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Need to Know: Five Redskins thoughts including special teams improvement

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Need to Know: Five Redskins thoughts including special teams improvement

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 19, 19 days before the Redskins start their offseason workouts.

Nickel coverage

Here are five thoughts on the state of the Redskins after a week of free agency.

1. A lot of special teams improvement will have to come from within. They signed Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton and they both should help and they will bring in a few others who have gotten it done on special teams. But if the kicking units are going to be significantly better this year players like Brandon Jenkins and Bacarri Rambo, who found themselves on the inactive list frequently because they didn’t have much enthusiasm for special teams, will have to step up. You can only bring in so many special teams hired guns.

2. The draft is a factor in Donald Penn negotiations. The Redskins have three other options besides Penn to play right tackle for them this year. They could stick with Tyler Polumbus, they could insert Tom Compton as their starter, or they could use their second- or third-round pick to draft a likely starter. It’s just not worth it for the Redskins to pay Penn at the higher left tackle rate with other, less costly options available.

3. The “deadline” to have a starting 22 together is April 7. That is the day that offseason workouts and if, say, Penn or Ryan Clark is going to come aboard it would be good to have him there for the start of workouts. Jay Gruden and company will begin to teach the new offense and defense and it will help to have all of the key players around by then.

4. The draft is shaping up, sort of. It’s still too early to say where the Redskins will go with their second-round pick, No. 34 overall. It’s likely to be a best-available strategy. But it’s important to keep in mind that needs shape each team’s assessment of who the best available is. It’s hard to see them drafting a quarterback, running back, or tight end, but all other positions are possibilities. However some, like offensive tackle and safety, seem to be more likely than others.

5. The Redskins have a pass rushing coach this year. I didn’t mention this in my post on the team emphasizing the pass rush in their defensive strategy but they hired a coach specifically to improve the pass rush. I talked with Brian Baker a few weeks ago and that’s basically his job description as the outside linebackers coach. He’ll be working mostly with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan but you can be assured that the former defensive line coach will be handing out some coaching points to Jason Hatcher as well.

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Timeline

—It’s been 80 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 172 days until they play another one.

—Days until: Offseason workouts start 19; NFL Draft 50; Training camp starts 126

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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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