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Need to Know: Can Morris thrive behind Redskins' power blocking?

Need to Know: Can Morris thrive behind Redskins' power blocking?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 17, 13 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Here are five thoughts on the state of the Redskins with less than two weeks to go until training camp starts.

—I mentioned DeAngelo Hall’s situation in a post yesterday but I though I’d bring up again here to expand on it a bit. Chris Culliver is the top cornerback. Bashaud Breeland is somewhere in the top three and it’s likely that David Amerson is as well. So that leaves Hall as the fourth cornerback. The problem with that is that he is slated to collect a $4 million salary this year. That’s a crazy amount to pay your fourth CB; it doesn’t even make much sense if he’s the third. Add to that the fact that he’s coming off of a double Achilles tear. If he steps on the practice field with that contract and gets reinjured, the Redskins are on the hook for the entire $4 million. We may not see him on the field in Richmond with that same contract still in place.

—The season can’t start soon enough. Why is a conversation that took place two and a half years ago between a fired coach and the current quarterback even remotely interesting to anybody at this point? Yes, I realize that the topic came up in a Robert Griffin III Q&A on the team produced Redskins Nation show. Regardless, the fact that Griffin and Mike Shanahan had very different versions of the same meeting is not exactly surprising. It’s a dynamic that is duplicated in workplaces thousands of times a day. There’s a disagreement and the two principals tell others vastly different versions of how it went down. One person’s contentious argument is the other’s frank and open discussion. Yawn. All that matters is what Griffin does starting in two weeks.

—One of the more under discussed storylines going into the year is how Alfred Morris will perform running behind power blocking. I’ve been reading some evaluations of him that say he’s by far at his best running behind zone blocking. The one-cut style suits him best. Morris didn’t run very well when the Redskins did use power blocking last year, but it’s not like the line gave him any gaping holes that he missed. Now you have a line that is being retooled to an emphasis on the power scheme. How will Morris do quickly hitting the hole? I tend to think he’ll be OK but I can’t dismiss the skeptics until I see it.

—Yesterday morning I saw the wall-to-wall coverage that the NFL Network and ESPN were giving to the Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas contract situations and I was close to tweeting that it was a massive waste of time. I saw very little chance that either would sign a long-term deal. Glad I didn’t hit send on that tweet. Both got deals done within just a couple of hours of the deadline. It was a perfect illustration of the saying that deadlines drive deals.

—I get asked about extensions for Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams all the time. One of the problems in getting these deals done is that there is no deadline; neither player becomes a free agent until March 15, 2016. Until there’s a deadline, the team can focus on what might happen if the player signs a big extension and gets injured or if his level of play declines. The player’s side can worry about signing a deal and then immediately becoming underpaid by having a big season right after signing. As the deadline approaches, those thoughts go away and the consequences of not getting a deal done move come into focus. That pushes the deal to completion. Some deals do get done without a dealing but they tend to be few and far between.

Timeline

—It’s been 201 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 58 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 13; Preseason opener @ Browns 27; final cuts 50

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

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.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!