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Need to Know: Will the Redskins' defense be ahead of the offense in 2015?

Need to Know: Will the Redskins' defense be ahead of the offense in 2015?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 2, 14 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from Twitter:

We’re in the very early going here but there you can look at factors that point to the probability that the offense will lead the way this coming season and there are some preliminary indicators that the defense will carry the team.

As far as rankings, it’s difficult for me to see either unit being in the top 10 overall, in terms of either points or yardage (or DVOA or whatever other advanced metric you might want to use). They just have too far to go (O was 26th in points scored, D 29th in points allowed) to think that there is a realistic chance that they could improve enough to become among the best in the league. But that doesn't mean that the Redskins can't improve on both sides of the ball.

The defense has solidified the front seven with the additions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea as free agents and by drafting Preston Smith. Chris Culliver isn’t an elite corner but he’s very good and better than anyone the Redskins have lined up there since the DeAngelo Hall of several years ago.

But even though they have two new starting safeties they still are below average in their last line of defense. And it will take a while to gel with all of the new players and a coaching staff that completely turned over except for linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

There is some top-shelf talent at the skill positions on offense with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Alfred Morris, and Jordan Reed (when he is healthy). The line got an upgrade with the addition of Brandon Scherff at right tackle.

Working against the offense showing great improvement is the uncertainty at quarterback. If we see the Robert Griffin III of last year the QB carousel will crank up again. If he can play somewhere between the level of his stellar 2012 season and how he was in a so-so 2013 campaign the offense could be OK.

To answer the original question, I think the Washington offense will be ranked higher than the defense in most of the major statistical categories. Actually I should say “guess” rather thank “think” because it’s hard to get a feel for it until they have put pads on. But if all of the talk of emphasizing the running game comes to fruition, Griffin should have a chance to get his feet under him and the offense could be fairly productive. The defense may be pretty good by the end of the year but by the time they gel it might be too late for them to post any impressive stats.

Timeline

—It’s been 156 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 103 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 14; Redskins training camp starts 58; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 114

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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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.