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Enemy Intel around the NFL, Week 6—Can the Cowboys pass another tough test?

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Enemy Intel around the NFL, Week 6—Can the Cowboys pass another tough test?

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL:

—The Giants hope to avoid a fourth straight loss as they host the Ravens, who have lost two straight. Both teams are in varying states of turmoil. Baltimore fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman on Monday and he will be replaced by Marty Mornhinweg. The new OC has a good offensive mind but I’m not sure what he can do with an offensive line that is reeling with injuries. If WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) is out I'm not sure what he's going to be able to do. Meanwhile, just as the Odell Beckham antics have faded to the background (but haven’t disappeared entirely), Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers shoved a member of the media in the locker room after New York’s latest loss. You go back to the game against the Redskins, where their losing skid started, and you have Beckham’s kicking net punching back and center Weston Richburg getting booted out of the game for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. It points to a lack of discipline. Discipline was the calling card of for former coach Tom Coughlin. It does not appear to be a strong point of his replacement, Ben McAdoo.

—Last week the Cowboys handled what appeared to be their sternest test to date with ease as they ran out to a 28-0 lead over the Bengals. This week things could be significantly tougher as they go to Lambeau Field. It’s not just Aaron Rodgers, who is playing well but not All World well. It’s that Green Bay defense. They have averaged giving up just 2.0 yards per rush, the best in the NFL by a full yard. It is a little easier to pass against them but the Cowboys need to run to set up Dak Prescott’s passing. It should be noted, however, that the Cowboys have the best offensive line that the Packers have faced so we will have to see who controls the line.

Related: Doctson out, two starters questionable for Redskins vs. Eagles

—The Redskins visit Detroit after playing the Eagles. The Lions did the Redskins a favor by knocking off Philly last week, overcoming a number of injuries in order to do it. They could still be banged up next week. RB Theo Riddick (hip), DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), and TE Eric Ebron (ankle, knee) are all out against the Rams this week and we will see if they are ready for the Redskins on the 23rd.

—After coming home from Detroit the Redskins will return to Ashburn and assume their normal preparations through practice on Thursday. After that, they get on a plane and head to London for practice on Friday, a Saturday walkthrough, and a game against the Bengals at Wembley Stadium. Cincinnati has lost three of its last four and they play at the Patriots tomorrow. Fortunately for Marvin Lewis’ crew they get the NFL equivalent of an extra bye week, a home game against the Browns, before they leave for the UK.

Related: Crowder letting instincts take over on punt returns

—I had a true winning week last week, going 2-1 with wins with the Vikings over the Texans and the Cardinals over the 49ers. I lost with the Bengals giving one (!) to the Cowboys. I’m going to say that the Cowboys won’t pull off a second straight upset, going with the Packers over them giving 4.5, and the Steelers -7.5 over the Dolphins and the Seahawks -6.5 over the Falcons.

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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!