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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who's going to run the defense?

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who's going to run the defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, January 15, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 45
NFL draft 102
First Sunday of 2017 season 238

Looking at the Redskins week that was

5 possible Redskins free agent targets—After Scot McCloughan spent big money on Josh Norman you can’t dismiss the Redskins going after any free agent. There are four or five needs that need to be filled in free agency to allow McCloughan to do what he does, draft the best available player regardless of position. We have less than two months before that gets started up and we’ll be covering it extensively.

Is Mike Pettine the favorite to be the defensive coordinator? While there undoubtedly is activity going on behind the scenes at Redskins Park, the team’s search for a defensive coordinator is at a standstill from the fans’ perspective. They could ask to interview a coach who gets eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. Or they could go with Pettine, the first candidate they interviewed. And while Gus Bradley has interviewed with the Chargers, he still appears to be available. I am looking for something to happen this week.

MORE REDSKINS: An easy choice for best special teams player of 2016

The 5 highest-paid Redskins in 2017—Josh Norman tops the list; the cap hit for his five-year contract peaks this year at $20 million. He may not remain the highest paid player. If the Redskins franchise tag Kirk Cousins, that hit will come in at just short of $24 million. And if they are active in free agency, there should be some contracts that will fill the gap between Ryan Kerrigan, third at $11.7 million, and Jordan Reed, fourth at $5.8 million.

5 Redskins who need to step up in 2017—Team improvement from year to year comes in two ways. Most fans and many in the media focus on bringing in new players in free agency and in the draft. But perhaps more important is improvement of players from year to year. If Preston Smith develops consistency and brings his best every week, the Redskins defense will benefit more than it would from almost any free agent or draft pick.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

Redskins ranked near the bottom in defensive spending—The Redskins defense was the red-headed step child of the organization last year. Go to the post to see what the spending split compared to the offense was in 2016. You can’t expect filet mignon results when you’re paying ground chuck prices. As of right now, offensive and defensive expenditures are about even. Perhaps if they keep it that way the defense will have a shot at competence.

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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