Quick Links

Need to Know: Could the Redskins be better than we think?

redskins-offense-huddle-texans.png

Need to Know: Could the Redskins be better than we think?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 22, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Will the Redskins be better than we think?

The Redskins are coming off of back to back seasons with a total of seven wins. They have an unproven head coach, an uncertain quarterback situation, and lines on both sides of the ball that have undergone major changes.

Many in the media look at this situation and place the team somewhere in the lower twenties in their power rankings and figure that an improvement of a game or two is the likely outcome for the 2015 season

I was in that group before minicamp started. After seeing the practices at Redskins Park and assessing the new pieces to the puzzle the Redskins obtained over the offseason I’m starting to think that they might be better than I thought they were. Not a whole lot better. Not deep in the playoffs better. But maybe 8-8 better, or something like that.

What did I see that I liked? For one thing, offensive line coach Bill Callahan. While I disagree with those who say that the Redskins’ O-line was awful last year, there is no question that it wasn’t particularly strong, either. Seeing Callahan keeping his players out well after the end of practice to work on details makes me think that the line could grow into one of the stronger units on the team. And the addition of Brandon Scherff obviously will help as well. There will be a learning curve for him but he will get it figured out sooner rather than later.

I also liked what I saw out of Terrance Knighton. He’s not just another fat guy nicknamed Pot Roast. He is amazingly quick for his size and he will be that disruptive force that is needed in the middle of the defense. Cornerback Chris Culliver also is a major upgrade.

This team should rank higher than 19th in rushing yards gained this year. Alfred Morris is going into his contract year and while he said that he doesn’t think about it you know it has to be motivating him to some extent. And even if money doesn’t give Morris an extra kick, the presence of Matt Jones will. The rookie will get some snaps and carries. But if the team runs more, which is likely if the defense takes a step or two up, Jones won’t take much away from Morris, if anything.

While I don’t see Robert Griffin III getting back to his 2012 form, I like his prospects for this year a bit better after minicamp. He has a lot more to prove but I’ve gone from seeing the odds being against him having a successful 2015 season to it being a coin toss. That’s far from ideal and not necessarily encouraging but improvement is still improvement.

I look at Jay Gruden the same way. At times last year he appeared to be in over his head. With his rookie season behind him, it looks like Gruden has a better handle on things. The addition of a quarterbacks coach in Matt Cavanaugh is one tangible move that will help him out considerably this year. As with Griffin, I’m not sure that Gruden can succeed but after seeing him the past few weeks the chances that he can seem brighter.

What is holding me back from believing that the Redskins can be considerably better this year is how bad they were last year. They were outscored by an average of 8.6 points per game in 2014, the 29th worst scoring margin in the NFL. The team has a long way to go to get to break even. Washington could be a lot better and still not have a much better record.

There is plenty of time to revise my prediction before the season starts. And while I think things are looking up I’ll hold off for right now.

Timeline

—It’s been 176 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 83 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 38; Preseason opener @ Browns 52; final cuts 75

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Like Real Redskins on Facebook!

Follow Real Redskins on Instagram @RichTandler

In case you missed it

Quick Links

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!

Quick Links

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!