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How many new starters for the 2016 Redskins?

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How many new starters for the 2016 Redskins?

Even though the Redskins went 9-7 and made the playoffs last year they are not standing still in terms of personnel. There will be a number of new starters, particularly on defense. In fact, you might be surprised at how many new starters they are likely to have.

Before we dive into this, let’s look at how we’re defining “starters”. In official terms, the 11 players who are on the field for the first snap on the game on each side of the ball are the starters. But we will loosen that definition a bit so that we are talking about front line players.

For example, cornerback Justin Rogers was a starter in the season opener against the Dolphins in 2015. But after that one game he was inactive for two weeks and then waived in Week 5. Rogers is not a player most would think of as a “starter”.

On the other side of the coin, Jordan Reed played in 14 games but he only started in nine of them. I don’t think that there is any question that Reed is a front-line starter.

With that said, let’s look at the anticipated 2016 front-line players compared to 2015.

There will be two new starters on offense. Matt Jones will start at running back in place of the departed Alfred Morris and Jamison Crowder will play slot receiver replacing Andre Roberts, who was waived last month.

Both were 2015 draft picks. Crowder started six games and played 474 snaps while Jones did not have a start and played 349 snaps.

On defense there will be several new starters. Last year, Terrance Knighton started 15 games at nose tackle and Jason Hatcher started 14 at right defensive end. They are both gone so there will be new starters at those positions. For right now the nose tackle is Kedric Golston and the right DE is Stephen Paea but that lineup is written with a dry erase marker, nothing permanent.

At linebacker, either Preston Smith or Junior Galette will start opposite Ryan Kerrigan on the outside, replacing Trent Murphy, who converted to defensive end. On the inside, it looks like Will Compton and Mason Foster have the, well, inside track to starting jobs. They started nine and five games, respectively, last year. Of the other two inside backers who started games in 2015 one, Keenan Robinson (8 starts) has gone to New York and the other, Perry Riley (9) is still around with a shot at winning back the starting job.

Cornerback Josh Norman replaces Chris Culliver (who started the season) or Will Blackmon (who had 10 starts), depending on how you want to look at it. At safety, DeAngelo Hall, who started five games at safety last year, and David Bruton, who was a reserve with the Broncos in 2015, are now the starters. If it’s not Bruton at strong it will be Duke Ihenacho, who started the opener last year but went out early in the game with a wrist injury that landed him on injured reserve. Last year Trenton Robinson, who is no longer with the team, started the most games at strong safety (7).

To count up the changes it’s easier to look at who is staying put. There are three returning solid starters and they all play on the left side—DE Chris Baker, LB Ryan Kerrigan, and CB Bashaud Breeland. At the other eight positions there will be at least six new starters (two each on the DL and S, one each at OLB and CB) and depending on how things shake out and how you want to define new starters, two more possible changes at the inside linebacker spots.

So taking the low number and adding in the offense there will be a minimum of eight new starters for the Redskins this year. That looks like a lot of disruption to a team that seemed to be on its way up but it really isn’t. The way it looks right now only two of the new starters, Norman and Bruton, are new to the team in 2016. All of the others either started some games or played a substantial role with the exception of Galette, who was on injured reserve all of last year.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

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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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.