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Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Five reasons why we can't close the book on the Shanahan era

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 2, 68 days before the start of free agency.

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The Mike Shanahan era is over. On Tuesday we took a look at some things that went well during the last four years. Yesterday was about what went wrong. Today, the question is what’s still up in the air?

In chronological order, five moves by Shanahan of which we don’t know the results.

1. The Redskins went into the 2011 draft missing picks in the third and fourth rounds but due to some wheeling and dealing they ended up picking 12 players including at least one in every round. Eight of them are still on the roster or finished the year on injured reserve and only one, top pick Ryan Kerrigan, is set as a starter. Some others need to step up in their fourth seasons to prevent this draft from being a bust.

2. The blockbuster trade to move up to get Robert Griffin III looked like a winner a year ago. Now with Griffin coming off of a bad season with two ACL tears highlighting his medical history and the final installment of the trade ending up being the No. 2 overall pick going to the Rams, it’s not so clear. Griffin will have to be stellar for many years to justify the price. He appears to be capable of doing that but we won’t know for a while.

3. In 2012 the Redskins gave Pierre Garçon a five-year contract worth $42.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed. He proved to be valuable in 2012 when he could play and he was the offensive MVP this past year, leading the league in receptions. But that hefty price means that the team needs to get another solid season or two out of him. Out of all of the questions on this list, the confidence that Garçon will work out is the highest.

4. In 2012 Shanahan spent three draft picks on offensive linemen. But guards Josh LeRibeus (3rd round) and Adam Gettis (5th) and tackle Tom Compton (6th) have yet to play except for an emergency appearance here and there. LeRibeus was inactive for all 16 games this year. Is there any depth on the offensive line?

5. Tight end Jordan Reed looked to be a third-round steal when he started catching everything thrown near him in the first half of the season. But he missed the last six games of the season with a concussion. Reed will have to shake the injury bug if he is going to live up to that “steal” status.

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Stat of the day

—In 2013 Roy Helu was the Redskins second-leading rusher among running backs with 62 carries for 274 yards. The previous season that distinction went to Evan Royster, who had just 23 carries for 88 yards.

Timeline

—Former Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer was born on this date in 1940.

—Days until: NFL free agency 68; 2014 NFL Draft 126; 2014 Opening Sunday 249

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Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

RICHMOND—While Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success in his first two seasons as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he and the team didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to. They lost four of their last six games to finish out of a playoff spot. With the game on the line in the season finale against the Giants, Cousins threw an interception as the team was driving for a late score to win or tie the game. The loss was the final blow to their playoff hopes.

As with any disappointing situation, Cousins and the team must walk a line between learning from the mistakes that were made—and there were many beyond the Cousins interception—and dwelling on the past. Cousins said today that the failure to make the playoffs will help drive the team this year.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

“I think what it does is it gives us an edge, because we stay humble and hungry because we left the season realizing we do have a long ways to go,” Cousins said of the late-season woes. “We do need to improve if we want to go in the direction that we all believe we can. In that sense we’ll take the silver lining that nobody is content, nobody is entitled, nobody feels like we can rest on what we’ve done in the past.”

While they can focus on the silver lining for now, Cousins says that they realize that coming close to the playoffs but missing out year after year won’t cut it. That’s what gets coaches fired and leads to players losing their jobs.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

“We do feel like a lot rides on this season up ahead,” he said. “Hopefully, that gives us a sense of urgency all through training camp to be really focused, and as a result gets the best out of every one of us so that our team can play as well as we possibly can.”

Cousins is playing on the one-year franchise tag. He has been quick to point out that many of his teammates are either on one-year deals or in the final season of a multi-year deal. Cousins is one of over a dozen starters or key contributors who will become free agents in 2018. If they are going to stay around they can’t go 2-4 down the stretch like they did last year.

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

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Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

RICHMOND—As Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins goes into playing under the franchise tag for the second straight season, the phrase commonly used about him is that he is betting on himself, eschewing the long-term security of a multiyear deal in favor hoping to improve his leverage by playing on the tags.

However, Cousins said that is a misconception.

“I don’t know that I ever bet on myself, I bet on the system, he said. “It has nothing to do with myself. I’m just going out and playing and there’s never been anything but positive feelings. I’m excited to get to work here. As I’ve said, my wife and I love it here and we’re in a good place.”

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Ever since the deadline for him to sign a long-term contract this year came and went without a new deal, Cousins has been trying to debunk the notion that he has a desire to leave the Redskins as soon as he can. Appearing on 106.7 The Fan last week, Cousins said that the Redskins are his “first choice” to be his team going forward. He talked positively about his future in Washington again today after the Redskins first training camp walkthrough.

Although there was talk that the contract negotiations took a sour turn at the end after team president Bruce Allen revealed some of the details of the team’s final offer to Cousins, Cousins indicated today that everything is fine.

“W e’ve done a good job communicating between me and the team,” he said. “We’re on the same page and we’ve done everything we can possibly do to get that settled and move forward. I think we’re all in a good place right now and we’ve got enough to worry about getting our offense playing at the level we need to have a great season so I can be back in future years.”

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

What it really comes down to, what Cousins believes will make things good in the future for him and the Redskins, is success on the field.

“If you win football games, everything else takes care of itself,” he said.

“In the offseason, the ball’s in the team’s court. But from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball’s in my court and I’ve got to go play football well. That’s where my focus is.”

There likely will be more talk of Cousins future beyond the 2017 seas in the coming weeks and months. It appears that for right now that is the furthest thing from Cousins’ mind.

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