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Need to Know: Five pivotal games on the Redskins' 2014 schedule

Need to Know: Five pivotal games on the Redskins' 2014 schedule

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, August 31, seven days before the Redskins open their season against the Texans.

Nickel coverage

Here are five pivotal games on the Redskins’ 2014 schedule:

Sept. 21 @ Eagles—Last year the Redskins weren’t competitive in either game against the eventual division champs. They can show that they’ve closed the gap starting here.

Sept. 26 vs. Giants—After coming back from Philly they turn around and host the Giants. It was one thing losing to Philly twice in 2013; dropping two to the Giants was a different matter. If the Redskins are even going to be mediocre they need to win games like this at home.

Oct. 19 vs. Titans—Yes, this is a nondescript game that few outside of Washington and Nashville will care about and that’s the point. Even when they’re good the Redskins tend to lay an egg at home against a team they should beat. This is a trap they need to avoid.

Nov. 2 @ Vikings—Minnesota has been every bit as mediocre as the Redskins since 2010 and they’ve met every year. The Vikings have won three of those four games. If they Redskins are indeed improved they should win this one.

Dec. 7 vs. Rams—This is similar to the situation with the Vikings. St. Louis hasn’t been very good but they still have beaten Washington in two of their three meetings since 2010

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. I'll answer all questions as soon as I can get to them. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Stat of the day

—Alfred Morris has rushed for 2,888 yards in his two seasons in the NFL. Only eight backs in NFL history have rushed for more yards in their first two seasons. If Morris gains 1,112 yards this year to get to 4,000 he will join a group of 12 players with that many rushing yards in their first three seasons in the league.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No availability

—It’s been 245 days since the Redskins played a game; in seven days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Home opener vs. Jaguars 14; Redskins @ Eagles 21; Thursday night Giants @ Redskins 26

In case you missed it

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Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

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USA Today Sports Images

Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

Vernon Davis has long been a fan favorite in the D.C. area since his University of Maryland days. The 34-year-old is almost always well-dressed and respectful to the media. 

More recently, he has been outspoken about his interest in acting after his football career. A true renaissance man who just so happens to be a force in the National Football League. 

In April, NBC Sports Washington ran into Davis at the Team USA Awards where he was serving as guest speaker. 

He took his smooth nature to a whole new level Tuesday while vacationing in Ocean City, Md. with his girlfriend Kayla. 

Dressed in all white on the beach, Davis proposed in an epic way. 

The best motivation I ever had. #shesmyrock

A post shared by Vernon Davis (@vernondavis85) on

Check out the whole video produced below. We won't spoil it for you, but there were skydivers involved. Take a look: 

Davis will suit up for his third season with the Redskins when training camp opens July 26 in Richmond. 

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)

Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons

On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 Inside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 Redskins position outlook series