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Need to Know: Redskins' 5 biggest one-year improvements

Need to Know: Redskins' 5 biggest one-year improvements

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 23, four days before the start of OTAs.

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Some are saying that the Redskins have a shot at winning the NFC East title in 2014. If they are going to do that, they likely will have to win nine or more games. That would be the biggest single-season improvement in team history. Here are the top five season-to-season improvements in wins for the Redskins since 1970:

+5, 2011-2012—The Redskins were floundering under Mike Shanahan until a pair of rookies, quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, spurred a seven-game winning streak to push the Redskins from five wins in 2011 to 10 wins and the NFC East title.

+4, 2006-2007—It looked like the Redskins were headed to their second straight losing season under Joe Gibbs, especially after the shooting death of star safety Sean Taylor. But they overcame that and an injury to Jason Campbell to roll off four straight wins to finish the season at 9-7. That was up from five wins the year before and it got the Redskins a wild card playoff spot.

+4, 2004-2005—Yes, the Joe Gibbs II era was very up and down. Gibbs’ first year back was a 6-10 disappointment and the second year was shaping up to be the same as the team sat at 5-6. But five straight wins to close out the season got them to a 10-6 finish and a wild card berth.

+4, 1998-1999—The 1998 team was floundering at 2-9 before winning four largely meaningless games in a row to finish at 6-10. Dan Snyder bought the Redskins prior to the 1999 season and his message to Norv Turner was that he could keep his job as long as he made the playoffs. The Redskins did just that, going 10-6 to take the NFC East.

+4, 1990-1991—The 1990 team was pretty good, going 10-6 and winning a playoff game. The 1991 Redskins were one of the best teams of all time. They won their first 11 games, finished 14-2 and steamrolled to the last Super Bowl title.

Note: The Redskins did go from eight wins in 1982 to 14 in 1983, an improvement of +6. However, that ’82 season was shortened to nine games due to a players strike so it’s an uneven comparison.

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Timeline

—It’s been 145 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be 107 days until they play the Texans in the 2014 season opener.

Days until: OTAs 4; Training camp starts 61; Redskins @ Eagles 121

In case you missed it

Morris talks about being a veteran

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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.