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Redskins Position Outlook: Talent at corner, but need better results in 2017

Redskins Position Outlook: Talent at corner, but need better results in 2017

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017. 

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland

Backups: Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller, Dashaun Phillips, Greg Toler

Free Agents: Greg Toler 

Redskins Position Outlook: Running back | Defensive line | Outside linebackers | Inside linebackers 

Rewind: With Josh Norman starting opposite Bashaud Breeland, the Redskins should have one of the strongest set of starting corners in the NFL. Norman is an elite talent, and Breeland has shown he can be quite good. In 2016, however, the results weren't pretty.

The Redskins finished 25th in passing defense, and while that's not all on the corners, the position group doesn't get a pass either. Norman got his hands on a ton of passes, but was only able to haul in three interceptions. Breeland also had three picks. 

Washington struggled for much of the season defending the slot. Rookie Kendall Fuller showed promise early, but that ended fast in a game where he got torched by Vikings WR Stefon Diggs. Quinton Dunbar is an incredible athlete with a lot of potential, though he logged just two starts last year. Greg Toler and Dashaun Phillips gave the team depth, but neither player provided enough for coaches to depend on them.

Fast forward: Confusion seemed to reign in the Redskins secondary in 2016. Some of that might be a result of a patchwork group of safeties and a poor performing defensive line, but coaching changes might help in 2017. When Joe Barry was let go, so was secondary coach Perry Fewell. Last season, some folks say Fewell's coaching style and scheme led to breakdowns for the Washington corners. With a new defensive backs coach in Torrian Gray, some of that may change, but it's also worth pointing out that some players wanted Aubrey Pleasant promoted to that job. 

It would be near impossible for Breeland's 2017 season to start as poorly as 2016 did. Late in the year, Breeland was again playing well, especially when deployed in the slot. It's also hard to imagine Josh Norman can make as many clean breaks on passes without bringing a few more in. 

This group will largely be back, certainly Norman, Breeland, Fuller and Dunbar. New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will have to decide early on his plan for a nickel corner, and if Fuller in his second season will be ready for that role. If not, it's possible Dunbar could work outside and Breeland move inside in spots.

Also, don't forget about Will Blackmon. The versatile defender was asked to play safety in 2016, but still has the wheels to play corner, his natural position. In 2015, Blackmon had two INTs and forced two fumbles as a corner. Should the 'Skins actually address the safety position via the draft or free agency, maybe Blackmon moves back to corner this fall, especially considering his ability to cover the slot.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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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.

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Report: Odell Beckham could miss regular season games after preseason hit

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USA Today Sports

Report: Odell Beckham could miss regular season games after preseason hit

Odell Beckham Jr. took a hard hit to the leg in Monday night's preseason game against the Browns. Immediately following the play, it seemed Beckham might have sustained a serious knee or lower leg injury, especially as the wide receiver collapsed in pain walking to the locker room

Reports came out that showed Beckham merely sustained an ankle sprain and that X-rays and an MRI revealed no major problems. On Wednesday, however, ESPN reported that the Giants wideout could miss regular season games with the ankle issue. 

From ESPN.com:

It's "not out of the question he could miss a week or two of the regular season," according to one source.

The Giants open their season on September 10th against the Cowboys in Dallas, a key NFC East battle. 

RELATED: JOSH NORMAN BELITTLES DEZ BRYANT AND OBJ

Arguably the most explosive receiver in the NFL, losing Beckham, even for just one game, would be a big blow for Big Blue. New York's offense hasn't scored a touchdown yet this preseason, and Eli Manning and company did not have a particularly good year in 2016 either.

The Giants offense ranked 26th in the NFL in scoring at just 19.4 points-per-game. The Redskins, even with their red zone struggles, ranked 12th at 24.8 PPG.

Despite the Giants offensive struggles, Beckham still produced in 2016. He posted 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns over 16 games. It marked the first year of his three season career he was able to suit up for all 16 games.

This offseason, the Giants brass tried to make the offense better, adding veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and taking tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Offensive line remains a significant concern for New York, especially with the 36-year-old Manning behind center. 

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