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Need to Know: Bad drafts lead to Redskins free agency needs

Need to Know: Bad drafts lead to Redskins free agency needs

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 10, 49 days before the NFL Draft.

Five thoughts on free agency so far

—It seems that safety is emerging as a big area that needs to be addressed in some form during free agency. As usual. The name of the Bengals' Reggie Nelson, who will be 33 in September, came up as a player the Redskins are interested in. Even though he had eight interceptions last year, at that age he is not the ideal solution. But until they can find solutions in the draft, something that seems to get harder and harder for everyone around the league to accomplish every year, they will have to do the best they can.

—They also could get Dashon Goldson back. There is no talk that there was any bitterness between the player and the team over negotiations to cut his pay from the $8 million his contract called for but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some hard feelings about it. But it’s possible that Goldson will go out into the market, not find anything to his liking, and come back and sign with the Redskins. We saw this a few years ago with DeAngelo Hall. But Hall had longstanding ties to the Redskins whereas Goldson has been around for only a year. I’d say the odds are against it but we’ll see.

—The Redskins are going to have to fill a few more holes than just safety. And while getting several free agents may run counter to what Scot McCloughan preaches it’s necessary and here’s why. The 2011 and 2012 drafts should be forming the core of the team now. They should have several starters and a number of key contributors on the team working on their second contracts. But from 2011 they have Ryan Kerrigan and Niles Paul. From 2012 they have Kirk Cousins. That’s it. And they had a total of 21 picks in those two drafts. It’s no wonder that there are holes to fill.

—The Redskins may wait until the draft to acquire another running back. The supply has been diminished at top-shelf prices. The top available running back available, James Starks of the Packers, is ranked No. 49 on Rotoworld’s top 50 available free agents list. As I’ve said all along, I think that the plan is to go into the draft and try to pick up a running back on Friday night or sometime early on Saturday. If they can’t land one there—or maybe even if they can—they will look to the May free agent market where there will still be some quality players available for a fraction of the $6.5 million that Chris Ivory got from the Jaguars.

—This is looking way ahead but the Redskins could have two more spots on the 53-man roster up for grabs than they had last year. With Darrel Young gone they are unlikely to sign a fullback. And if they draft a quarterback in the sixth or seventh round or sign one as an undrafted free agent they might keep that player on the practice squad instead of the 53, clearing another spot. Probably one spot would be for an extra tailback so they would carry three or four. And one might go to a fourth tight end if they can find a blocking tight end. Again, just something to tuck away for training camp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 61 days ago. It will be about 184 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 38; 2016 NFL draft 47; Redskins training camp starts 148

In case you missed it

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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.