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Need to Know: Has the Redskins' defense improved enough?

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Need to Know: Has the Redskins' defense improved enough?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 24, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 135 days ago. It will be 111 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 65; Preseason opener @ Falcons 79; Final roster cut 102

Question of the day

I’ll combine these two into on answer since the two inquiries are closely related. Let’s take a look at the major players they have added and lost on defense on defense this offseason:

  • On DL, added Kendell Reyes (FA), Matt Ioannidis (D-5), Trent Murphy (position change). Subtracted Terrance Knighton, Jason Hatcher.
  • At LB, added Junior Galette (injury return), Su’a Cravens (D-2). Subtracted LB Keenan Robinson, Murphy
  • At DB, added Josh Norman (FA), Kendall Fuller (D-3), David Bruton (FA), Duke Ihenacho (injury return). Subtracted Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson, Jeron Johnson. Possibly losing Kyshoen Jarrett due to injury.

To address Jonathan’s question about the D-line first, I think that you have to say yes, it does look like a weak spot. It wasn’t very good last year (26th vs. the run) and although Hatcher and Knighton had their issues you can’t really look at Reyes, a lower-level free agent signee, and Ioannidis, a fifth-round pick, as upgrades. Murphy could help out but we’ll have to see. Perhaps he will come through, Stephen Paea will stay healthy and catch on in his second year in the defense and Ioannidis will be a fast learner and contribute right away. Still, it’s hard to see the unit being substantially better than it was last year.

But I think that the rest of the defense has been upgraded significantly. Assuming Galette is healthy—he will have had nearly 13 months to rehab his Achilles by the time the season opens—he will be a major upgrade over Murphy. Cravens will play all over the defense and as he learns more as the year goes on he should get better and better. Fuller and Norman join Bashaud Breeland to give the Redskins one of the better sets of cornerbacks in the league, a weakness turned into a strength. Safety remains something of a question mark but with DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon working at the position full time it is less shaky than it was last year.

In fact, “less shaky” cold probably describe the entire defense. I think they’ll be better but it’s hard to see them cracking the top 10. The top half is a more realistic goal and maybe that is a touch too ambitious. So, Randy, to answer your question, I don’t think they will be able to ride their defense to the NFC championship game. They could contribute more takeaways, particularly interceptions, and sacks than they did last year but they will give up a lot of yards, particularly on the ground. When it's over, they will go as far as Kirk Cousins, his receivers, and whatever sort of rushing game they can cobble together will take them.

Tweet of the day

They’ve hired three new game officials. But none of them will replace Redskins fans’ least favorite referee. Unfortunately, Football Zebra's answer to my query was no, there are no new referees. Incompetence continues.

In case you missed it 

 

 

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An ankle injury has ended Terrelle Pryor's first, and probably last, season with the Redskins

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An ankle injury has ended Terrelle Pryor's first, and probably last, season with the Redskins

As high hopes for the Redskins season seem to be slowly slipping away, the high hopes for wide receiver Terrell Pryor can now officially end.

Jay Gruden announced Monday that Pryor will undergo ankle surgery and be placed on the injured reserve. That means Pryor will not be eligible to play for at least eight games, and considering it’s already late November, that closes the book on Pryor’s 2017 season.

When Pryor signed with Washington this offseason, fans grew quite excited. The 6-foot-5, 240 lbs. wideout went for more than 1,000 receiving yards last year on a terrible Browns team, and most expected that production to increase playing with Kirk Cousins.

It never happened.

MORE: KIRK COUSINS ISN'T THRILLED WITH NFL'S APOLOGY FOR MISSED CALL

In nine games for Washington, Pryor grabbed only 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown. What made matters worse for the former quarterback-turned-receiver, Pryor displayed subpar hands, and drops plagued him throughout the season. He was targeted 37 times, and barely caught more than 50 percent of those passes.

As things deteriorated for Pryor, he maintained a respectful professionalism. Eventually his ineffective play led him to the bench and reduced snaps, and in his final game of the season against the Vikings, Pryor did not even land a target.

Signed to a one-year deal, Pryor rolled the dice on a season in Washington to boost his free agent profile in 2018. It didn’t work, and now after surgery, it seems unlikely either the player or the organization would pursue a second contract.

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After awful collapse, NFL apology on bad call little more than hollow gesture for Kirk Cousins, Redskins

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After awful collapse, NFL apology on bad call little more than hollow gesture for Kirk Cousins, Redskins

NEW ORLEANS — Collectively, the Redskins squandered a great road win on Sunday.

The team coughed up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, and allowed Drew Brees and the Saints to pull off an incredible, unbelievable comeback win. 

The Redskins deserve the blame. The players and coaches. But they're not alone. 

The referees made a terrible intentional grounding call late in the fourth quarter that cost the Redskins precious time and real estate.

Kirk Cousins very obviously threw the ball away to stop the clock, and the quarterback was very obviously not under duress from the Saints pass rush.

In no fashion was the throw grounds for a flag.

None. 

RELATED: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LOSS TO SAINTS

Yet, the refs penalized Cousins and the Redskins. As much as replay bogs down the sport, Jay Gruden had no recourse, the flag could not be challenged, and the 'Skins were thrust out of field goal position.

Late Sunday night, a report showed that NFL officials contacted Redskins team president Bruce Allen to say the call was wrong. Whoop de do. That means nothing, and Cousins knows it. 

"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.," Cousins said Monday speaking on 106.7 the Fan

And he's right.

RELATED: DEAR FANS, STOP WITH THE 'FIRE GRUDEN' TALK

"This is our careers, this is our livelihood," Cousins said. "It is frustrating when a letter is really all you get when it has such a major impact on the direction of our lives."

Cousins' future, Gruden's future, countless other players and coaches, they don't get to hang a sign that says, "The NFL blew a call."

For the third straight offseason, Cousins will be without a contract, and a long-term deal remains anything but certain. This loss, and that call, could impact those contract talks. 

This loss, and that call, could impact coaching changes or draft strategy too. By dropping to 4-6, the Redskins seem unlikely to push for a playoff spot now. Might the organization think differently of their franchise QB if the team fails to make the playoffs for consecutive seasons? Sure, that could definitely happen. Should it happen? Probably not. Could it happen? It could. 

Don't misunderstand: The Redskins blew a 15-point lead in three minutes. That's abysmal. That's absurd. One penalty flag didn't change that. 

But it was a huge penalty, and it was a terrible call. 

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Cousins played nearly flawless in New Orleans, connecting for three touchdowns and more than 300 yards. His most important pass, however, was one that was harmlessly into the ground, with no intended receiver. 

"I'm thinking, well [Jamison] Crowder and [Josh] Doctson are over there. If I literally throw it over their heads, they're in the area, they're eligible receivers. Not to mention, if I'm not under pressure, it's not intentional grounding," Cousins said. 

It's not intentional grounding. Cousins knows it. The NFL knows it. But it doesn't matter now. 

"The difference between a team that’s patting everybody on the back at the end of the season and a team that everybody gets fired, the difference can be a few plays, it can be a call by a referee," Cousins said. "It's a very fragile thing."

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