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Need to Know: 5 reasons the Redskins could struggle in 2014

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Need to Know: 5 reasons the Redskins could struggle in 2014

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 23, 31 days before the Redskins start training camp.

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Yesterday we looked at five reasons for the Redskins to be optimistic about the 2014 season. Today it’s the other side of the coin, five reasons the team could struggle this season.

The safety situation is shaky—Perhaps the Redskins should be applauded for not overpaying for safeties like Mike Mitchell and Jairus Byrd but one of the rewards for their fiscal restraint is a patched-together unit at safety. Ryan Clark is smart and a leader but the Steelers thought he’d lost too many steps. Brandon Meriweather likes to go headhunting and Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas are woefully inexperienced.

Injuries on the defensive line—There are three D-lineman over 30 who have had surgery in the last seven months. Barry Cofield (hernia), Stephen Bowen (knee, microfracture) and Jason Hatcher (knee, cleanup) are all likely to be ready to go when the season starts. But it remains to be seen if they can last once the seasons begins.

A high-risk defensive scheme—It’s all about getting to the quarterback for this defense. If the pass rush doesn’t improve dramatically due to injuries, offensive adjustments, or any one of dozens of things that could go wrong, the weak secondary will be exposed.

Offensive line in transition—It seems that Jay Gruden is going to utilize the outside zone run game that was so effective for the Redskins under Mike Shanahan but at the same time he wants bigger offensive linemen to protect the quarterback. This is a “have your cake and eat it, too” situation and how it shakes out will be vital to the team’s fortunes.

A first-year head coach—It seems like Jay Gruden has his act together and the players seem to be responding to him positively. But they haven’t suffered a three-game losing streak yet. Gruden hasn’t yet made a questionable third-down decision and he hasn’t yet faced the wrath of fans who think he abandoned the run too early in a close loss. It remains to be seen how he reacts to such adversity.

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Timeline

—It’s been 176 days since the Redskins played a game; in 76 days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Training camp 31; Preseason opener vs. Patriots 45; Home opener Jaguars @ Redskins 83

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to spend send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110 but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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