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Enemy Intel: Around the NFL, Week 5—Teams won't stop baiting Beckham


Enemy Intel: Around the NFL, Week 5—Teams won't stop baiting Beckham

Here’s my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL as the teams of the NFC East all play outside of the division for the first time this year.

—Are the Eagles walking into a trap in Detroit? That’s probably wishful thinking by Redskins fans. But if the Eagles let them hang around that indoor stadium can get pretty noisy and Carson Wentz didn’t have to deal with a whole lot of crowd noise in Philly’s one road game in Chicago. And the schedule is about to get real for the Eagles, with a game in Washington and one against the 4-0 Vikings coming up. In fact, in their remaining 12 games they don’t face on that currently has a losing record. Could they look past the Lions, who have been scuffling? Probably not but it’s a game to keep an eye on.

—The Bengals go to Dallas for the first interconference game of the year for both teams. This is the toughest defense that Dak Prescott has faced; I will be very impressed if he comes out of it with his zero interception record intact. Sometimes the adage that games are decided in the trenches is a myth but it’s not going to be the case here. If the Dallas offensive line can control the Bengals’ tough front things could go the Cowboys’ way. If Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and company get penetration and disrupt Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield it will be hard for the Cowboys to win. With a trip to Green Bay coming up next week this will be a big one for the Cowboys to prevent the possibility of a losing streak going into their bye.

—The Packers had a bye before taking on the Giants on Sunday. New York is on a two-game losing streak and the Giants’ transformed defense that many thought was on the verge of being elite (well, many in New York/New Jersey, anyway) is showing some cracks. They’ve had plenty of problems with Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford so Aaron Rodgers can’t be a welcome sight.

—The stories surrounding the Giants have been more about Odell Beckham than they have about the Packers. Last year Josh Norman showed that rattling Beckman is a good way to keep him from having a huge day. Since it’s working, the Giants’ offensive coordinator said that defenders who try to bait Beckham are “not man enough” to play him straight up. Head coach Ben McAdoo said he wants him playing with a “salty, physical mindset”. The Giants are circling the wagons and defending Beckham rather than trying to get him to ignore the baiting. Somehow, I doubt that a defensive back will be deterred from trash talking to Beckham and being physical with him because a coordinator challenged his manhood. At least not as long as it works. Beckham is 18th in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards and he has yet to catch a touchdown pass.

—This week I have a road favorite with the Bengals -1 at the Cowboys and a home favorite with the Vikings giving 6.5 to the Texans. I already have a winner in the bank with the Cardinals easily covering the 3.5 against the 49ers. Last week I “improved” to 1-2, winning with the Raiders over Ravens and losing with the Bucs and Jets.

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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?


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.


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!