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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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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 23, seven days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff 7:30 NBC Sports Washington; Redskins vs. Giants, NBC, 8:30  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 7
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 17
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 24

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Giants

Look out for Eli—There are many reasons why the Giants are 2-8 but Eli Manning is not one of them. He isn’t nearly the turnover machine he has been for much of his career. His interception percentage this year is 1.6; he hasn’t been under 2.3 percent interceptions this decade. Manning only has 14 touchdown passes but considering that Odell Beckham, who went out in the fourth game of the season, still leads Giants wide receivers in touchdown receptions, that’s not bad.

Running game stuck—What makes Manning’s performance even more impressive is the fact that he doesn’t get much support from a running game. The Giants are 26th in the league with 920 yards. They have gained some traction lately after installing Orleans Darkwa as the starting running back; he is averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the season and 71 yards per game over the last three games. The Redskins certainly don’t want to let him get going tonight.

Reverting to reality—The Giants ranked 32nd in total defense in 2015. They dropped millions on free agents such as Janoris Jenkins, David Harrison, and Olivier Vernon and jumped to 10th. Now, this year they are 31st and equally bad against the pass (29th) and the run (30th). Health hasn’t been a huge issue, although Vernon has missed a few games and Jenkins was suspended. Redskins fans know full well that spending sprees don’t necessarily make for permanent improvements and Giants fans are learning it this year.

Keys to winning

  • Run the ballThe Redskins are 4-2 this year when rushing for 90 yards or more.
  • Continue to protect the ball—The Redskins have turned the ball over just twice in their last three games.
  • Don’t give them hope—The Chiefs let the Giants hang around last week and New York stole a win. The Redskins need to get on top early and mash down on the gas pedal.

Prediction—It’s hard to see a scenario where the Redskins lose this one. Even in their injury-depleted state they are battling every game and the same can’t be said for their opponents today. The weather forecast is for cold temperatures but not much wind, ideal conditions for Cousins to throw for 300 yards. For once, the Redskins get up early and keep going.

Redskins 31, Giants 13

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.

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.