If Tanard Jackson returns to practice Thursday as expected, then the competition at safety can finally begin in earnest.Jackson missed the three days of training camp with a calf muscle strain, then sat out the next three days because of a CBA-mandated acclimation period.It definitely didnt help, he said of the delay. But its a long camp; we still have a lot competition left. My opportunity will come.Jackson is expected to challenge Madieu Williams for the starting free safety job. Brandon Meriweather, meanwhile, is expected to start at strong safety, while DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty appear to be battling for backup duty.Jackson said he can play both safety positions, but acknowledged hes more comfortable playing free.The native of Silver Spring began camp on the physically unable to perform list because of the ailing calf muscle. He said he was cleared by team doctors Sunday but couldnt join practice immediately because of a provision in the CBA that prohibits contact drills and pads during a players first three days in camp.Ive been patient these past three days, he said. I didnt know about the acclimation thing in the new CBA. I guess its a good thing because it protects us.Jackson joined the Redskins in April following his release by Tampa Bay, where he missed the majority of the 2010 season after being suspended by the NFL for a second violation of the leagues substance abuse policy. He was reinstated seven games into the 2011 season but had surgery on his shoulder in January. The Bucs cut him in April when he a failed physical exam.The hard-hitting 27-year-old didnt stay unemployed long. Secondary Coach Raheem Morris Jacksons head coach in Tampa Bay quickly reached out to the safety, who, in 2009, posted career highs in tackles (71) and interceptions (5) in 12 games.In 56 career games all with the Bucs Jackson has 239 tackles, 10 interceptions and a sack.As soon as I got released, I was on the phone with Raheem and Coach Jim Haslett, in less than 30 minutes, Jackson said.But if he wants to remain with his hometown team and reward Morris faith in him hes got to make up for lost time.And quickly.I dont have to overdo it, he said. But Im anxious to get out there. Im ready to go now.
When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.
In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.
Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.
What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games.
The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.
The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.
—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105
Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.
Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016
(originally posted January 28)
As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.
The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.
The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.
The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.
While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.
Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.
The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.