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Need to Know: Five Redskins who can boost Scot McCloughan's approval rating

Need to Know: Five Redskins who can boost Scot McCloughan's approval rating

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 14, 23 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 15
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 62
—NFL Draft (4/27) 72
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 208

Five players who can help McCloughan’s reputation

Whether it’s fair or not, Scot McCloughan’s reputation as a genius when it comes to building an NFL team has taken a hit over the course of last year. A draft with minimal returns and some free agent busts will do that. Here are five players who can revive the faith that Redskins fans had in him.

OLB Preston Smith—The 2015 second-round pick led all NFL rookies with eight sacks and it looked like McCloughan had found a star. But Smith was inconsistent last year, making some big plays and then disappearing for weeks at a time. He needs to get back to being the guy who was terrorizing opposing quarterbacks during the latter part of 2015.

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WR Josh Doctson—This one is pretty obvious. McCloughan bypassed some talented defensive linemen to take Doctson, who contributed two receptions as a rookie before going on injured reserve. If Doctson says healthy and becomes a productive receiver his rookie problems will fade into distant memories in a hurry.

CB Kendall Fuller—Their third-round pick in 2016 had a rocky season. He was inactive to start the season, got in the lineup as the nickel corner and was inconsistent, and wound up back on the bench. There was talk that the if not for the knee injury Fuller suffered at Virginia Tech he would have been a first-round pick. If he can come out and start performing like a top pick he will give McCloughan another draft steal on his resume.

WR Maurice Harris—Harris represents a chance for McCloughan to look good; unlike with the others on this list, there is no real downside if Harris doesn’t make it. But if the 6-3 undrafted free agent can become a reliable fourth receiver and catch 30-40 passes that would be a feather in McCloughan’s cap.

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CB Josh Norman—It’s clear that it was a group decision to bring in Norman as would be the case with any free agent who is signed to a contract of that size. In any case, McCloughan has final say so Norman wouldn’t have come on board without his OK. And while he was a definite upgrade in the secondary in his first year with the team, for $15 million per year he needs to have more of an impact. It wouldn’t be that hard; if he had held on to some of the potential interceptions he dropped he may have repeated on as a first team All-Pro.

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Why Trent Williams is the one holding the leverage when it comes to his situation with the Redskins

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Why Trent Williams is the one holding the leverage when it comes to his situation with the Redskins

Trent Williams wasn't at the Redskins' mandatory June minicamp or any of their OTA sessions, either, with reports suggesting he wants more money, is upset with the organization's medical staff or a combination of the two.

But even by not attending any offseason practice, Williams showed the Redskins something very important.

If he's not at left tackle for the team in 2019, the entire offense might fail. Not having their anchor on the left side could be an anchor to the whole campaign.

Even in sessions where the defensive line wasn't playing with full ferocity, they often times had no problems getting into the faces of Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum. Jay Gruden absolutely noticed. It was impossible not to.

Yes, it's necessary to point out Williams wasn't the only one missing up front. In fact, the collection was basically made up of second-stringers.

However, Morgan Moses, Brandon Scherff and Chase Roullier are all slated to be back when meaningful football resumes. Gruden, the passers and the running backs don't have to worry about them.

Yet they should all be quite petrified at the thought of not having No. 71 around.

A massive reason why is because of the present choices behind him. Ereck Flowers was brought in to try and be used at left guard, but with Williams absent, he saw heavy action on the outside. The results reminded everyone there of why he's being moved to the interior.

Aside from Flowers, the 'Skins have players like Tyler Catalina and Timon Parris on the roster. They fared better than Flowers when the media was able to watch practices in Ashburn, but they're nowhere close to being starting-caliber options, let alone ready to serve as replacements for one of the franchise's top contributors of the 2000s.  

That's a major factor into why it feels like Williams holds the leverage in his standoff with the Burgundy and Gold. There are other factors as well.

Whether or not Haskins wins the job coming out of Richmond remains to be seen. With that being said, the 15th overall pick will eventually take over as signal caller, and figures to take over for the long-term future. Haskins' early career beginning with someone other than Williams protecting him is the opposite of ideal.

Then, there's the fact that many decision makers believe the Redskins are "close" to breaking through. That step forward will not happen if Williams isn't suiting up.

Now, the team could just wait Williams out and see if he's really committed to the reported "vow" he's taken to never play in DC again. Would he still be content to not show up once he starts losing out on hefty game checks?

That's something the front office may decide to find out, and that route could easily force Williams into a place where he has to make the first move. It's a card they're holding, and a key card at that.

But still, the Redskins have a head coach who badly needs to succeed starting in September, an offense predicated on running the ball, a prized young QB about to embark on his NFL life and leaders up top who could use positive results on the field.

All of that is largely why, in his Tuesday story, JP Finlay wrote that perhaps improving Williams' contract and getting him back in the locker room appears to be how this'll all play out.

The storyline this offseason absolutely wasn't supposed to be about a battle between the Redskins and Trent Williams, but as of now, that's the topic everyone's talking about. It's now in Washington's best interest to ensure it doesn't carry over beyond Week 1.

For that to happen, it seems like the team will have to appease the player. That's not common in the NFL, but not many players find themselves with the leverage Williams possesses.  

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Eagles will open just one training camp practice to fans, and charge them

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USA Today Sports

Eagles will open just one training camp practice to fans, and charge them

Following a growing trend, the Philadelphia Eagles cut fan access at training camp way back. Way, way back actually. 

The Eagles will open just one training camp practice to the public, and what's more, the team will charge fans to watch. To watch the Eagles lone public training camp session will cost $10, but it's important to note that the proceeds will go the Eagles Autism Challenge, per an ESPN report.

Raising money for charity is admirable. That's not a debate. 

Still, Philadelphia might be on the forefront of an NFL wide trend that significantly limits fan access to teams during training camp. Last year, the Eagles held two open practices at Lincoln Financial Field that fans could attend. This year, it's just one, and by putting it at their home stadium changes the atmosphere too. For some fans, it might be great to get to see the stadium without paying game day prices, but for others, the up-close access of training camp will be greatly missed. 

The Redskins were widely mocked nearly 20 years ago when they moved training camp sessions to their practice facility in Ashburn and charged to watch the practices. The outcry was deserved, not to mention that by charging to watch practice allowed other team's scouts to attend. The NFL changed a rule in 2017 that opposing scouts are not allowed to watch a team's practice regardless of cost. 

Other teams around the league are slowly pulling away from the traditional training camp experience of going away for a few weeks of practice. In the NFC East, the Eagles and Giants hold their camps at their facilities while the Redskins and Cowboys travel. Dallas does their training camp in Oxnard, California, while the 'Skins go to Richmond. 

Washington's deal with the city of Richmond expires after training camp in 2020. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Redskins training camp practices after that, especially as the team wants a new stadium. Any new stadium would probably include facilities to hold training camp practices, similar to the Giants in New Jersey. Additionally, the promise of training camp practices could be part of the negotiations for a new stadium. 

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