The Saints are a very good team but they are not unbeatable. They lost three times during the 2011 regular season and once in the playoffs. Can the Redskins learn anything from those games?Perhaps they can. It would help if they were playing the Saints at FedEx Field. Not that Washington has demonstrated much of an ability to defend its home turf in recent years but all four of New Orleans losses last year were on the road. They were a perfect 8-0 in the Superdome.But the schedule is what it is and the Redskins cant do anything about the venue. They also probably cant get to be as good as the Packers or 49ers, the teams that dealt the Saints their first loss of the year and their last loss, respectively. So lets focus on the Rams and Bucs, two teams that finished with worse records than the Redskins last year but still managed to beat New Orleans.On Oct. 16, the 3-2 Bucs scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and took a 20-10 lead into the locker room. The Saints eventually pulled to within three at 23-20 in the fourth quarter but the Bucs held on for a 26-20 win.Tampa Bay had both a 300-yard passer (Josh Freeman, 303) and a 100-yard rusher (Earnest Graham 109). Still, the Saints outgained them 453 yards to 420 but they didnt have much balance. Drew Brees passed for 383 yards but his 21 yards rushing nearly led the team (Mark Ingram rushed for 22).Brees threw three interceptions and the Saints lost a fumble. The Bucs didnt turn the ball over at all.That game was a surprise; the Saints next loss was a stunner. Two weeks after losing in Tampa the Saints visited the 0-6 Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford was sidelined with an injury and A. J. Feeley was at the helm for the home team.The identity of the quarterback didnt matter much as the Saints were fed a steady diet of Steven Jackson. The Rams running back carried 25 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams outgained the Saints on the ground 183 yards to 56.Turnovers again were an issue for the Saints as Brees threw two interceptions. The Rams did not commit any turnovers.One Brees interception sealed the deal for the Rams. The Saints had started to mount a comeback from a 24-0 third-quarter deficit. With the score 24-14, Brees threw a pick six to safety Darian Stewart and that was that.So what are the common themes here? Getting some turnovers, running the ball, and building a big enough lead to survive a Saints run. That sounds like a recipe for success in most games.
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.
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:
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN 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!
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 looks ready pic.twitter.com/opUrNtdInQ— ceroy (@ceroy16) February 23, 2017
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!