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Need to Know: How much have the Redskins improved?

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Need to Know: How much have the Redskins improved?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 1, 12 days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 112 days ago. It will be 134 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 12; OTAs start 23; Redskins training camp starts 88

Hot topic

A look back at the most popular posts during the Redskins week that was from here and from the freshly redesigned CSNmidatlantic.com.

Details of Norman’s contract reveal some exit ramps for the Redskins—Norman, of course, dominated the news over the week leading up to the draft. This post detailed his contract. There is good and bad for both sides in the deal, meaning that it’s fair. It pays Norman a ton of money over two years and that’s good for him. But the Redskins have reasonably-priced ways out of the deal after the second year. I think he’ll play at least three years of the deal and maybe all five.

Need to Know: Norman deal will force tough choices for Redskins in 2017—The big cap hit in Norman’s contract comes in 2017 when it will be $20 million. Although the Redskins still a large amount of cap space left next year they still may be forced to make decisions on whether to re-sign the likes of Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Baker or to let them walk? Details are in the post.

Does the Norman deal mean it's the same old Redskins?—Stop me if you heard this before—the Redskins moved in on a high-priced free agent, sent Redskins One out to pick him up, and locked him in Redskins Park until he agreed to a deal. Sound familiar? Have things really changed with Scot McCloughan in charge?

Doctson is "ready to get to work" with Redskins—The Redskins’ first-round draft pick does not seem like the stereotypical diva wide receiver. He turned down some scholarship offers and walked on, transferred to TCU, and set most of the school’s major receiving records. If he is productive he will quickly become a fan favorite.

Should the Redskins be the NFC East favorites?—This was written before the draft but the question remains. Norman makes Washington better right away, no doubt. But what we don’t know is how much the draft class will contribute in 2016. If they get some key first down and red zone catches from Doctson, if Su’a Cravens generates some turnovers at important moments, if Matt Ioannidis can help shore up the rushing defense, and if Steven Daniels can fill some of the holes in special teams, the Redskins can get considerably better. They will have to be to repeat as division champs as they aren’t likely to be able to do it again with nine wins and they face a tougher schedule.

Stat of the day

The Redskins selected seven players in the draft. They have now picked seven or more players in six straight drafts, going to back to 2011. That is the longest such stretch since the draft went to its current seven-round format in 1994.

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.