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Need to Know: The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

Need to Know: The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 10, 58 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 50
NFL draft 107
First Sunday of 2017 season 243

The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

—I think that it’s bad that the Redskins missed the playoffs for one reason that outweighs all others. You can’t replace the experience of playing in a playoff game. These players missed that opportunity. And, strongly related to that is that the best way to measure the progress of a quarterback is how he performs in the postseason. The Redskins didn’t get that data point that they could have used to evaluate Cousins’ value.

—The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017. After making the playoffs and going one and done in 2015, last season was supposed to be the year that they returned to the postseason and won a game. The fact that they didn’t get it done puts extra pressure on this coming year. It’s hard to make progress in the NFL and it’s even harder to hold on to it once you’ve made it. I don’t see the passing game being as effective as it was this past season, not with the probability that DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon will be gone in 2017. Either that production will have to come from a significantly improved running game or the defense will have to be substantially better than it was last year.

—Even though Scot McCloughan did not draft a defensive lineman until the fifth round last year, he thought the defensive line would be covered. Chris Baker was fine at one end. He believed that 2015 free agent signee Stephen Paea would bounce back from injury issues and a slow adjustment to the Redskins’ defensive system and become a solid player. Kedric Golston was penciled in for 15 snaps per game at nose tackle. McCloughan figured that between holdover Ricky Jean Francois and free agent Kendall Reyes he would have two adequate rotational linemen. But only Baker and Jean Francois worked out as planned. Paea never got going and was cut before the season started, Reyes was cut a few weeks into the season, and Golston was on injured reserve with a torn hamstring after Week 2. So, they ended up with Ziggy Hood and Cullen Jenkins playing major roles when they should have been much further down the depth chart, if they belonged on an NFL roster at all.

—As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry (I use that saying even though it never made sense to me; mice never struck me as being particularly good planners). The thing is, McCloughan’s plan wasn’t particularly well laid. It relied on a 33-year-old player, Golston, staying healthy. It also involved hoping that Paea could rebound and that Reyes’ play would elevate above the mediocre level he displayed in his previous stop in San Diego. There is no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL; there is always some degree of hoping that things go right. But this setup would have defied the odds if it had worked, like drawing three cards to an inside straight.

—We don’t know if things would have been better if McCloughan had drafted a defensive lineman earlier than the fifth round. Perhaps Vernon Butler, taken by the Panthers No. 30 overall, or Kenny Clark, the Packers’ pick with the 27th pick, would have improved the line significantly. But had a talented D-lineman been selected the team would not be starting from scratch like they might be with Baker set to enter free agency. Having one piece of the puzzle isn’t ideal but it’s better than having none.

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Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

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.