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Need to Know: How safe are the Redskins' Riley and Lauvao?

Need to Know: How safe are the Redskins' Riley and Lauvao?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 9, four days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 120 days ago. It will be 126 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 4; OTAs start 15; Redskins training camp starts 81

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The Redskins have two players who may be reserves this season who have salaries of $4 million.

One of them is inside linebacker Perry Riley. He will battle Will Compton and Mason Foster for the two starting inside linebacker jobs. If it looks like he will win the starting job he has had from the middle of the 2011 season until he sustained a foot injury last year then nothing will change.

But if it looks like he is going to be a reserve the team might ask him to cut his pay by 50 percent or more. If they are going to do that, however, they need to be prepared to release him if he balks. Do they want to go into the season with Terence Garvin, who played mostly special teams in his three seasons with the Steelers, first-year player Martrell Spaight and rookie Steven Daniels as the backups at inside linebacker.

The situation is different with the other $4 million man, Shawn Lauvao. For one thing, he is injured. At least he still was ailing at the end of last season when he recovering from surgery on both of his feet. Based on that hard to see him ready for OTAs and the PUP list for the start of training camp is not out of the question.

The big difference here is that left guard is a fairly deep position. Spencer Long started 13 games after Lauvao got injured last year. Arie Kouandjio spent the 2015 season on the 53-man roster and it’s possible that he could win the job outright or at least be able to hold his own if called upon. While you can argue that a healthy Lauvao is the best option at left guard they have viable alternatives if he’s not there.

The point here is that it’s not just a numbers game with the salary cap. A team can’t just say that it won’t pay a backup at a relatively low-value position (which is what guard and ILB are) $4 million. It depends on what the alternatives are. In Riley’s case there are few alternatives and that gets him some security. There is some depth at Lauvao’s spot and that could put him in danger.

Stat of the day

Avoiding throwing interceptions is a key to the Redskins’ success. The fewest interceptions they have thrown in a season since 1990 is eight, in 2012. They won the NFC East. Their second-lowest interception total is 11, and they have done it five times. They made the playoffs in 1990, 2005, 2007, and 2015. In 1996 they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs on tiebreakers.

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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.