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25 Redskins questions: What will the 2015 record be?

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25 Redskins questions: What will the 2015 record be?

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.

What will the Redskins’ record be in 2015?

In the first 24 questions of this series we have mostly looked at the details of the 2015 Redskins—how the coaches will do, who will play, who will improve, who should be replaced. To wrap it up, we’re going to look at the big picture. What will their 2015 record be and how will they get there?

Tandler: The schedule makers did the Redskins something of a favor in the early going, giving them a pre-bye schedule consisting of seven games with no opponents that made the 2014 playoffs. Only two of the opponents have top-shelf quarterbacks (Giants’ Eli Manning and Falcons’ Matt Ryan) and only the Jets and Dolphins finished in the top half of league in total defense. That gives Washington an opportunity to get off to a good start. You can’t really call it “easy” because nothing is easy for a team with seven wins in the last two years. But they can take advantage of that if they can get competent quarterback play from Robert Griffin III and if the defense can improve from awful to average. A 5-2 start is probably unrealistic but going into the bye at 4-3 is not. The going gets tougher immediately after the bye with a trip to Foxboro to play the Patriots. That’s a sign that will not be quite as much fun in November and December with two games against the Cowboys, with home games with the dangerous Saints and improving Bills and a mid-December trip to Chicago. The Redskins will scrap, their improving defense will keep them in a lot of games, but they will fall short. Put them down for 2-7 in their last nine games, adding up to a 6-10 record. Offensive MVP: DeSean Jackson Defensive MVP: Keenan Robinson Quarterback: Griffin starts 13 games and plays well enough to warrant talk of a contract extension Surprise development: Someone who is not Alfred Morris, perhaps Silas Redd, perhaps a draft pick, leads the team in rushing

El-Bashir: If new GM Scot McCloughan is allowed to do his job, I suspect he’ll get the franchise pointed in the right direction. But it’s going to take time to lay the foundation. Ownership must exercise patience. Ditto for the fans. I’ve been saying for weeks that six to eight wins (I’m leaning toward the lower end) would constitute decent progress in McCloughan’s first year. I also agree with Tandler’s assessment regarding the front end of the schedule. It’s not easy by any stretch, but it wouldn’t be impossible to pick up three or four wins before the bye, either. The Rams, Falcons, Jets and Bucs shouldn’t scare anyone. The backside of the schedule, well, that’s a whole different story. Brady and the Pats in Foxboro right off the bat. That’s followed up by Drew Brees and the Saints and Cam Newton and the Panthers. And that’s not even where I really see things potentially going sideways. The schedule makers did the Redskins no favors down the home stretch—at the Bears (on Dec. 13), home against the Bills and then at the Eagles and at the Cowboys, a pair of division rivals that figure to be slugging it out for a playoff berth. Again, getting to six wins will show progress. Seven or eight wins would be a bonus. Anything less than six wins, however, and everyone will need to watch out. Because McCloughan won’t need to do any explaining if he blows the whole thing up. Offensive MVP: Left tackle Trent Williams earns a fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance, justifying a huge contract extension. Defensive MVP: Cornerback Chris Culliver records a career-high five interceptions. Quarterback: Robert Griffin III starts 15 games and shows meaningful improvement. Surprise development: Jordan Reed stays healthy, catches a career-best 70 passes and flirts with 800 yards receiving.

What are your predictions for the 2015 Redskins? Let us know in the comments. 

25 questions series

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

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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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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