a cut above Rodgers-Cromartie based on All-Pro honors and a markedly better pass rating against him (Norman 58.1, DRC 67.2). Somehow, DRC made the Pro Bowl last year despite the fact that the Giants had the worst-ranked pass defense in the NFL (yes, they even ranked lower than the Saints).

So without putting every CB duo in the NFL under the microscope I think it’s safe to say that if the Giants have a top five pair of cornerbacks the Redskins have a tandem somewhere in the top 10.

In July, a top-10 pair of corners plus $2.60 will get me my afternoon venti coffee at Starbucks. But with the addition of Norman and the continued development of Breeland they should be able to improve their pass defense, which ranked 26th in yards allowed.

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”