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Need to Know: 5 thoughts on the Redskins after first week of OTAs

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Need to Know: 5 thoughts on the Redskins after first week of OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 1, 16 days before the start of minicamp.

Nickel coverage

Five thoughts on the Redskins after their first week of OTAs.

—It’s very early but it seems like Keenan Robinson has the inside track on the inside linebacker spot vacated by London Fletcher. To be sure, in shorts and helmets he’s going to look better than Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton because he knows the defense. And he still has a lot to learn. But Jay Gruden saying that “we have high hopes for Keenan” is telling. He’s the guy they would like to see win the job and it’s likely that he’ll have to fall flat on his face to lose it.

—You certainly get the feeling that football wasn’t much fun for Robert Griffin III last year and he’d like to get back to enjoying the game. “Football’s a fun game to play. A lot of you guys don’t see the hard work that goes into it, how late we’re here, how early were here,” said Griffin. “At the end of the day it’s just like you’re a little kid again, out there playing football and I want it to be that kind of atmosphere and when guys are doing their job, we’ll celebrate.”

—I have been dismissive of Tanard Jackson’s chances of making the team. With just 12 games on his ledger since the start of the 2010 season the odds are still against him. But he has impressed during the time since his suspended ended and he has a legitimate shot. ““He doesn’t look like he’s been away for two years,” said Jay Gruden. Jackson will have to play well enough to knock Bacarri Rambo off of the roster since the team is unlikely to keep more than four safeties.

Jordan Reed was second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards last year despite missing seven games with injuries, including the last six with a concussion. Despite the additions for DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, don’t be surprised if Reed is again the second leading receiver on the team if he is able to play all or most of 16 games. He will be RG3’s security blanket. “If people want to crowd DeSean or crowd Pierre, he’s a guy that is very much needed in the passing game, so we just got to keep him healthy and get him going,” said Gruden.

—It’s not sounding good for Leonard Hankerson. Gruden said that he hopes to get the fourth-year receiver on the field “sometime in training camp”. That sounds a lot like he’ll be starting camp on the PUP list so he will fall even further behind in learning the offense. It’s hard to see him being left off of the 53-man roster but you can’t rule it out.

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Timeline

—It’s been 154 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be 98 days until they play the Texans in their season opener.

Days until: Minicamp starts 16; Training camp 53; Redskins @ Eagles 112

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.