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Need to Know: How much will Redskins' McCloughan dip into free agency in 2016?

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Need to Know: How much will Redskins' McCloughan dip into free agency in 2016?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 20, 35 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’re flipping into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least a few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from Twitter

This should be an easy question to answer since McCloughan constantly preaches building through the draft. But last spring he signed five free agents to contracts that totaled $69 million and then shortly after the start of training camp he signed pass rusher Junior Galette. It was not a spree that reminded anyone of the Vinny Cerrato days but the bottom line was over 20 percent of the roster and about a third of the starters were veteran free agents who had joined the team in the last two seasons. That’s not really building through the draft.

Why did McCloughan do that? It’s likely that the believed that the Redskins needed some help in a hurry. All of the signees played defense. Three were on the defensive line, a particular weak spot. Chris Culliver was brought on the shore up the cornerback position and Jeron Johnson was brought after both 2014 starters at safety, Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, were no re-signed.

If you have an immediate need it is unwise to try to fill it in the draft unless you have a very high pick and you have be very confident that a particular player will be there. Players picked in the second round can’t be relied on to start right away (19 of the 32 second-round picks last year did not start as many as half of their games). And after the second, it’s a crap shoot; if you find a rookie starter in the draft on Saturday you were just plain lucky.

So the question is, where do the Redskins have immediate needs? Certainly they have to upgrade in many areas. But where do they not have a starting caliber NFL player anywhere on the depth chart? That’s not an easy question to answer.

For example, the interior of the offensive line needs to play better but the organization may or may not believe that a veteran free agent should be part of the solution. Do they think that Shawn Lauvao will be back and healthy in time for training camp? Can Arie Kouandjio be plugged in to the left guard spot if there’s no confidence in Lauvao’s recovery? Can Spencer Long move to center? Or do they think that Kory Lichtensteiger can hold down the fort there while a draft pick gets ready?

Such multilayer questions exist at almost every position on the field and the staff is still sorting them out. It’s logical to assume that they answers to some of them will have to be found in free agency. I wouldn’t be surprised if McCloughan brought in four or five free agents, all of them fairly young and relatively cheap, similar to what he did last year. The Redskins have eight draft choices (two seventh rounders) and I anticipate McCloughan moving back to pick up more.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 10 days ago. It will be about 235 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 35; NFL free agency starts 50; 2016 NFL draft 99

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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 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. 

Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!