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Need to Know: What are the Redskins' strongest and weakest areas?

Need to Know: What are the Redskins' strongest and weakest areas?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 25, three days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 197 days ago. It will be 49 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 17; Final roster cut 40; Cowboys @ Redskins 55

Strengths and weaknesses

The Redskins are expected to be at least a good team and perhaps a very good one in 2016. But like most other NFL teams they have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a quick look at what look the two strongest aspects of the team and at the two weakest.

Strengths

Pass catchers: The quality of this group has been a topic of discussion all over the league this offseason and now it’s time to see them start to do it on the field. There is no one star who is going to catch 115 passes or gain 1,400 receiving yards but the group is very deep. There are four receivers who should have at least 60 receptions, Pierre Garçon, Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, and Jamison Crowder, and two more, Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis, who won’t catch that many only because there aren’t enough footballs to go around. The group is strong, deep, and they possess diverse skill sets.

Pass rushers: This area doesn’t get talked about as much as the receivers do but they could be just as important. They have two outside linebackers, Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette, who are both in their late 20’s and had double-digit sack seasons in 2014. Second-year player Preston Smith led rookies with eight sacks last year and seems to be on the verge of bigger things. Chris Baker had six sacks from his defensive end spot last year. If Joe Barry can figure out how to utilize the group properly they could give the defense its signature group.

Also on the plus side: Cornerbacks

Weaknesses

Running back: I like Matt Jones’ potential but he can’t be considered a solution at running back until he actually goes out and does it. Chris Thompson is a competent third down back but he’s not a player who makes defensive coordinators stay up late every night. Keith Marshall is fast but he needs to stay on the field if he’s going to learn how to utilize it. Maybe things will look different by the time midseason rolls around but for right now this is the most suspect unit on the team.

Safety: This is a perpetual problem area for the Redskins and it’s difficult to say with any confidence that things will be better this year. Duke Ihenacho is the only safety who has started an entire season at the position. DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon are converted corners and David Bruton was a special teams player and occasional starter in Denver. And it’s not like there is a youth movement there either. Bruton is 29 and Blackmon and Hall are both on the far side of 30.

Also on the minus side: Inside linebackers, defensive line

In case you missed it 

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

January 18: Round two, matchup one

The first Elite 8 matchup was... not close:

January 19: Round two, matchup two

The Elite 8's second tilt is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: