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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens—Washington's best O-line combo?

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens—Washington's best O-line combo?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 9, the day the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins kickoff 12 noon, CSN; Redskins @ Ravens 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 7; Redskins @ Lions 14; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 21

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens

—Yes, Steve Smith Sr. can beat you deep and Mike Wallace has good vertical speed as well. But the Ravens are basically a plodding passing offense. They are one of just two teams averaging less than 10 yards per pass completion. Baltimore scores on 38 percent of its drives, just a couple of ticks above the league average. The Redskins average 11.9 yards per completion and the score on 53 percent of their drives, second best in the NFL to the Falcons. Look at more advanced analytics, the Redskins are 11th in offensive DVOA at 5.3% while the Ravens are 27th at -12.4%. Washington seems to have substantially more pop in its offense.

—During training camp the general consensus was that the Redskins’ best run-blocking offensive line was, from left to right, Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses. That is the line that will play for the Redskins today. We will see how the group wisdom shakes out in reality.

—It’s not breaking news when I tell you that missed tackles have been a problem for the Redskins defense. According to Pro Football Focus they have 40 of them. To compare, the Ravens have 26 misses. The biggest culprit for Washington was safety David Bruton, who had eight; nobody else on the team has more than three. But don’t presume that the problems will largely dissipate with Bruton on injured reserve. His replacement, Duke Ihenacho, has three misses in just 45 snaps played. Maybe if they can cut down on the missed tackles (they won’t be eliminated; every team has some every game) and knock down a few third-down passes the defense can be competent.

—The missed tackles may be a result of Jay Gruden running one of the less physical training camps in the league. The idea was that they might not be as sharp earlier in the year but they would be fresher as the year as the year went since they didn’t beat up on each other in Richmond. Well, it’s October, the time when the easier practices in August should begin to pay off. The Redskins have some injuries but they are better off than some and worse off than others. The Ravens had a fairly physical camp; let's see who has fresher legs in the fourth quarter.

—This is a tough one to figure. The Ravens probably aren’t quite as good as their 3-1 record but they are playing at home. Their top defensive ranking is a bit deceptive since they have yet to play an offense that is as good as, well, the Redskins. The game is in Baltimore but the Redskins proved they can win in a hostile environment in East Rutherford a couple of weeks ago. Can they do it again? I’m going on a hunch more than any logic here:

Redskins 27, Ravens 21

Tandler on Twitter

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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!