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Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?

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Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 4, seven days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 207 days ago. It will be 39 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 15; Final roster cut 30; Cowboys @ Redskins 45

—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this date in 1949.

Breaking down camp

You shouldn’t believe everything that an NFL coach says.

Jay Gruden said this yesterday when asked about the possibility of trying to game the new rule that puts touchbacks after kickoff on the 25 yard line.
“We’re going to experiment, You know, we’ll see what Dustin [Hopkins] is good at. You know, we’re going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. You know, we don’t want to just succumb to the 25-yard line.”
I might believe Gruden and the other coaches who talk of pooch kicking the ball if it wasn’t such a risky play. NFL coaches have a strong tendency to analyze things on a worst-case basis. What is the worst that can happen if your kicker pounds the ball through the end zone? They get the ball at the 25, five yards closer than they did before. Yes, there is a slightly better chance of scoring points on a possession that starts at the 25 compared to one that starts at the 20. But only slightly.

And while it's true that your kicker won't always be able to pound the ball and force a touchback Hopkins was able to do it 65 percent of the time last year. Those are pretty good odds.

What is the worst that can happen if you pooch kick it and try to pin them back? The other team could return it for a touchdown, or to deep in your territory where scoring points is virtually certain. One blown assignment or one missed tackle and you plan to try to gain five yards of field position is up in smoke.

Gruden and his NFL brethren are hesitant to go for it on fourth and one at midfield even though there is plenty of research to indicate that they should. Why? Because they would rather take heat for being overly cautious than get ripped for a failed fourth-down attempt that gave their opponent a short field to work with.

When it comes down to it, NFL coaches don’t like to gamble. Just like going for it on fourth down is gambling, pooching the ball on a kickoff when you have a kicker like Hopkins who is capable of kicking touchbacks.

Perhaps Gruden will occasionally have Hopkins boom it high and hope his coverage is solid just to make other teams think that he might. He also occasionally goes for it on fourth down in non-desperation situations. But I can almost guarantee that his default strategy on kickoffs will be to have Hopkins kick it as deep as he can. That also will be the standard procedure for nearly every other NFL head coach.

There is just no reason to believe otherwise.

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In case you missed it 

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Scot McCloughan jokes about not being much help to wife's fantasy league draft

Scot McCloughan jokes about not being much help to wife's fantasy league draft

Scot McCloughan helped the Redskins with their draft picks as the General Manager of the team for almost two years. He's considered to be one of the best in the league at evaluating talent.

Prior to the Redskins, he was the GM of the San Francisco 49ers and a senior personnel executive for the Seattle Seahawks. He's helped draft the likes of Russell Wilson, Frank Gore, Golden Tate, Richard Sherman and Jamison Crowder.

RELATED: REDSKINS OUSTED GM TAKES TO TWITTER

But one draft McCloughan doesn't expect to be good at is his wife's fantasy league draft.

"My wife is [in a league] this year and I'm going to try to help her with the draft but I'll probably screw it up, I'm sure. But I'm going to try," McCloughan told ESPN's Adam Schefter during his 'Know Them From Adam' podcast. 

Schefter warned McCloughan that being apart of a fantasy league changes the way you watch the game, how you follow the game and how you root for a team.

Anyone who's been apart of one can understand the stress it brings on game days.

"I can believe it because some teams you've played against for a long time and never really liked them because they're better than you or whatever. Now you're pulling for one guy so you're pulling for them to win. I can only imagine. It will be very interesting."

McCloughan said he didn't even have a successful track record with helping his son pick college games. 

"When I was an area scout I'd help my son out with picking college games each week, not for betting but just like little club, and I was awful on it. I'd do a school call that week and I'd know exactly the team. They're playing well or not playing well or who's playing or not playing, and I was awful at it. You stick yourself, I'm done." 

Luckily for McCloughan, who is running his own scouting service after being fired by the Redskins in March, is really good at drafting when it matters.

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Offensive line

Starters: Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses
Other roster locks: Ty Nsekhe, Chase Roullier
On the bubble: Vinston Painter, Arie Kouandjio, Kyle Kalis,

How the offensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: Over the course of 16 games they should be better because Williams is unlikely to get his with another four-game suspension. He may miss a game or two with an injury as he did in 2014 and 2015 but they can manage that. With all five starters returning, they may be only marginally better on a game-to-game basis. Lauvao was hampered by injuries last year and he looks healthier. Long will be going into his second season at center so he could learn more and improve. Still, the improvements will be marginal. They were a top 5-10 unit last year and they should be this year. Marginally better

To the rest of the NFL: As noted, it’s a top 10 unit easily and you could make the case that it’s in the top five. Yes, even though the Redskins were 21st in the league in rushing last year. The thing is, they were eighth in the league with 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. When they ran the ball, they ran it well. And their sack percentage was fourth in the league. They should set aside the "Hogs 2.0" nickname until the accomplish more as a team but they are very good right now.  Top five

RELATED: 2017 REDSKINS--5 REASONS FOR CONCERN

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Scherff was the fifth pick of the 2015 draft. He nominally was taken as a tackle although many analysts, including some at Redskins Park, figured he would end up as a guard. He is off to a good start in his career, playing nearly every snap over his two seasons and making the Pro Bowl last year. But he can get better and he has the mindset to do it.

Most to prove: Long is injured right now and that has been a minor issue with him since he became a starter. Last year he played well after taking over at center when Kory Lichtensteiger was injured but he still has a lot to learn. His contract is up after this year and if he is going to earn a solid contract from the Redskins or from any other team he must take a couple of steps up and show that he is worth a significant financial investment.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: With Long sidelined until the season opener, the focus turns to Roullier. Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan have shown extraordinary confidence in the sixth-round pick, not shopping for a veteran backup center after seeing Roullier in the offseason program and in training camp. They have a better idea of what they have in him after he starts against the Bengals’ first-team defense on Sunday.

Bottom line: The offensive line is one of the strengths of the team. Williams and Scherff could go back to the Pro Bowl. Moses won’t but that’s primarily because right tackles don’t get Pro Bowl invitations. They will keep Kirk Cousins upright and on what is likely to continue to be a pass-first team, that is critical. Run blocking could be better but that top-10 average of 4.5 yards per carry last year points to issues in the run game beyond the O-line.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Trent Williams:

I think he’s going to get better. He’s lost a little bit of weight and I think he might even be a vegan, whatever that means. The things that he can do with his body and athleticism is incredible. He’s by far I think the best tackle in the league and we’re glad we have him. But it’s also good to see a guy with that type of talent and skill set work as hard as he does. That rubs off on the younger guys, the guys that are up and coming young players. They see a guy like that with much talent, that much production over the years – and Pro Bowls – work that hard, you know, it makes the other guys say, ‘Hey, I better work harder because I’m not as talented as him.’

2017 Redskins position outlook series: Wide receiver | Defensive line |

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.