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Need to Know: Preston Smith could be the key to Redskins' defense

Need to Know: Preston Smith could be the key to Redskins' defense

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 3, nine days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day, no availability

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 237 days ago. It will be nine days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 15; Browns @ Redskins 29; Redskins @ Ravens 36

Stock up/stock down vs. the Bucs

—The key to the Redskins’ defense could be Preston Smith. He has been playing well ever since the start of OTAs. The second-year player gets it in terms of what it takes to prepare to be successful. If that translates onto the field he will be a player opposing offenses will have to account for on every snap. That will make the whole unit better. I’m not sure how good he will be, but I’ll predict that he gets at least one interception, a rarity for a Redskins OLB. That’s because he takes pride in working on coverage and studies it, unlike others who have viewed it as a chore.

—Last year the offensive line was pretty good in pass blocking (4.6 percent sack rate, 5th in NFL) and not very good in run blocking (3.7 yards/carry, 30th in NFL). Given a choice in 2016 I’d rather have a line that can pass block well but, of course, you want a group that can be competent in both. Rushing in the preseason is a hodgepodge of different backs and linemen with no game planning so at this point it’s hard to tell how much progress the Redskins O-line has made in the run blocking department. They should be better but time will tell.

—I’m more bullish on Matt Jones’ chances of becoming a solid running back than most. I get the knocks on him, with his NFL-low average of 3.4 yards per carry. But that stat requires some context. Alfred Morris, who ran behind the same line last year, had an average of 3.7 yards per carry. That is by far the worst of his career. His worst before that was 4.1 per carry in 2014. It’s probably not a coincidence that both backs struggled behind that offensive line (and the tight ends might as well be thrown under the same bus here). If the line gets its act together in run blocking Jones can produce. If they don’t Adrian Peterson couldn’t produce behind them.

—As the O-line struggled last year, Bill Callahan, that unit’s position coach, didn’t come under much criticism. He also is the run game coordinator and the Redskins didn’t run the ball well. There were some good reasons for giving him a pass, primarily that it was his first year on the job and it wasn’t reasonable to expect an instant turnaround. And Callahan does have a good track record. But he did inherit a Pro Bowl performer at the most important position on the line and the No. 5 overall pick in the draft went to his unit. If things don’t start to turn around at some point this season Callahan should get more scrutiny than he has.

—Things haven’t been this quiet around the quarterback position in years. Kirk Cousins came in, played his 54 snaps, and went about his business. No controversy, no noise, no injuries, just some pretty good quarterback play. That doesn’t mean that he’s Pro Bowl bound or anything but it will be an interesting experiment to see if tranquility at the position contributes to competence and winning.

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Wanting increased playing time, Junior Galette intends to pursue free agency, per source

Wanting increased playing time, Junior Galette intends to pursue free agency, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Junior Galette intends to pursue free agency to find a team that will give him plenty of snaps, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

Galette's contract will expire once the 2017 regular season ends, and while the 29-year-old pass rush specialist appreciates the Redskins organization and fans, he wants to play. 

After suffering season-ending Achilles injuries in 2015 and 2016, Galette has stayed healthy throughout the 2017 season. 

Still, he hasn't been on the field much.

Ryan Kerrigan leads the Redskins with 358 snaps in pass rush situations, and Preston Smith ranks second with 297, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Galette has played only 197 snaps this season in pass rush situations. 

For comparison, rookie Jonathan Allen logged 112 snaps in pass rush situations. Allen played in just five games before heading to the injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury. Galette has played in all 13 Redskins games this year, and hasn't appeared on the injury report once. 

Compounding the issue, Galette has been effective when on the field. 

Pro Football Focus rated him the third best defender on the Redskins this season, behind only Kerrigan and cornerback Kendall Fuller. 

As Rich Tandler noted, there will be a market for Galette. All NFL teams need pass rushers, and it appears Galette still has plenty left after his two-year layoff. Remember, in 2013 and 2014 Galette had 22 sacks for the New Orleans Saints.  This season, he has two sacks. 

The Redskins deserve credit for sticking with Galette after two lost seasons, though Galette deserves credit too for working back from not one but two Achilles injuries. 

Washington's coaches and front office speak highly of Galette, and there haven't been off field issues. For whatever reason, the playing time just hasn't been there. 

Looks like that will change next year. 

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Robert Griffin III listed the best places for Kirk Cousins to end up, and he left off the Redskins

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Robert Griffin III listed the best places for Kirk Cousins to end up, and he left off the Redskins

Of course this was going to happen. 

The moment it became known that Robert Griffin III was going to be on ESPN's shows for a few appearances this week, you knew he was going to be asked about Kirk Cousins at some point.

And, surely enough, come Wednesday afternoon, the stars aligned and the question was asked on NFL Live: Where, in Griffin's opinion, was the best place for Cousins to land this offseason?

"I think it depends on what he's trying to do," Griffin began.

"If he's trying to make the most money, he goes to Cleveland," he said. "If he's trying to be in the best situation, he goes to one of these teams that have a great defense that isn't gonna put it all on his shoulders."

MORE: POWER RANKINGS - REDSKINS FALL LOWER THAN THEY HAVE ALL 2017

Don't worry, he doesn't stop there. In fact, he saved the good stuff for the latter half of his answer.

"He's had it all on his shoulders in Washington, and we've seen the result," Cousins' draft classmate continued. "But if he's got a great defense like, say, Denver, say, Jacksonville, it makes it easier for him as a quarterback. Whereas in Cleveland, he's gonna have to go in and he's gonna have to do more of the workload."

So, the Browns, Broncos and Jaguars are among the teams Griffin considers options for Cousins. But, uh, what about the one he's on right now?

"I don't think it's Washington, just because of, you've seen what's been going on," he said. "Do they want him there? Does he want to be there?"

This isn't to say that the former rookie of the year doesn't bring up valid points; Cousins has had to play with below-average defenses for much of his career in D.C. and the franchise hasn't exactly shown a ton of admiration for him.

But nevertheless, it was interesting to see Griffin declare wish such confidence that his old backup needs to bolt from the Redskins and head elsewhere.

And thus concludes another chapter of the Griffin-Cousins-Redskins saga. You can leave your comments about how you don't care about it below, even though you made the choice to click on the story in the first place.