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25 Redskins questions: Can they improve the turnover ratio?

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25 Redskins questions: Can they improve the turnover ratio?

Since General Manager Scot McCloughan was hired in early January, he’s been busy retooling the Redskins’ roster via free agency and preparing for the 2015 draft. So far, he’s received mostly positive reviews. But his work is far from done. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine 25 issues that must be addressed as the offseason kicks into high gear.

Will the Redskins improve their turnover margin?

It’s become cliché to talk about turnovers as a huge factor in determining the outcomes of NFL games but it’s that way because it’s true. Last year teams that had a turnover differential of plus-two or better in a game won went 98-22, a winning percentage of .816. You won’t find many stats that correlate to wins as strongly. The Redskins were minus-12 over the course of the season, 30th in the NFL. A simple fix to the team’s string of double-digit loss seasons would be to flip that turnover ratio the other way around. What will they have to do to accomplish that?

Tandler: The Redskins suffered on both sides of the turnover equation last year. They had just 19 takeaways; only six teams had fewer. And they gave it away 31 times, more than all but three other teams. They were pretty even in fumbles, losing 13 balls on the ground and recovering 12. So you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that interceptions are the problem. Washington intercepted just seven passes and the three quarterbacks combined to throw 18 picks. There are legitimate hopes that the defense can pick off some more passes this year. They added Chris Culliver (7 career interceptions) and Dashon Goldson (15) to the secondary, signed three free agents on the line to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback and an edge rusher could be added as a top draft pick. On the offensive side, half of the interceptions were thrown by Kirk Cousins; it is likely that he will be sent to the bench before he has a chance to throw that many in 2015. Robert Griffin III (6 INT last year) and Colt McCoy (3) also need some work in ball protection as well. But it will take more than just fixing turnovers. Going back to the start here, of the 22 games lost last year by a team with a plus-two takeaway margin, the Redskins lost two of them. They have to take advantage of their opportunities but creating more of them would be a good start.

El-Bashir: The Redskins’ best chance to turn around the turnover ratio is to force more of them. Assuming Griffin is the starter and that he stays healthy and in the lineup (huge assumptions, I know), I don’t expect throwing interceptions to be a problem. Running back Alfred Morris, meantime, has done a better job of protecting the football. Last year, in fact, Morris was not dinged for a lost fumble after coughing up a combined seven in 2012 and 2013. If those two can take care of the ball, that’s a good start. For me, though, reversing the turnover trend is going to come down to the defense intercepting more passes and forcing more fumbles. Last year, the unit produced a measly seven picks—tied for the second fewest in the NFL. As Tandler noted, Culliver, DeAngelo Hall and Goldson will need to snag their share. But the Redskins will also need some production from sources like cornerback David Amerson and safety Phillip Thomas, players who were drafted, in part, for their ball hawking skills. In 39 career games, however, they’ve combined for two interceptions (both by Amerson in 2013). If Amerson and Thomas earn significant roles on the team this year, that’s got to change. New secondary coach Perry Fewell has a history of coaching units that produce good interception numbers, so perhaps his tutelage will help. Ultimately, though, it’s going to come down to guys on defense making plays when opportunities are presented.

25 questions series

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Need to Know: Redskins on the bubble who could make the roster

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Need to Know: Redskins on the bubble who could make the roster

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 21, 35 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The first five off of the roster

Here are five players who are not on my projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster (offensedefense) but who are one injury or a few strong preseason game performances away from making it. 

G Kyle Kalis—Last year he lined up with the second team during most of training camp and he nearly made the roster as an undrafted free agent. The team did re-sign him after injuries struck the O-line in the middle of the season. He will push Tyler Catalina for a backup guard spot. 

RB Byron Marshall—He got a few touches last year before ending up on injured reserve. Marshall has looked good in practices so far, especially catching out of the backfield. Jay Gruden likely will play Chris Thompson sparingly in the preseason and that could give Marshall a chance to shine. Don’t sleep on him. 

WR Cam Simms—Right now, the undrafted rookie out of Alabama looks like the eighth wide receiver on the roster and they are only going to keep six. But if he continues to get the attention of Gruden with his play in practice and makes the most of his opportunities in preseason games, Robert Davis and Maurice Harris should look out. 

S Fish Smithson—The Redskins liked him a lot after they signed him as an undrafted free agent last year. But they didn’t like him enough to keep him on the 53-man roster; he spent the year on the practice squad, getting a late-season cup of coffee on the roster. He will push both Deshazor Everett and Troy Apke for a backup safety spot. If the Redskins have reason to be concerned about the health of Montae Nicholson they might figure out a way to keep Smithson on as a fifth safety. 

ILB Martrell Spaight—It looks like Spaight’s three-year tenure with the team essentially came to an end when they drafted Sean Dion Hamilton in the fifth round. But his play in offseason practices indicates he’s not going to go out without a fight. 

Next five off: OT T.J. Clemmings, QB Kevin Hogan, RB Kapri Bibbs, NT Phil Taylor, CB Danny Johnson, 

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

Timeline 

Redskins running back Derrius Guice was born on this date in 1997. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 35
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 49
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 72

The Redskins last played a game 172 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 80 days. 

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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

Madden 19 won't be released to the public until August 10, but the player ratings for the top players on each NFL team have been released.

The video reaches the Redskins a little after four minutes in. The top nine players on the Redskins, according to their Madden 19 overall ratings are as follows:

  1. LT Trent Williams, 91
  2. RG Brandon Scherff, 88
  3. FS D.J. Swearinger, 86
  4. MLB Zach Brown, 85
  5. CB Josh Norman, 84
  6. RB Chris Thompson, 83
  7. WR Paul Richardson, 83
  8. QB Alex Smith, 81
  9. WR Jamison Crowder, 81

The list has Washington's two best linemen up top followed by its best skill position players and Zach Brown. Beyond Williams and Sherff, there's some debate to be had. Both Richardson and Crowder can make a serious case to be the team's best receiver. Crowder had 22 more receptions and 86 more yards than Richardson in 2017, but Richardson had six touchdowns to Crowder's three.

Smith is coming off arguably the best season of his career with Kansas City. He put up over 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, posted career bests in quarterback rating, touchdown passes, interception percentage and completions. His rating as the fifth-best offensive player behind two other skill position players seems off.

These rankings will change throughout the season as more updates become available, but this is what there is to work with right now.

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