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Need to Know: Redskins 2017 draft picks who must step up this season

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins 2017 draft picks who must step up this season

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 13, nine days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Most improved 2017 draft picks

If the Redskins are better this year than they were in 2017 it won’t be all about this year’s draft class or the free agents they signed or even the team have better luck on the injury front. They will rely in part on some of the players they drafted in 2017 to take big steps forward and become big contributors. Here are my five candidates to be this year’s versions of last year’s Matt Ioannidis and Kendall Fuller. 

CB Fabian Moreau—The Redskins let Bashaud Breeland walk and believed they could trade away Fuller in part because they think that Moreau will develop into a solid cornerback. He played just 59 snaps on defense last year with only seven of those coming in the last 11 games of the season so much of their faith is based on projection. 

OLB Ryan Anderson—The team’s second-round pick got some opportunities as a rookie, playing 193 snaps. However, he did not record a sack. He was expected to take some time to develop and although he might be a little behind schedule he should be a regular part of the rotation and a strong contributor this year.

C Chase Roullier—The Redskins traded up to get him in the sixth round last year so they liked what they saw in college. When Spencer Long went out with an injury Roullier stepped in to start in Week 8 and did a good job. He did miss three games with a broken hand he suffered in the Saints game (it should be noted that he finished that game with the broken hand, which was his snapping hand). This year, Roullier will be with the starters from the beginning of OTAs on and he should take a couple of steps forward.  

TE Jeremy Sprinkle—He played 126 snaps last year, but he was the target of just three passes for a player who was the No. 2 tight end for much of the year with Jordan Reed missing extensive time with injuries. I don’t see Sprinkle become a significant part of the passing offense, but he should get more opportunities and improve his blocking ability as well. 

DL Jonathan Allen and S Montae Nicholson—These two players are together because they didn’t seem to be having a problem with the rookie learning curve, but their seasons ended early with injuries. Both now are 100 percent physically (Allen nearly returned late last year) and should be ready to go. Everyone will keep a wary eye on both of them, particularly Nicholson, and just like any other players they could get injured again. But if they can stay healthy they should impact two levels of the defense starting Week 1.

(h/t to Mike Downes on Facebook for the topic suggestion)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 74
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 88

The Redskins last played a game 133 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 119 days. 

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For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

Redskins fans can be an odd bunch.

The team suffered a major loss on Sunday when Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, and for many supporters on social media, the questions all turned to what happens at quarterback next season. Can Smith return? Will the team draft another passer? What are the salary cap implications of the injury?

Jay Gruden had a simple message about where his mind was focused after the 23-21 loss to Houston on Sunday.

"To Dallas," the head coach said. "We're excited about it."

For the Redskins, the only thing to think about is winning on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. At 6-4, Washington remains in first place in the NFC East, holding a one game lead over the Cowboys. 

While it might seem like the playoff hopes vanished when Smith got carted off the field, Redskins players and coaches don't see it that way. 

"I have confidence in Colt, always have. I'm a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy's ability to play football in the National Football League. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason," Gruden said. 

Particularly for McCoy, there is no looking ahead to 2019. He's not even looking ahead to December. The former University of Texas star is going to take his opportunity one game at a time, and that starts Thursday in Dallas.

"You never like to see how it happened today, but for me I just have to go out there and give it all I’ve got. I’ve been a starter before, had it taken away, and it’s not a good feeling," McCoy said. "We have a good team here and they’ve got us in great shape, Alex [Smith] has got us in great shape, we’ve just got to go continue to play football.”

In less than a half against Houston, McCoy moved the Redskins offense and energized the crowd. On just his second snap, McCoy threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. On the day, McCoy finished with 54 yards passing and another 35 yards on the ground. 

McCoy won't be Smith, but that isn't all bad.

Despite two interceptions on Sunday, Smith basically protects the football like a mother grizzly bear protects her cubs. McCoy will take more chances, and that could mean more big plays and more scoring for the Redskins offense. It could also mean more turnovers, but that's probably something Gruden will live with. 

Remember, too, this Redskins coaching staff believes in McCoy. 

When the organization was considering all options with Kirk Cousins last season, handing the team over to McCoy was a possible option. Or at least letting McCoy compete with another veteran free agent passer was taken into account. 

McCoy knows that Gruden's comments are sincere, and he knows this is a major chance for him to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. 

"I know how Jay [Gruden] wants this offense run," McCoy said. "I’ll do my best to make that happen.”

The Redskins have six games remaining, and four of them will be in the division. Washington's season is anything but over.

The focus for Jay Gruden and Colt McCoy remains firmly on 2018. And with an NFC East title firmly in play, that's what the fans should be looking at too. 

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NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

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USA TODAY Sports

NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

When the sun came up Sunday morning, the Redskins held a two-game lead in the NFC East and looked to have a clear route to a division title. 

By the time the sun went down, a lot changed. 

Washington lost at home in a crazy game to Houston, but big picture, the more important outcome was the broken leg for Alex Smith. The Redskins now turn to backup Colt McCoy, and while the Burgundy and Gold remain in first place, their lead shrunk.

Washington Redskins (6-4, 2-0)

Talk about a roller coaster game. The Redskins got down early to the Texans, trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, but fought all the way back. In the process, the team lost Smith for the season, but McCoy played well when he entered the game. A veteran in Jay Gruden's system, McCoy should be able to step in and run the offense without any hesitation. Will that be enough? What isn't being talked about in Washington: a suddenly slumping run defense. A huge game looms Thursday against Ezekiel Elliott and a surging Cowboys squad. 

Up next: Nov. 22 @ Dallas, 4 p.m.

Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2-1)

It seemed like the Cowboys season was over a few weeks ago after a humbling home loss on Monday Night Football to the Titans. Two weeks later, the script has flipped. Dallas won their second straight game on Sunday, holding off a late Atlanta rally and winning the game on a last-second field goal. Elliott went for 201 total yards from scrimmage and the Cowboys young defense continued to make impressive plays. Jerry Jones' team struggles on the road, but at home, the Cowboys are 3-1 this season. 

Up next: Nov. 22 vs Washington, 4 p.m.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 1-1)

Fans waiting for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to get it together might want to stop waiting. Philly got boat raced in New Orleans on Sunday, losing 48-7 and dropping to two games below .500. Carson Wentz threw three INTs in New Orleans and really, while the QB was bad in the Superdome, it's hard to pin the Eagles' woes on any one thing. The offense hasn't been very good, and the defense hasn't either. Sitting just two games back of the 'Skins and one behind Dallas, don't count the Eagles out yet. But don't really count them in either. 

Up next: Nov. 25th vs New York Giants, 1 p.m.

New York Giants (3-7, 0-3)

Don't look now but the Giants might be the hottest team in the division. Or at least not the coldest team in the division. The Giants won their second game in a row on Sunday, a nail-biting 38-35 victory over Tampa. New York got out to a big lead before the Bucs crept back in it, but powered by four combined TDs between Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning, the Giants did enough. Simple arithmetic suggests the Giants are closer to a Top 5 draft pick than a playoff run, but hey, they haven't been eliminated yet. Crazy things happen in this league. 

Up next: Nov. 25th @ Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

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