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Need to Know: Three Redskins up, three down from a year ago

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Need to Know: Three Redskins up, three down from a year ago

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, June 29, 29 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 171 days ago. It will be 75 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 16; Preseason opener @ Falcons 43; Final roster cut 66

Three up, three down from a year ago

The Redskins have 44 players who were on their roster entering training camp in 2015 but not all of them are in the same situation they were in a year ago. Here are three players whose situations have improved in the past 12 months and three who are worse off.

Three Up

QB Kirk Cousins—At the end of minicamp last year, Cousins was coming off of a season where he was buried at the bottom of the depth chart. In February, Jay Gruden declared that Robert Griffin III would be the starting quarterback. He was assured of a job but his future was very uncertain. Now the only uncertainty is if he will sign a long-term contract or “settle” foar playing for a fully guaranteed $20 million.

CB Quinton Dunbar—Last summer he was an undrafted receiver on a team that seemed to be set at receiver. But some cornerbacks went down during training camp, he stepped up when the team was looking for volunteers to fill in. Fast forward to November and he is lined up opposite Odell Beckham in a game the Redskins need to stay in the playoff race. He will have to compete for position on the depth chart in training camp but he is assured of being a part of the secondary.

OT Morgan Moses—The Redskins had Trent Williams as a fixture at left tackle and they had spent the fifth overall draft pick to get Brandon Scherff to play right tackle. It looked like he was destined to be a backup tackle or perhaps convert to guard. But about a week into camp the team moved Scherff to guard and made Moses the starting right tackle. After a solid season his future looks bright.

Three Down

DL Trent Murphy—A year ago the team had already shown a degree of dissatisfaction with his play at outside linebacker by drafting Preston Smith. Then after camp started they signed Junior Galette. Murphy would have ended up third on the depth chart had Galette not been injured during practice. As it is he is undergoing a position change and it remains to be seen just how he will fit into the line rotation.

LB Perry Riley—Riley was a solid starter at Jack linebacker all the way through the offseason program and training camp. But he struggled, got injured, and lost his starting job to Mason Foster, who was picked up after the start of the season. Foster was the starter during OTAs as Riley watched from the sideline with his foot in a boot. He may be in danger of being cut if he can’t win back the starting job.

WR Ryan Grant—Last year when DeSean Jackson was injured early in the season opener Grant had a big chance to shine. He averaged 45 snaps over seven games but he caught just 17 passes for 194 yards and he made a key mistake, slipping on a pattern in Atlanta allowing the game-winning pick six. Now he takes a step back on the depth chart after they drafted Josh Doctson in the first round. The coaches still love his work ethic but at some point he has to get it done on Sundays.

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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.