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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Still searching for a nose tackle, early depth charts

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Still searching for a nose tackle, early depth charts

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 18, 40 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 30
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 55
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 67
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 119
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 176

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts of the week on CSNmidatlantic.com with some commentary.

Redskins' cap space dwindling but they have some options—It looked like the Redskins had a huge pile of cap space but Kirk Cousins’ franchise tag put a big dent in it and now their supply of available cash is dwindling. Since this was published the Redskins did add $3 million to their cap space so one option to create more is off the table. There will be some free agent options lower down the depth chart that they can add but they should focus their remaining resources on locking up Morgan Moses and Spencer Long, who are eligible for extensions.

Report: Cousins concerned about potential trade to Browns—The post right after this one on the most popular list was on a report that the Browns aren’t interested in Cousins but that other teams have inquired about a trade. The takeaway from the last few weeks of conflicting Cousins reports is that what teams and agents and players say is not necessarily in the interest of spreading the truth. Words are about trying to create leverage and send messages to the other side in negotiations. Letting the fans know what is really going on is low on the list of priorities when messages are chosen.  

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 5.0

Bad grades for some Redskins FA additions—Evaluations from Pro Football Focus get paned as worthless in some circles. I’ve always thought that, like any one metric, PFF’s ratings and stats are useful if you don’t take them as the final word on a given player. Anyway, they liked the Terrelle Pryor and D.J. Swearinger acquisitions and they panned the two players signed on the D-line. What they miss is that Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee don’t have to be long-term solutions in Washington. If the Redskins can draft a couple of solid defensive linemen they could easily move on from McClain and McGee as post-June 1 cuts in 2018. Of course, given the team’s long-standing reluctance to draft defensive linemen early, that scenario is problematic.

Examining the Redskins updated depth chart—Defense—It’s too early to do a depth chart but that never stops me (I also drew up an offensive depth chart). Although much of it is in dry erase marker and not Sharpie, it is still useful to see how things are evolving. The one alarming thing that jumps out is that if the season started today the starting nose tackle would be Phil Taylor. The good news is that he’s a former first-round draft pick. The bad news is that he hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2014. And, yes, the topic will keep coming up until the Redskins draft some linemen and get a long-term solution at nose tackle. 

Despite need for D-linemen, Redskins cut Ricky Jean-Francois—Francois wasn’t a nose tackle but he was a reasonably effective end when he rotated into games. The team decided to cut him loose. The move saved the team $3 million in cap space and it also got rid of a player who was vocally critical of the organization in the wake of the firing of Scot McCloughan. While the move could be justified on the basis of productivity compare to his cap hit, his outspoken nature, especially recently, made the decision a whole lot easier for the Redskins.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that hit the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side but since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact, there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball, but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat, the whole offense will be harder to defend.

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

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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My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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