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Enemy intel: Cowboys' Jones ignores players' baggage

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Enemy intel: Cowboys' Jones ignores players' baggage

A look around what's going on around the NFC East.

With DE’s DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory and LB Rolando McClain all suspended for the start of the season, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated thinks that the Cowboys’ defensive MVP might be coordinator Rod Marinelli.
But not to be overlooked in that division-winning effort—and it wasn’t by those paying attention—was the work Marinelli’s defensive unit put in. Without any obvious stars, Dallas’s defense finished in the top half of the league in points allowed, holding every single opponent under 30 points and half of their foes to 20 or less. It was some of Marinelli’s finest work.

He made lemons out of lemonade last season, too, giving the Cowboys a chance to win most weeks despite the utter calamity that occurred when Romo was sidelined.

If the ‘16 season is to be a bounceback year for the ’Boys, Marinelli will have to pull a rabbit from his hat again. On Thursday, the NFL announced that starting linebacker Rolando McClain would have to sit out the first 10 games of the season for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He will join previously punished edge defenders Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence (four games each) on the sideline. Those are three significant losses for a team already shy on proven depth in the front seven.
Tandler: Marinelli did get the most out of the Cowboys defense the last couple of years. But production is more about Larry and Joes than X's and O's. I'm not so sure the Dallas defense will survive without the three suspended players.

Longtime Dallas writer Rick Gosselin takes Jerry Jones to task for relying on the likes of Lawrence, McClain, and Gregory—all of whom has major red flags when the Cowboys acquired them—to get the job done.
The Cowboys employ scouts.

Maybe they should start hiring porters. In addition to paying scouts to find the players, the Cowboys need porters to carry all their baggage into that sparkling new practice facility in Frisco.

That's been one of the shortcomings of Jerry Jones in his capacity as general manager and personnel guru of the Cowboys. He's always been a sucker for a bargain. His personnel decisions are based exclusively on on-the-field ability rather than any potential off-the-field headaches. If you have talent, Jones will ignore your baggage.

. . .

The most important part of ability is availability. At some point, a franchise must realize that these players are chances that aren't worth taking.

Now the Cowboys are in a bind. Defense was a problem on this team a year ago. The Cowboys ranked last in takeaways with an NFL-record-tying low of 11 and 25th in sacks on the way to a 4-12 collapse.
Tandler: Don't ever fire yourself, Jerry. It's just too much fun.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman said recently that the team has made its biggest mistakes by giving big money to free agents that weren’t their own. I guess they couldn’t figure this out by looking at their own 2011 “dream team” experience or by looking at the history of their division rivals just down I-95.
“When you look at it, some of the mistakes we’ve made have been going out and spending a lot of money,” Roseman said. “A lot of those mistakes were on guys that aren’t our own. They were guys that we’ve brought from another organization, and we thought we knew.”

The failed contracts that were extended to DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell instantly come to mind when considering recent free agent activity. Rather than continue to go down the same path, the Eagles have focused on keeping a core group of players in the fold and complementing them with additional players.

“We went and looked at our plan for our roster over the next couple of years and said we will never let Fletcher Cox leave the building,” Roseman said. “We will never let Lane [Johnson] leave the building, we will never let Zach [Ertz]…if we do it now, we do it a little early and maybe save on those guys and add to the team, keep as many guys around as possible. We have this core, and we can build off of that.”
Tandler: I like the moves the Eagles made in locking up Cox, Johnson, Ertz, and a few others. I'm still dubious about their quarterback situation and if Carson Wentz isn't very good they will have issues winning consistently. But locking up their own is almost always the right move and none of the contracts seemed to be out of line.

When the Ravens released offensive tackle Eugene Monroe many figured it was just a matter of time before he signed with the Giants, who have been rebuilding their line over the past few years. But Monroe is still a free agent and here’s why:
The Giants still have interest in former Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe after an offseason where they tried to find a potential replacement for right tackle Marshall Newhouse, but came up empty. The problem is similar to what they ran into with Russell Okung, Donald Penn and even current Jet Ryan Clady.

Monroe would prefer to play left tackle. The Giants aren't willing to offer that position. They're strongly intent on keeping last year's first-round pick Ereck Flowers on the left side. The question now is whether Monroe can get an offer elsewhere to play somewhere on the left side. If so, he's not a Giants option.

Monroe's currently assessing his options, while the Giants wait on a decision. They're not about to break the bank for a 29-year-old tackle who has struggled with injuries in recent years.
Tandler: I'm not sure if Monroe is going to be able to find a left tackle job that he'll be able to walk in to in July; most teams make a top priority of filling those job. His options are to wait and see if a left tackle gets injured in training camp or accept a right tackle job with a team like the Giants.

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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!