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

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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, CSNWashington.com 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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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

Madden 19 won't be released to the public until August 10, but the player ratings for the top players on each NFL team have been released.

The video reaches the Redskins a little after four minutes in. The top nine players on the Redskins, according to their Madden 19 overall ratings are as follows:

  1. LT Trent Williams, 91
  2. RG Brandon Scherff, 88
  3. FS D.J. Swearinger, 86
  4. MLB Zach Brown, 85
  5. CB Josh Norman, 84
  6. RB Chris Thompson, 83
  7. WR Paul Richardson, 83
  8. QB Alex Smith, 81
  9. WR Jamison Crowder, 81

The list has Washington's two best linemen up top followed by its best skill position players and Zach Brown. Beyond Williams and Sherff, there's some debate to be had. Both Richardson and Crowder can make a serious case to be the team's best receiver. Crowder had 22 more receptions and 86 more yards than Richardson in 2017, but Richardson had six touchdowns to Crowder's three.

Smith is coming off arguably the best season of his career with Kansas City. He put up over 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, posted career bests in quarterback rating, touchdown passes, interception percentage and completions. His rating as the fifth-best offensive player behind two other skill position players seems off.

These rankings will change throughout the season as more updates become available, but this is what there is to work with right now.

MORE REDSKINS COVERAGE

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

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