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Redskins-Saints game preview: The moment is here

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Redskins-Saints game preview: The moment is here

What: Redskins vs. Saints
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
TV: Fox WTTG-5 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa)The moment a floundering franchise and a famished fan base has awaited for months finally arrives Sunday.Robert Griffin III wont end Washingtons stretch of four consecutive last place finishes in the NFC East in a single game. But how the No. 2 overall draft pick shows against the Saintswillhint at how quickly a turnaround might begin.Coach Mike Shanahan has tailored the Redskins offense to accentuate Griffins ability to tuck the ball, take off and leave defenders grasping at air. The extent to which Griffin does that, however, remains unclear after a 3-1 preseason in which Shanahan shielded his playbook from rest of the NFL and his prized rookie from potential harm.Griffin attempted only 31 passes and five rushes scattered over parts of three preseason games, which has left more questions than answers about the 22-year-olds comfort level and, more important, how Shanahan plans to deploy his most dangerous weapon.Asked directly how he intends to use Griffin against the Saints, Shanahan flashed a wry smile and said: Youll have to show up and come to the game.Well be there, Coach. But Griffin wont be the only player the CSN Washington team will be monitoring. Heres what else well be watching:Redskins returning to healthThe Redskins open the season as healthy as theyve been in recent memory. In fact, only one starter on the active roster strong safety Brandon Meriweather will miss the game if left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee), linebacker Brian Orakpo (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Wilson (abdominal strain) suit up as expected.The loss of Meriweather, though, could be a significant one against a vaunted air attack directed by one of the games best passers in Drew Brees, who last season broke Dan Marinos record for passing yards in a season.The Redskins depth chart lists Reed Doughty as Meriweathers backup, but it seems more likely that DeJon Gomes will pick up the slack. Gomes is more mobile than Doughty and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said this week that Gomes coverage skills have shown great improvement entering his second NFL season.But will that be enough against Brees and targets like tight end Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston? (Colston is listed a questionable with a left foot injury after being limited in practice Friday.)They have a whole crew of guys, Gomes said. And they have a good running game to complement their passing game. We have be on our Ps and Qs.Mystery surrounds running back positionThe Shanahans have been elusive about how they intend to implement running backs Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr. and Alfred Morris.Will they ride the hot hand as Kyle indicated this week? Will they allow the situation to dictate their choice? Will they rotate them?Royster joked Monday that he might know the plan and whos starting until after kickoff.So, it seems, theres only one way to find out. More important, though, what unfolds Sunday might provide a glimpse at how the trio will be utilized the remainder of the season.Redskins prepare for Supdome noise in their own domeNew Orleans is home to Griffins parents, Robert Jr. and Jacqueline, and hell have three-dozen members of his extended family in attendance at the Superdome. The other 72,000 on hand, however, will be bent on making Griffins first career start as difficult as possible.To say the aging arena in downtown New Orleans is loud would be understatement. Its deafening and a big reason the Saints went 9-0 at home last season.Griffin and the rest of the Redskins offense has spent the past three weeks preparing for the challenge in Ashburn, where faux crowd noise was blasted during at least two practices inside the teams practice bubble. Practice, though, is no substitute for experience.Weve got to go out and make sure we can communicate non-verbally, Griffin said. Make sure guys arent making little mistakes because they cant hear.As if going toe-to-toe with Brees, reading an NFL defense in the regular season for the first time and controlling his own emotions werent enough for him to worry about.Good news on bounty suspensions won't have much effectAfter a tumultuous offseason that included the bounty scandal and Brees sometimes testy contract negotiations, the Saints scored their first victory of the 2012 season on Friday.A three-member appeals panel overturned the suspensions of the players implicated in the pay-to-injure scheme, clearing the way for them to return Sunday.Its expected that Saints defensive end Will Smith will play against the Redskins, while linebacker and emotional leader Jonathan Vilma will watch from the sidelines. Vilma is still recovering from a knee injury.The Saints didnt need another reason to get fired up. But now theyve got one.Victory is mine!!!! Vilma tweeted.

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Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 23, 21 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 142 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 110 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 21
—Training camp starts (7/27) 65
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 79

Who will surprise in 2017?

As OTAs start today, all 90 players on the roster have something to work for. But few dozen of them don’t have to work for a job. These are players who either because of their contracts or draft status or importance to the team who are locks to make the 53-man roster. Here are the 2017 roster locks.

Offense (18)

Backs: QB’s Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, and Nate Sudfeld; RB’s Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine.

I’ve had Sudfeld on the bubble ever since the Redskins drafted him but he’s past the point where they are going to give up on him and risk putting him on the practice squad. A year ago, Kelley was on the outside of the bubble and now he is a mortal lock.

WR/TE: WR’s Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder; TEs Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Receivers Maurice Harris and Robert Davis are close to being locks but there is a lot of competition going on in the bottom of the depth chart. Jeremy Sprinkle is likely to make it as a tight end but he may have to beat out special teams stalwart Niles Paul.

O-line: OT’s Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, G’s Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio; C Spencer Long

You can argue about Lauvao but the fact that the team did not draft or sign serious competition for him tells me he is safe. Someone who can back up a center is a lock to make the roster. That could be sixth-round pick Chase Roullier or a veteran plucked off waivers.

Defense (18)

D-line: Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Jonathan Allen, Anthony Lanier, Ziggy Hood

Lanier will still be a project but after keeping him last year the Redskins will hang on to him again to see if he can develop into a pass-rushing threat. Matt Ioannidis could be the sixth defensive lineman but he could get beaten out.

Linebackers: OLB’s Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson; ILB’s Will Compton, Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Trent Murphy will be suspended for the first four games so he won’t be on the initial 53. Martrell Spaight is close to being a lock but competition will be fierce for that last inside linebacker spot.

Backs: CB’s Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar; Safeties Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

Five or possibly six positions are up for grabs here. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau is a lock to be with the organization but he could be on the PUP list.  

Specialists (3): LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way, K Dustin Hopkins

It would be very surprising if they brought in competition for Hopkins.

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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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE WITH PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM

He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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