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Need to Know: Five Redskins who can boost Scot McCloughan's approval rating

Need to Know: Five Redskins who can boost Scot McCloughan's approval rating

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 14, 23 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 15
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 62
—NFL Draft (4/27) 72
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 208

Five players who can help McCloughan’s reputation

Whether it’s fair or not, Scot McCloughan’s reputation as a genius when it comes to building an NFL team has taken a hit over the course of last year. A draft with minimal returns and some free agent busts will do that. Here are five players who can revive the faith that Redskins fans had in him.

OLB Preston Smith—The 2015 second-round pick led all NFL rookies with eight sacks and it looked like McCloughan had found a star. But Smith was inconsistent last year, making some big plays and then disappearing for weeks at a time. He needs to get back to being the guy who was terrorizing opposing quarterbacks during the latter part of 2015.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - Upside for Kirk Cousins answering contract questions?

WR Josh Doctson—This one is pretty obvious. McCloughan bypassed some talented defensive linemen to take Doctson, who contributed two receptions as a rookie before going on injured reserve. If Doctson says healthy and becomes a productive receiver his rookie problems will fade into distant memories in a hurry.

CB Kendall Fuller—Their third-round pick in 2016 had a rocky season. He was inactive to start the season, got in the lineup as the nickel corner and was inconsistent, and wound up back on the bench. There was talk that the if not for the knee injury Fuller suffered at Virginia Tech he would have been a first-round pick. If he can come out and start performing like a top pick he will give McCloughan another draft steal on his resume.

WR Maurice Harris—Harris represents a chance for McCloughan to look good; unlike with the others on this list, there is no real downside if Harris doesn’t make it. But if the 6-3 undrafted free agent can become a reliable fourth receiver and catch 30-40 passes that would be a feather in McCloughan’s cap.

More Redskins: Dysfunction at Redskins Park?

CB Josh Norman—It’s clear that it was a group decision to bring in Norman as would be the case with any free agent who is signed to a contract of that size. In any case, McCloughan has final say so Norman wouldn’t have come on board without his OK. And while he was a definite upgrade in the secondary in his first year with the team, for $15 million per year he needs to have more of an impact. It wouldn’t be that hard; if he had held on to some of the potential interceptions he dropped he may have repeated on as a first team All-Pro.

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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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Does bigger mean better? Will Matt Jones come back? 3 takeaways from Redskins OTAs

Does bigger mean better? Will Matt Jones come back? 3 takeaways from Redskins OTAs

The Redskins certainly got bigger this offseason. That much was obvious on Wednesday as the team invited media to watch an OTA session. The increased size stood out, but plenty of other things did too. Three takeawys from Tuesday's OTA:

  1. Does bigger mean better? The Redskins receiving group was noticeably bigger, something that happens when the team adds two free agents at least 6-foot-4 in Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick and drafts another 6-foot-3 receiver in Robert Davis. The increased size might help, but it's the play of Pryor that turned heads on Wednesday. With long powerful strides and impressive hands, Pryor looked like a dangerous weapon for Kirk Cousins this fall. Second-year pro Josh Doctson also impressed, catching a long touchdown pass towards the end of the session. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon are gone, but if things break right and the duo stay healthy, Pryor and Doctson could form a devastating pair.
  2. Attendance is (not) mandatory - Jordan Reed and Trent Williams did not attend the OTA session. Both are Pro Bowl players that Jay Gruden trusts to be working out on their own, and it's important to point out the workouts are voluntary for players. Third-year running back Matt Jones also missed the OTA session. Gruden did not have much to say about his absence, but he added, "This is a voluntary deal, as we all know, and I can’t force the issue on anybody. So if he’s disgruntled in any way, shape or form, it’s news to me. I imagine like Jordan Reed and Trent Williams, I’m sure Matt is working out and staying in good shape." With the fourth round draft pick of Samaje Perine, the running back position is getting crowded. Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson are roster locks, and Perine seems like he has a very good chance. If the 'Skins keep four runners, Mack Brown has the inside track on that spot. Jones seems to be on the outside looking in, which might be the root cause of his absence. 
  3. Deadlines do deals - The elephant in the room at every turn for the Redskins is the looming contract situation with Kirk Cousins. The QB talked Wednesday, and while he didn't clarify much, it seems clear the franchise and Cousins' representatives are at least staying in touch, which wasn't the case this time last summer. Cousins made one thing obvious: Don't expect a contract until near the July 15th. "Deadlines do deals."

Bonus: Cool Twitter video of the running backs going through drills - including 2016 draft pick Keith Marshall - and some Instragram pics. 

Some #Redskins fans would really like to see this in the fall

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Josh Norman talking with his new safeties Su'a Cravens and DJ Swearinger

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Cousins excited to work with ex-QB Terrelle Pryor

Need to Know: Redskins’ Cousins excited to work with ex-QB Terrelle Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 25, 19 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 144 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 108 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 19
—Training camp starts (7/27) 63
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 77

Quotes and notes from the podium

Here are some quotes from Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden from their post-OTA press conference on Wednesday and my comments on what they said.

Gruden on RB Matt Jones’ absence:

“That’s a good question, something that Matt Jones will have to answer. This is a voluntary deal, as we all know, and I can’t force the issue on anybody. So if he’s disgruntled in any way, shape or form, it’s news to me.”

Tandler's take: A year ago Jones was the unquestioned No. 1 running back. After fumbling and then being reluctant to play special teams when the regular season started, he was glued to the bench. The workouts are voluntary and it will be interesting to see if Jones shows up for mandatory minicamp next month if he’s still on the roster. It appears that he does not want to fight to get his job back from Rob Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine. That speaks for itself.

Cousins on adjusting to new receivers:

“Obviously there is a little bit of an adjustment, but we spread the ball around so much. Chris Thompson catches quite a few balls, even Rob Kelley gets involved, we get the tight ends involved. I remember two years ago we lost DeSean [Jackson] for half the season. Derek Carrier played a bigger role when Jordan Reed was out. So you kind of expect a revolving door on offense at a lot of the skill positions and you just start to run plays, and regardless who is out there, you just go where your reads take you.”

Tandler's take: This is a good mindset on the part of Cousins. The Redskins lost two 1000-yard receivers, Pierre Garçon and Josh Doctson, to free agency. Cousins barely practiced with Josh Doctson last year, Terrelle Pryor and Brain Quick signed as free agents, and Robert Davis was a sixth-round pick. These players likely will account for well over 50 percent of Cousins’ targets to wide receivers. But they will not get a sympathy card from the rest of the league. Change happens, both in between seasons and, as Cousins points out, during seasons. Adjustments need to be made on the fly.

Gruden on the NFL shortening overtime to 10 minutes:

“Who cares? [Laughter]”

On changes to the celebration rules:

“You know what, whatever rules they send down, we just try to coach them up. The celebration thing, if it is fun for the fans and the fans really want it, this is a fan league and that’s great just as long as it doesn’t become so much about the player as it is about the team.”

Tandler's take: I think that if most coaches were being honest they would answer these questions just like Gruden did. Overtime is an infrequent occurrence and how to handle the clock on OT probably will not enter most coaches’ thinking before the clock hits 0:00 in a tie game. And as long as the celebration rules are clear and they can teach them to the players I doubt many coaches care if the ball is used as a prop or if players can go to the ground.

Cousins on playing with Pryor, who was a college and NFL quarterback prior to converting to receiver last year:

“I love that you asked that question because it’s even caught me by surprise. I worked with a receiver, Keith Nichol, in college who was a former quarterback, but Terrelle having been a college quarterback and a pro quarterback takes it to even another level. He’s going to hold me accountable because he knows where the ball should go. If it’s Cover 2 and he on Cover 2, if the read is over here, ‘I played quarterback, I know that.’”

Tandler's take: This is an interesting dynamic at work here. Not many quarterbacks have former NFL quarterbacks as their No. 1 receivers. They will be able to communicate on another level compared to the usual QB-WR dynamic. You have to think that it will help Cousins making adjustments in games, with Pryor, who has the eyes of a quarterback, running downfield on every play. Although Pryor is not an accomplished NFL quarterback he could be a big asset as Cousins looks to take his next steps as an NFL quarterback.

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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