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Need to Know: Five under-the-radar players to watch during Redskins training camp

Need to Know: Five under-the-radar players to watch during Redskins training camp

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 29, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Of course I’ll be watching all of the big names during training camp; there will not be a lack of scrutiny of Robert Griffin III, Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith and the other top draft picks and new players. But here are five who are under the radar on whom I will be keeping a close eye:

WR Andre Roberts—He dropped 11 percent of the passes thrown in his direction last year. No other NFL player who was targeted 55 times or more had a drop rate of as much as 10 percent. I will be interested to see if he spends more time playing catch with the quarterbacks and snagging balls shot out by the JUGS machine. And, of course, how many passes he drops during drills.

LB Perry Riley—He just turned 27 but some are starting to write him off already. Earlier in his career it looked like he might play at a level that would earn him an occasional trip to the Pro Bowl. But he hasn’t taken the next step and he still struggles in coverage. I don’t think that a mediocre or even a bad camp will cost him his starting job but he needs to act like it will.

TE Niles Paul—He showed last year that he can catch the ball. This offseason he put on some weight to try to improve his blocking ability. That is always going to be a challenge for a converted wide receiver but he wants to be as good at blocking as he can be. I’ll keep an eye on him during team drills as well as individual blocking drills to see how he’s doing.

G Shawn Lauvao—The Redskins are going to switch to a run blocking scheme that emphasizes power and that should help Lauvao, who played in such a system in Cleveland. But Jay Gruden has said that the team will mix in zone runs so it will be worth watching to see if he has improved on the stretch plays. His pass blocking needs improvement as well; it will be interesting to watch him go one-on-one against, say, Terrance Knighton.

CB David Amerson—He has all of the physical talent he needs to succeed but he needs to get better prepared mentally. I am hearing that he is taking the game more seriously so we will see if that translates onto the practice field.

Today's schedule

—Jay Gruden news conference from the Bon Secours training center in Richmond, approx. 3:45

Timeline

—Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg was born on this date in 1987.

—It’s been 213 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 46 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 1; Preseason opener @ Browns 15; final cuts 38

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.