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Need to Know: Who will make the biggest difference on the Redskins' defense?

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Need to Know: Who will make the biggest difference on the Redskins' defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 20, 40 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Here are a five more thoughts on the state of the Redskins after they wrapped up their offseason program. Look here and here to see what I’ve written the last couple of days.

—The biggest single difference—both literally and figuratively—between the Redskins’ defense of 2014 and the one we’ll see this year is Terrance Knighton. Barry Cofield played well at nose tackle at times over the past few years but it’s hard to make up for a lack of sheer size. When Cofield was out injured for a good chunk of last year, Chris Baker was just OK filling in. Knighton brings the size and athletic ability the position needs.

—Baker didn’t play much nose tackle during the offseason practices that were open to the media. I think he might stay on the outside for the most part and that’s probably better for him. He should play about 30-35 snaps per game at end. The new, attacking scheme plays to his strengths much more than the two-gap setup that they played last year. Baker could well play fewer snaps but make more big plays.

—It appears that Chris Thompson and Silas Redd will be competing for one job barring some sort of unexpected injury situation. Keeping four running backs plus fullback Darrel Young would create a numbers crunch that would force another position to be cut short. They both will make it only if they both make a compelling case to stay. I think Thompson might have the edge going in due to his speed but the coaches and other players really like the way Redd goes about his business. If both stay healthy (not a given with Thompson's history) it could come down to the final hours on cutdown day on Sept. 5.

—The most underrated move of the offseason may have been adding strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark. He has some different ways of doing things but just looking at the players in the pre-pads segment of the offseason you have to like the results. Players who needed to get bigger (Trent Murphy, Niles Paul) are bigger and others who needed to get smaller (Trent Williams) lost some noticeable pounds. Jay Gruden said during minicamp that the players are in great shape.

—I think that when all is said and done Jeron Johnson will end up starting at strong safety in Week 1 against the Dolphins. Duke Ihenacho has been getting plenty of snaps there with the first team but it’s probably Johnson’s job to lose. But Ihenacho isn’t going anywhere. I had him on the roster bubble for much of the spring but it looks like he’s locked into a spot. Even if Johnson does start against Miami, Ihenacho could push him all season long.

Timeline

—It’s been 174 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 85 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 40; Preseason opener @ Browns 54; final cuts 78

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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Report: Redskins sign CB Tharold Simon to futures contract

Report: Redskins sign CB Tharold Simon to futures contract

Looking to add depth to their secondary, the Redskins reportedly signed former Seahawks and Cardinals cornerback Tharold Simon on Monday, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Arizona claimed Simon off waivers after the Seahawks released him following the first week of the regular season. He played in nine games for the Cardinals and was inactive for his final two with the team, which then released him in December.

A fifth-round pick for the Seahawks in 2013, Simon was signed to a future/reserve contract, allowing him to compete for a roster spot during training camp and offseason workouts.

He is the 11th player to sign a futures contract with the Redskins.

MORE REDSKINS: Washington interviewed Rob Ryan for defensive coordinator

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Report: Redskins to interview former Raiders defensive coordinator

Report: Redskins to interview former Raiders defensive coordinator

The Redskins have set up another interview with a candidate to fill their vacant defensive coordinator position.

According to the Washington Post, Jason Tarver, the defensive coordinator of the Raiders from 2012-2014, will meet with the organization. The date of the interview is not known.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

Before joining the Raiders, Tarver coached in college for five years before the 49ers hired him as a quality control coach. He worked his way up to become the outside linebackers coach, a position he held from 2005-2010. Scot McCloughan was the GM of the 49ers while Tarver was coaching there.

After a year as a defensive coordinator in the college ranks at Stanford, Tarver was hired as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator. He was a defensive assistant for the 2015 49ers and he was out of football last season.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

The Redskins have announced interviews with former Browns head coach Mike Pettine and ex-Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. It was reported earlier today that they also will meet with Rob Ryan, most recently the Bills’ defensive coordinator.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.