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Need to Know: Better equipped to handle adversity

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Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 63 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Malik McDowell
Defensive line
Michigan State

Height: 6-6
Weight: 276
40-yard dash: TBD

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Slippery and long. Combination of arm length and flexible torso allow him to slither into gaps and create disruptions for blockers. Freaky combination of size and athleticism. Can overwhelm blockers with pure strength and explosiveness when his feet are right. Strong enough in lower half to play through contact and cause stress in the pocket. Has tremendous amount of untapped potential waiting to be unlocked.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: If you’re reading this, you know that the 2016 Redskins’ defensive line was manned by one pretty good player in Chris Baker and a cast of journeymen and youngsters with some potential but little immediate production. They need to add at least one top-flight D-lineman in the draft and McDowell could be the guy.

If you are spending a top draft pick on a D-lineman you want one who can be an asset against the run and be able to rush the passer. McDowell’s profile fits that job description. He could defend the run as an end in the base 3-4 defense and kick inside to provide pass rush up the middle in nickel situations.

McDowell is generally rated behind Jonathan Allen of Alabama and Caleb Brantley of Florida among interior defensive line prospects. Allen and Brantley are likely to be gone by the time the Redskins pick at No. 17 but McDowell should be there as an option.

Potential issues: His production was inconsistent and his technique needs a lot of work. The fact of the matter is, I can probably copy and paste that sentence into the write up of virtually any defensive lineman in the draft. The college linemen who are NFL prospects are generally just bigger and stronger than the players trying to block him.

A look of some plays in the Spartans’ game against Notre Dame shows McDowell’s inconsistency. At times, he can’t disengage from a single blocker and a few plays later he was able skirt around three blockers and make a tackle for a loss. He also was good at getting push upfield when he rushed the passer but too often the pressure was not in the direction of the quarterback.

McDowell also had some issues with major penalties. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag in the Notre Dame game, although the film didn’t show what he did to earn it. Later in the year he was tossed from a game against Indiana, a game his team lost in overtime. Since the ejection came in the second half, he had to sit out the first half of Michigan State’s next game.  

Bottom line: Interviews with his coaches, MSU weight room staff, etc., will be keys in the evaluation of McDowell. If the Redskins try to teach him the proper fundamentals of line play will he absorb it? Will consistency come with maturity (he will be 20 on draft day)?

It seems like a good fit as if McDowell is believed to be coachable he may be the best player available at No. 17 and even if the Redskins manage to retain Chris Baker and sign another veteran or two the position will need an infusion of youth. We will see if it works out

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Questions emerge if Colt McCoy can produce similar results at lesser cost than Kirk Cousins, per source

Questions emerge if Colt McCoy can produce similar results at lesser cost than Kirk Cousins, per source

This story originally published on January 6, but has fresh relevence as the Redskins are running out of time to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 

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Is Kirk Cousins worth seven to eight times more than Colt McCoy? That's the question some at Redskins Park are asking, according to a source with inside knowledge of the situation.

The Redskins major question as Cousins again approaches free agency is no longer about ability. It's about cost.

The Redskins backup for two seasons now, McCoy will make a little more than $3 million in 2017. Cousins stands to make nearly $24 million in 2017 if he plays under the franchise tag.

Price will determine a long-term deal for Cousins. Undoubtedly, the Redskins starter will have teams interested across the NFL, and former agent Joel Corry suggested a multi-year deal for Cousins could land near Andrew Luck's 2016 contract. That deal included nearly $90 million guaranteed over a six-year, $139 million span. 

Since he was named the starter in 2015, Cousins has put up impressive stats, passing for more than 9,000 yards in two seasons, completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing 54 touchdowns to 23 interceptions. 

While Cousins has established himself as an NFL starting quarterback, one question inside Redskins Park is how much of that success can be replicated while saving a tremendous amount of money. 

McCoy's career numbers are not impressive, but as a young passer he played on some awful teams in Cleveland and San Francisco while dealing with concussions and injuries. 

In his only real shot in Jay Gruden's pass-first, quick-read system, McCoy played in five games during the 2014 season with four starts. In only three games did McCoy take all of the snaps at QB, but in those games he passed for 890 yards, an average of 296 yards per game, while completing 70.5 percent of his passes.  

Project those numbers over 16 games, and McCoy would get to 4,736 passing yards. In 2015, Cousins' first full year as starter, he broke the Redskins season passing record with 4,166 yards. This past season, Cousins broke that record and nearly reached 5,000 passing yards, ending just short at 4,917 yards.

Granted it’s just a projection, and McCoy has a significant injury history, but his yardage totals would look to be similarly productive with Cousins’ 2015 and 2016 seasons. On the flip side, in those three full games, McCoy threw three touchdowns and three interceptions while being sacked 15 times. Project those numbers, and it's 16 TDs with 16 picks and a preposterous 80 sacks. 

McCoy does not have the same arm strength as Cousins, but the former Texas Longhorn star is more adept at making plays with his feet and off-schedule, something Gruden said he wanted to see more of from Cousins. 

Unlike last year, there is no more debate if Cousins is a legit NFL starter. 

Now, Washington must decide if they should pay Cousins like some of the best in the league, or if the team can get 80 to 90 percent of the production at a fraction of the cost.  

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