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Need to Know: Five under-the-radar players to watch during Redskins training camp

Need to Know: Five under-the-radar players to watch during Redskins training camp

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 29, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Of course I’ll be watching all of the big names during training camp; there will not be a lack of scrutiny of Robert Griffin III, Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith and the other top draft picks and new players. But here are five who are under the radar on whom I will be keeping a close eye:

WR Andre Roberts—He dropped 11 percent of the passes thrown in his direction last year. No other NFL player who was targeted 55 times or more had a drop rate of as much as 10 percent. I will be interested to see if he spends more time playing catch with the quarterbacks and snagging balls shot out by the JUGS machine. And, of course, how many passes he drops during drills.

LB Perry Riley—He just turned 27 but some are starting to write him off already. Earlier in his career it looked like he might play at a level that would earn him an occasional trip to the Pro Bowl. But he hasn’t taken the next step and he still struggles in coverage. I don’t think that a mediocre or even a bad camp will cost him his starting job but he needs to act like it will.

TE Niles Paul—He showed last year that he can catch the ball. This offseason he put on some weight to try to improve his blocking ability. That is always going to be a challenge for a converted wide receiver but he wants to be as good at blocking as he can be. I’ll keep an eye on him during team drills as well as individual blocking drills to see how he’s doing.

G Shawn Lauvao—The Redskins are going to switch to a run blocking scheme that emphasizes power and that should help Lauvao, who played in such a system in Cleveland. But Jay Gruden has said that the team will mix in zone runs so it will be worth watching to see if he has improved on the stretch plays. His pass blocking needs improvement as well; it will be interesting to watch him go one-on-one against, say, Terrance Knighton.

CB David Amerson—He has all of the physical talent he needs to succeed but he needs to get better prepared mentally. I am hearing that he is taking the game more seriously so we will see if that translates onto the practice field.

Today's schedule

—Jay Gruden news conference from the Bon Secours training center in Richmond, approx. 3:45

Timeline

—Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg was born on this date in 1987.

—It’s been 213 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 46 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 1; Preseason opener @ Browns 15; final cuts 38

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10 Questions in 10 days: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

10 Questions in 10 days: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No Redskins receiver broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2017, and bluntly, the receiver position did not unfold like the front office designed.

Terrelle Pryor proved a free agent flop, and while Josh Doctson flashed talent, the consistency did not follow. Jamison Crowder led Washington with 789 receiving yards while 34-year-old tight end Vernon Davis was the team's second leading receiver. 

The Redskins need more at wideout in 2018, and the front office acted on it. 

The team signed Paul Richardson in free agency, and advanced statistics suggest he could make an impact right away. Richardson has vertical speed in a way the organization hasn't had since DeSean Jackson went to Tampa two seasons ago. 

Doctson could emerge as a true No. 1 WR, and Richardson's speed will help. Sources inside Redskins Park question if Doctson is the type of wideout that can beat cornerbacks off the line. Instead, the team believes Doctson is best when using his athleticism to go up and get balls. That skillset was best illustrated for Doctson in the end zone, where he grabbed six TDs last season. 

Crowder could again lead the Redskins in receiving yards. New QB Alex Smith likes to look to his inside receivers, and with defenses having to account for more speed on the field in Richardson, Crowder should get plenty of open looks. 

Ultimately, the question is if the Redskins will have a 1,000-yard receiver. The answer is an unknown, but the evidence suggests they won't.

No 1,000-yard wideout does not spell doom for Washington. In the last two seasons, eight of 12 NFC playoff teams had a receiver get into four digits. Among the teams that did not get that kind of production from one wide receiver: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. Remember, that team won the Super Bowl. 

Further down the roster, Washington has contributors but unlikely a breakout star. Maurice Harris has great hands and Robert Davis has shown plenty of athleticism, but significant production would be a surprise. Rookie Trey Quinn could be a player that helps the 'Skins, particularly should Crowder get banged up this year like he did last year, but a 1,000-yard season for a 7th-round rookie seems pretty absurd. 

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 19, seven days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass rushers are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this we looked at the best teamsreceivers,running backs, and quarterbacks

1. Calais Campbell, Jaguars—If he gets a sack against the Redskins in Week 15, many fans will once again rue draft day in 2008 when the Redskins took both WR Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis in the second round while Campbell was still on the board. He has been a consistent pass rusher since coming into the league, averaging eight sacks a season. Campbell is coming off of a career-high 14.5. 

2. Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys—He had nine career sacks going into last year and then he broke out in a big way with 14.5. He got three sacks against the Redskins last year and has five in six career games. He actually ranked ahead of Campbell in the PFF pass rush metric, but I put Campbell ahead of him because we’re not sure if Lawrence is a great pass rusher or if he just peaked in his contract year. 

3. Chandler Jones, Cardinals—He posted double-digit sacks in four of the last five years including a league-leading 17 last season. His 2017 performance earned him first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. Jones does more than get sacks. He has 16 career forced fumbles; only five players have forced more since he came into the league in 2012.

4. J.J. Watt, Texans—Injuries have limited him to eight games over the past two seasons. Even if the missed time has him beneath his peak years of 2012-2015, when he was first-team All-Pro every year and defensive player of the year three times, he will be difficult to deal with. 

5. Brian Orakpo, Titans—His career with the Redskins was a mixed bag, with two Pro Bowls and two seasons with double-digit sacks. After Orakpo missed 23 games from 2012-2015, the Redskins didn’t make him a competitive contract offer and he left to sign with the Titans. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons in Tennessee and has averaged eight sacks per season. 

Best of the rest: Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars; Clay Matthews, Packers; Vic Beasley, Falcons; Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers; Cam Jordan, Saints

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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Timeline 

Redskins six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams was born on this date in 1988.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 7
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 21
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 44

The Redskins last played a game 200 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 52 days. 

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