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Sluggish offense or strong defense? Notes from final Redskins minicamp practice

Sluggish offense or strong defense? Notes from final Redskins minicamp practice

The Redskins hit the fields for the final minicamp practice on Wednesday and the defense clearly outplayed the offense. In a way, it's a bit more fun when the defense is outplaying the offense in practice. Defensive players tend to hoot and holler a bit more, especially as the team makes big plays and turnovers. 

That happened plenty Wednesday, with Kirk Cousins clearly forcing some deep throws and throwing two interceptions on top of a few others that could have been picked off. The best line overheard as minicamp concluded though belonged to D.J. Swearinger.

As the offense worked near the goal line, Cousins called his own number on a zone read carry. Remember, there is no hitting in minicamp, but had their been, Swearinger would have been in position for a downhill collision. 

Other news and notes: 

  • Early in practice, Ryan Kerrigan quickly got around the corner on Morgan Moses. Remember, no pads, so don't take too much from it. That said, it does seem like the Redskins outside linebacker group could be a force. Last year the team put up Top 10 NFL sack totals and that could improve this fall.
  • DeAngelo Hall might play safety now, but watch him on the sideline, and it's clear he still thinks like a cornerback. Throughout the minicamp session, Hall talks with the corners and offers advice. After the practice session, Hall explained that he likes talking with the corners, especially Quinton Dunbar and Bashaud Breeland. Hall explained Dunbar has all the tools but is still learning to switch after playing wideout in college. On Breeland, Hall said that the fourth-year CB out of Clemson can be one of the best when he's focused, but when he's not, "he is just a guy." Sounds like a future coach.
  • Jordan Reed has been great. Vernon Davis has looked good. But damn if Niles Paul isn't impressing when he gets opportunities. Had another TD catch on Wednesday on a nice seam route where it looked like he got popped as he hit the end zone. Assuming the Redskins want to keep Jeremy Sprinkle, who hasn't impressed but is a raw rookie, Jay Gruden will have a very tough decision with his roster. Four tight ends seems like a possibility. Gruden on Paul: "He’s the hardest working guy here and he’s performed very well. He does some tight end, he does some fullback, he can split outside, very versatile. He’s also a key member of our special teams. He’s done excellent." And Cousins on Paul: "I thought he was very productive this spring. He probably did even more than I thought he would."
  • Nico Marley running the huddle with the second-team defense? Nico Marley running the huddle with the second-team defense. The kid is charismatic and super quick sideline to sideline. Special teams is his only chance for a roster spot with the lack of size, but guys must like him. 
  • Josh Norman is confident the 2017 Redskins defense will be better than the 2016 Redskins defense. I agree. The cornerback continues to work on his off-man coverage, and on Tuesday had perhaps the most impressive defensive play of minicamp when he was able to highpoint a ball on Terrelle Pryor and break up a long pass on the sideline. 
  • When the Redskins signed 6-foot-5 Pryor, many thought he would instantly help the team in the red zone. That was on display Wednesday, when Cousins found Pryor on a simple slant from about the 5-yard-line that went for a TD. The play seemed effortless, and it was clearly the highlight of the day for the QB/WR duo. In fact, Cousins and Pryor seemed a bit out of sync much of the two-day minicamp, but remember, it's June. Don't be alarmed.  
  • Redskins WR coach Ike Hilliard talked about one big difference from 2016 to 2017 - and I'm paraphrasing - We had a bunch of little guys. Now we have big guys. 

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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