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 the Redskins make a change at left guard?
Tandler: When looking at the key plays that were responsible for the Redskins missing the playoffs you don’t have to go too far down the list to find the one in Arizona when Calais Campbell blew over left guard Shawn Lauvao and hit Kirk Cousins for a sack-fumble that was critical in Washington’s loss.
You don’t replace a starter based on one play but Lauvao did not have a good year. The sack was one of three allowed by Lauvao, the most in the interior line, and the 32 QB hurries he allowed were the most on the entire team. His run blocking was inconsistent. It’s clear that the position could use an upgrade.
Lauvao missed two games due to injuries and Arie Kouandjio filled in for him. Kouandjio was better in his second start than he was in his first, but he showed that he still has work to do. He is going into his third season and he has some room to improve but it remains to be seen if he can reach the point where he is a viable option as a 16-game starter.
The crop of free agent guards looks spotty (Chris Chester, anyone?) and there isn’t a guard worth of a first-round pick (for which Jay Gruden probably is grateful). Perhaps a second-round guard like Dan Feeney of Indiana or Taylor Moton of Western Michigan could start right away but other draft needs may have higher priorities.
It looks to me like they may get through 2017 with Lauvao and Kouandjio and perhaps find a mid-round pick who can develop into the 2018 starter.
Finlay: Points to Tandler for the guard jab. He likes that one. As for Lauvao, he drew the ire of many fans last season. Some of it was deserved, though he was playing with a variety of injuries in the second half of the season, but most of the offensive line was. It gets largely forgotten that he played very well early in the year.
If the 'Skins, and namely Bill Callahan, determine Kouandjio is ready to start, Lauvao could be in trouble. Cutting him would save $4 million against the salary cap. That will certainly be considered in this equation. That will take a big leap from Kouandjio this offseason though, as he needs to significantly increase his upper body strength and footwork.
More offseason questions:
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Rumors. Speculation. Repeat.
While the Redskins work to figure out their plan with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the buzzsaw of conversation surrounding what will happen next between the team and the passer continues to escalate. For weeks, folks have connected the dots between the Kyle Shanahan era in San Francisco and the Washington QB. Cousins, remember, was drafted by the Shanahans here in D.C. before Mike and Kyle Shanahan were ousted in 2013.
Now, with Kyle Shanahan in place as the head coach of the Niners, plenty of thought has been given to the new coach trading with the 'Skins to grab his former player. Shanahan runs great offense throughout his career, and many expect that Cousins could play well in the system.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said that there is a good chance that trade could go down next week at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. All 32 NFL teams will be in attendance, and many deals and contracts get worked out in the process.
"I would not be shocked at all if we saw a Kirk Cousins to San Francisco trade go down at that point in time," Jeremiah said, speaking to San Diego's Mighty 1090 radio station.
The offer, Jeremiah concluded, would include the Niners No. 2 overall pick, but might mean the 'Skins send back their own 17th pick. From there, Washington could turn to Colt McCoy or look for a passer with the second pick.
Either way, it's hard to see a path for Cousins to be the 'Skins long term QB for Jeremiah.
"I don’t think they’re going to be able to get a long term deal done," he said. "I would say greater than 50 percent chance he’s not with the Redskins next year."
There's not a lot of knowns in this contract saga, but the list of unknowns grows by the day.
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