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Redskins offseason Q&A: Who is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?


Redskins offseason Q&A: Who is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?

With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.

Which team is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?

There wasn’t much parity in this division a year ago. The Cowboys amassed as many wins as anyone in the NFL and clinched the division title with a game remaining. Eagles were good, but not good enough to make the playoffs. The Giants and Redskins? Well, they managed to combine for the Eagles’ win total of 10. Will there be any late-season suspense in 2015? And who’ll be left standing when the dust settles?

El-Bashir: I think the Cowboys are going to miss DeMarco Murray—a lot. I also think last year’s rushing champion is going to enjoy a couple of mammoth days against Jerry Jones and his former team. And I know I might be in the minority on this, but I actually do think Chip Kelly knew what he was doing when he went out and got 10 new starters this offseason.

I also feel the Cowboys are headed in the wrong direction. The loss of Murray and running game guru Bill Callahan—to division rivals, nonetheless—will hurt. Tony Romo is 35 and if Dez Bryant doesn’t get a new deal before this week’s deadline, that could pose another problem.

As for the Redskins, I’m expecting Robert Griffin III to enjoy a (small) resurgence and for the retooled defense to help propel them closer to the middle of the pack in terms of wins. Seven or eight seems about right.

I’m less bullish about the Giants’ fortunes, even though I do like the appointment of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. New York’s win total has declined each of the past three seasons and the little bit they’ve done this offseason doesn’t suggest to me that a significant turnaround is in the offing.

So to recap, I've got the NFC East unfolding like this: Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins and Giants.  

Tandler: The easy, chalk answer here is the defending division champ Cowboys or the shuffled Eagles. But let’s look at the other division team.

The Giants seem to be in a state of turmoil. Their franchise player and best pass rusher, Jason-Pierre Paul, just lost a finger and suffered a broken thumb in a dumb accident. His status for the start of the season is in question as is his ability to be fully effective working with a missing digit. The may start rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle as starter Will Beatty will miss most if not all of the season with a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in May. With the three-year decline in win totals that Tarik noted, Tom Coughlin’s seat may be getting a bit warm.

So it would not be surprising at all if the Giants make a serious Super Bowl run, right? All it would take would be a few well-timed prayers from Eli to Beckham and they’re on their way.

OK, seriously, while I’d like to predict that the Cowboys will go in the tank this year I think they will be just fine with that strong offensive line and a defense bolstered by the additions of pass rushers Greg Hardy, who now will miss only four games, and Randy Gregory, and the return of linebacker Sean Lee. Oh, and don’t forget Tony Romo, who led the NFL in passer rating and yards per pass attempt.

I’m not nearly impressed by the Eagles as Tarik is. Kelly has too many jobs for a third-year coach with both coaching and personnel duties. His biggest mistake will end up being the reliance on Sam Bradford to stay healthy enough to be a starting QB.

So I’m going to line them up with the Cowboys win the division, the Giants finishing second and the Eagles edging the Redskins for third place. 

Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:

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Video of Terry McLaurin's insane minicamp catch is finally out and you need to watch it

Video of Terry McLaurin's insane minicamp catch is finally out and you need to watch it

Back in a June 5 minicamp practice, Dwayne Haskins threw a touchdown to Terry McLaurin. But this was no ordinary touchdown. It wasn't even an extraordinary touchdown.

It was honestly an extra extraordinary touchdown. In fact, if it happened during a real game, it would've counted for double points.

Unfortunately, the score came during a period of no filming, so none of the assembled media were able to get the highlight on camera. Tweets were sent, but the play deserved far more than the handful of characters on social media it received:

Luckily, a few weeks later, footage from that sequence has finally been released. You know how Taylor Swift will randomly drop a song and music video out of nowhere? This is like that, except it involves two Ohio State rookies making football magic instead of a bunch of veiled shots at other celebrities.

Here's the catch, which is still hard to process no matter how often you watch it:

If you really, really slow the clip down, it appears as if McLaurin reaches around cornerback Deion Harris, hauls in the ball with two hands right in front of the defender, then transfers it to his one hand while securing the grab. It's just insane.

There are almost no circumstances where it's acceptable to full-on spike a ball in minicamp. However, McLaurin mega-spiked it following this TD and deservedly so, too. Hopefully, next time he pulls something like this off, it'll be on a Sunday in front of plenty of cameras. 


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Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

After a third surgery on his leg in April, Colt McCoy did not practice with the team during OTAs or mandatory minicamp. He was in Ashburn for many of the workouts, but did not take any team snaps.

In a normal quarterback battle, that would put McCoy at a distinct disadvantage, but the Redskins quarterback battle is not exactly normal. 

Veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins got nearly all of the work at signal caller during the spring practice sessions, and both showed signs of being able to take over head coach Jay Gruden's offense. Keenum proved he can handle the huddle and has quickness when plays broke down behind the line of scrimmage. Haskins showed a rocket arm and a ton of potential, but he's also a rookie trying to learn a boatload about life in the NFL in a hurry, like calling plays, and that showed too. 

All of that is a long way to say neither Keenum nor Haskins locked up the top QB job. And that means the door is still open for McCoy.

"We would love for him to take some reps, but obviously his health is more important right now than anything, and that is the most important thing for him," Gruden said about McCoy on the first day of minicamp. "When his time comes it will come quickly. He will be ready."

Gruden's quote speaks to the biggest advantage McCoy will have once he hits the field. He's been with the Redskins since 2014, and knows Gruden's version of the West Coast offense backwards and forwards. 

Throughout the spring sessions, Haskins made clear that his number one goal for the offseason was to learn the playbook and gain mastery of calling plays in the huddle. McCoy already has that.

Speaking with reporters on the last day of minicamp, Keenum explained that Gruden's offense is the seventh or eighth new system he's learned in the NFL. Keenum said each system is like learning a new language, and that "there is no Rosetta Stone for the West Coast Offense."

If there was a translator, its name would be Colt McCoy. 

Once doctors clear the former University of Texas star, he will immediately be the Redskins quarterback with the best understanding of the offense. That will show up on the field right away.

Remember too that Gruden has tried to turn to McCoy as his quarterback at a few different turns, but injuries have always derailed those plans. If McCoy gets fully healthy in time for Richmond, which team sources believe will happen, he has a chance to finally take over this job.

Make no mistake, Haskins is the Redskins long-term future at the quarterback position. He has the talent but needs to learn the speed of the NFL, from playcalling to pass rush. Eventually though, he will be on the field for the Redskins. 

If he wins the job, it's his.

Same for Keenum, who is probably better than he showed last year in Denver but not as good as his career season with Minnesota in 2017. Keenum could certainly start Week 1 in Philadelphia and is probably ahead of Haskins right now. 

But fans would be wise not to count McCoy out of the quarterback competition. The Redskins coaching staff definitely hasn't.