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Need to Know: Who will make the biggest difference on the Redskins' defense?

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Need to Know: Who will make the biggest difference on the Redskins' defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 20, 40 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Here are a five more thoughts on the state of the Redskins after they wrapped up their offseason program. Look here and here to see what I’ve written the last couple of days.

—The biggest single difference—both literally and figuratively—between the Redskins’ defense of 2014 and the one we’ll see this year is Terrance Knighton. Barry Cofield played well at nose tackle at times over the past few years but it’s hard to make up for a lack of sheer size. When Cofield was out injured for a good chunk of last year, Chris Baker was just OK filling in. Knighton brings the size and athletic ability the position needs.

—Baker didn’t play much nose tackle during the offseason practices that were open to the media. I think he might stay on the outside for the most part and that’s probably better for him. He should play about 30-35 snaps per game at end. The new, attacking scheme plays to his strengths much more than the two-gap setup that they played last year. Baker could well play fewer snaps but make more big plays.

—It appears that Chris Thompson and Silas Redd will be competing for one job barring some sort of unexpected injury situation. Keeping four running backs plus fullback Darrel Young would create a numbers crunch that would force another position to be cut short. They both will make it only if they both make a compelling case to stay. I think Thompson might have the edge going in due to his speed but the coaches and other players really like the way Redd goes about his business. If both stay healthy (not a given with Thompson's history) it could come down to the final hours on cutdown day on Sept. 5.

—The most underrated move of the offseason may have been adding strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark. He has some different ways of doing things but just looking at the players in the pre-pads segment of the offseason you have to like the results. Players who needed to get bigger (Trent Murphy, Niles Paul) are bigger and others who needed to get smaller (Trent Williams) lost some noticeable pounds. Jay Gruden said during minicamp that the players are in great shape.

—I think that when all is said and done Jeron Johnson will end up starting at strong safety in Week 1 against the Dolphins. Duke Ihenacho has been getting plenty of snaps there with the first team but it’s probably Johnson’s job to lose. But Ihenacho isn’t going anywhere. I had him on the roster bubble for much of the spring but it looks like he’s locked into a spot. Even if Johnson does start against Miami, Ihenacho could push him all season long.

Timeline

—It’s been 174 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 85 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 40; Preseason opener @ Browns 54; final cuts 78

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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: