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Need to Know: With new OC, will the Redskins run the ball more?

Need to Know: With new OC, will the Redskins run the ball more?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 26, 34 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 42
—NFL Draft 91
First Sunday of 2017 season 227

Thoughts on a busy offseason unfolding for the Redskins

My eyebrows were raised a bit after I saw that Jay Gruden said that one of the things that Greg Manusky would bring to the table is that he would get the players “to play a little harder.” The implication, of course, is that they didn’t play at 100% for Joe Barry last year and if that is the case why didn’t Gruden step in and do something about it? I think it also could also cold have meant the players couldn’t play hard because they were unsure due to communications problems, another area Manusky is charged with fixing. Still, it was an odd comment.

Related: NFL mock draft ver. 2.0

With ex-quarterbacks as both the play caller and the offensive coordinator, is there any hope of the Redskins making the running game more of a part of the offense? The Redskins were good at running the ball last year when they did it. They were ninth in the NFL with 4.5 yards per attempt and their rushing DVOA via Football Outsiders was 5.0%, fourth best in the league. But they ran the ball only 379 times, 27th in the league so they ended up ranked 21st in rushing yards (1,696).

I’m starting to plan some posts about free agency. Since Scot McCloughan’s arrival I’ve focused on the bargain bin of available players, younger guys who are likely to come with a modest contract. But after the April signing of Josh Norman to a big-money deal, I have to think that just about any player could be in the Redskins’ sights. They can’t do many more deals that average $15 million a year like Norman’s does but it also seems clear that McCloughan is not going to follow directly in the footsteps of Ted Thompson, his mentor who famously (or, to some Packers fans, notoriously) eschews free agency almost entirely. The bottom line is that the universe of potential Redskins is larger than it used to be. 

More Redskins: 5 salary cap bargains in 2017

The Redskins will spend some of their $62 million in cap space retain some of their own players. One of their free agents is wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Most have him headed out of town and I tend to agree. However, one widely respected salary cap guru, Jason Fitzgerald of www.OverTheCap.com, suggested over the weekend that Jackson will end up signing for three years for around $8 million per year. I have been thinking that it would take an additional year and $1-$2 million more per year to get him to stay. At that price, the Redskins would have to seriously consider keeping him around, with or without fellow free agent Pierre Garçon.

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DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has drawn criticism because of his performance in D.C. during his 5-year, $75 million contract he signed in April 2016. Former Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall came to Norman’s defense during a radio appearance with Craig Hoffman on 106.7 The Fan on Friday.

“He does compete, he’s a competitor. And if I have a football player on my roster who’s a competitor, who wants to be out there, who fights hard and plays hard, I’m [going to] find a way to put him in position to make plays,” Hall said. “I think we could’ve done a much, much better job of putting Josh in position to make plays.”

In November, then-interim head coach Bill Callahan benched Norman, and the 32-year-old cornerback played just 10 defensive snaps over the last six games of the season. Should Washington choose to cut ties with Norman this offseason before June 1, the team would save $12.5 million of cap space.

Hall, who interviewed for the Redskins’ defensive backs’ coaching position last January, said Norman wasn’t given the chance to be the leader of the defense. Hall said some of that was self-inflicted because of Norman’s habits and preparation, but a portion of that was because of schematics. 

“I always told those coaches ‘If you want Josh to be a leader — because Josh wants to be a leader — you’ve got to put him in a position to make plays, the same way Carolina put him in a position to make plays,” Hall said. 

The peak of Norman’s career came in 2015 under the direction of Washington’s newly hired head coach Ron Rivera. In that all-pro season, Norman recorded 56 tackles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two touchdowns. 

Hall believes Norman still possesses that all-pro ability; it just needs to be tapped with the right defensive scheme. Hall compared the situation to Richard Sherman, who has revitalized his career in San Francisco after battling injuries. 

“It’s not because [Sherman] is the best lockdown man-to-man corner. It’s because they play Sherm in a system that he’s able to succeed and shine, and they put players around him so that he can make plays,” he said. “If we [would’ve] done the same thing to Josh Norman, he could’ve been an all-pro player here, too, just like he was in Carolina.”

Despite Hall’s belief in Norman’s ability, and the presumption that Rivera and new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will run a similar system to what Norman played in with the Panthers, the former Redskins defensive back doesn’t think the $15 million price tag is worth it for a franchise that has other holes to fill.

“I, as a fan, would love to have Josh back on this team, in this defense that I feel will be similar to Carolina,” Hall said. “But to me, it doesn’t make sense to bring Josh back for $15 million. It’s just a big pill to swallow when you can do a lot with that money on a team that needs a lot of help.”

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Wait, what? Report says Bill Belichick 'inquired' about coaching the Redskins

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Wait, what? Report says Bill Belichick 'inquired' about coaching the Redskins

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. He's won six Super Bowl titles and made the playoffs every year in the last decade. Other coaches were great - Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs among a few - but nobody is Belichick. 

That's what makes a recent report out of Boston so near impossible to believe. 

Belichick checked in on coaching in Washington? The Redskins? 

Those are valid points, I guess. Belichick spent much of his young life in Annapolis and has great affinity for that area. He's talked about that openly. 

The timeline also makes some sense. Many reports out of New England in 2017 showed a power struggle between Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft about what to do with legendary quarterback Tom Brady as then backup Patriots QB Jimmy Garropolo got closer to free agency. New England wouldn't be able to keep both, and there has been speculation that Belichick wanted to keep the younger passer. 

Eventually, Garropolo got traded to the 49ers, for a surprisingly low return, and New England went to two more Super Bowls, winning last year. 

This year, however, marked the first real time the Patriots looked mortal. Brady's completion percentage dipped to 60.8 percent, his lowest since 2013, and he threw fewer passing yards than any 16-game season since 2010. Now, Brady is a free agent and for the first time ever the possibility of playing somewhere else seems real, even if only somewhat realistic.

Still, Belichick coaching the Redskins seems like the longest of shots. Checking on a job - looking at financial considerations or asking about parameters - and actually taking a job can be two very different things. 

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