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Cooley on reduced role: 'I'm handling it just fine'

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Cooley on reduced role: 'I'm handling it just fine'

Since returning to the Redskins last month, Chris Cooley hasn't played a major role in the team's game plan. In fact, the veteran tight end has only been on the field for 29 of 140 snaps – or about 21-percent of the plays.

It's been a major adjustment for one of the franchise's most respected figures, but he's coping with the role reduction "just fine", he said this week.

"I'm not going to get frustrated," Cooley said. "It's about everyone doing what they have to do."

And for Cooley, that means patiently waiting for the chance to reprove himself.

The 30-year-old was released in August after eight seasons in Washington but rejoined the team last month after No. 1 tight end Fred Davis was lost for the season to an Achilles' tendon injury.Since Davis' departure, Logan Paulsen has assumed the primary pass-catching responsibilities among the tight ends, hauling in nine of the 14 balls quarterback Robert Griffin III has thrown to him for a total of 112 yards.

Cooley's role, meantime, has fluctuated, making it difficult to figure out how Mike and Kyle Shanahan intend to use him the remainder of the season.

Against the Steelers, Cooley started and played 19 snaps on offense. Making his first appearance in an NFL game in 53 weeks, Cooley was targeted by Griffin once and did not catch the pass.

Against the Panthers, Cooley played only 10 snaps – nine fewer than Niles Paul and 69 fewer than Paulsen. Again, Cooley was targeted just once and finished without a reception.

"I'm extremely competitive, and I want to be on the field all the time and I have a ton of confidence in what I can do as a football player," Cooley said. "But I'm also a part of this team. To make a team as good as it can, you have to understand where you are and understand your role and contribute in whatever role you can help."

"And that," he added, "is what I'm doing. I'm handling it just fine."

Kyle Shanahan said Cooley has done what has been asked of him.

"Cooley has done a solid job," the offensive coordinator said. "We did a lot of [the same] stuff in training camp, but we've definitely added to it. That's why it was so important to bring a guy back like Cooley, who had some experience [with] what we were doing, but was also is smart enough and works at it hard enough to be able to catch on quickly. He's executed assignments and has done a solid job."

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!