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How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl quality O-line?

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How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl quality O-line?

The Redskins have needed to improve their offensive line since the last rendition of the Hogs broke up over 20 years ago. The team has had some solid individual linemen in that time but the unit has never been up to the quality that it was during the Super Bowl glory years from 1982-1991.

How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl offensive line? To figure that out it might be good to take a look at how the offensive lines of the two teams that in the Super Bowl were built. Here’s a look at the expected starters in the Super Bowl and the starters who finished up the 2014 season for the Redskins.

Interior line

Seahawks: C Max Unger (round 2/2009) missed 10 regular season games with injuries but he appears to be back in form for the playoffs. He has two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro on his resume. RG J. R. Sweezy (7/2012) was a late-round pickup who has paid off with 31 starts in the last two years. The Seahawks picked LG James Carpenter (1/2011) in the first round in 2011 but injuries have had him in and out of the lineup.

Patriots: Rookie C Bryan Stork (4/2014) missed the AFC title game with a knee injury but should be back for the Super Bowl. LG Dan Connolly (UDFA) came into the league undrafted and was picked up off the street by the Patriots in 2008. He has started 71 games for them since then. RG Ryan Wendell (UDFA) made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and has been their starting guard for the past three seasons.

Redskins: The Broncos drafted C Kory Lichtensteiger (4/2008), who sat out a season in between being cut loose by Denver and picked up by the Redskins. LG Shawn Lauvao (3/2010) was drafted by the Browns and signed by the Redskins as a free agent in 2014. The Redskins signed Ravens draft pick RG Chris Chester (2/2006) as a free agent in 2011.

Tackles

Seahawks: The Redskins took a real hard look at LT Russell Okung (1/2010) in 2010 but they took Trent Williams instead. Seattle took RT Justin Britt (2/2014) with the last pick of the second round and he started all 16 games this year as a rookie.

Patriots: RT Sebastian Vollmer (2/2009) has been the designated starter most of the time he has been in New England but he has missed 20 games due to injuries in the past four years. The Patriots got the pick the used to draft LT Nate Solder (1/2011) from the Raiders in exchange for DL Richard Seymour.

Redskins: The Redskins’ decision to go with Williams over Okung has paid off so far. Okung has been a solid player but Williams just went to his third Pro Bowl (one for Okung) and his missed six games due to injuries in five seasons (Okung has missed 21). RT Tom Compton (6/2012) took over as the starter this year in midseason.

Bottom line

Between the two teams in the Super Bowl there are three first-round picks (including both left tackles), three second-rounders, one each from the fourth and seventh rounds, and two undrafted players. Only one, Connolly (four games with the Jaguars in 200, ever appeared in a game for another team.

The Redskins start first- and sixth-round picks of their own plus three players who were drafted by and played for other teams.

So it seems apparent that spending high draft picks on the line will help, especially at the tackle position. But the Patriots starting a fourth round pick and two undrafted players in the interior should be instructive as well. The two undrafted guards for the Patriots took their time to develop but the patience has paid off. The fact that the Patriots felt good enough about their undrafted guards that they were willing to trade six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins before the season started speaks volumes about how they develop their line.

It should be noted that the lines for the Patriots and particularly the Seahawks aren’t generally viewed as particularly strong. But they give their quarterbacks enough time to throw and create enough running room for the backs to be effective and, most importantly, they are still playing. I think the Redskins would be pretty happy with a group that could do that.

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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

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