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Need to Know: Which Redskins will surprise in 2015?

Need to Know: Which Redskins will surprise in 2015?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 11, 80 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

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 love starting off the week with a little crystal ball type stuff. I’ll give you two players who could surprise in a positive sense and (even though you didn’t ask) two who will surprise in the sense that they will be unexpectedly disappointing.

Two up

SS Jeron Johnson—With only one NFL start in four seasons, Johnson comes in as something of an unknown. At 5-10, 212 he isn’t the big, physical type of player that is Scot McCloughan’s prototype at strong safety. But I think he’ll be a smart player who will always be in the right place at the right time. He’ll force some turnovers, and he’ll be a sure tackler. Johnson won’t be a Pro Bowl candidate but for a first time in years there could be a feeling that the strong safety position is settled for a while.

DE Jason Hatcher—Yeah, I know that he’ll be 33 before the season starts and logic says that he is likely to decline from his 5.5-sack performance last year. But this year he is surrounded by considerably better talent and that will help him more than the addition trip around the sun will hurt him. Double-digit sacks might be a stretch but I can see eight or nine.

Two down

CB Bashaud Breeland—He had his moments last year like the Monday night game in Dallas where he won a night-long battle with Dez Bryant. But he struggled at times, like against Odell Beckham Jr. in December. I see another up and down year for him with the down time landing him on the bench for a while.

WR Pierre Garçon—I don’t think that Garçon’s performance in and of itself will suffer significant dropoff. I just think that he will be targeted far fewer than the 105 times he was last year. The Redskins attempted 547 passes this year and rushed 401 times. Those numbers won’t flip-flop but if things go as they plan there will be more rushing attempts than passes. That could lead to Garçon playing very well and only catching 40-50 passes.

Timeline

—It’s been 134 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 125 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 37; Redskins training camp starts 80; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 136

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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In case you missed it

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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.