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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Ravens—Is it a rivalry?

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Ravens—Is it a rivalry?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, October 5, four days before the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:00; Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Lions 18; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 25

First thoughts on Redskins vs. Ravens

—Every leap year the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. gets decided and the debate about whether or not the Redskins-Ravens series is a rivalry is hashed out. I don’t think that it is a rivalry for the players. If the players don’t get worked up over a game against the Cowboys any more than they do any other divisional game it’s hard to see how they would get overly excited about playing an AFC team just because it’s 40 miles up the road. Some fans get worked up about it so there’s that. But if call this a “rivalry” you have to come up with another word for events like Auburn-Alabama, where as far as the fans are concerned there is that game and the 364 days until the next one. There is a bit more juice to the atmosphere surrounding the game because of the geographical proximity but that's about it.

—Although the Ravens are 3-1, Joe Flacco's numbers indicate that he is struggling so far this season. He has four touchdowns and four interceptions and has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 6.3 yards per attempt. Flacco's passer rating of 79.3 is 26th in the NFL. If you prefer more advanced analysis his DVOA is 31st in the league. But he had helped rally the Ravens to two of their wins and that is what they are paying him to do. After getting carved up pretty well by two rookie quarterbacks in their first four games, the Redskins won’t sleep on Flacco.

—Justin Forsett was released yesterday, a good sign the running back Kenneth Dixon, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick this year, is ready to make his NFL debut. He has missed the first four games with an MCL strain. He should get some carries but the prime back will be Terrance West, who gained 113 yards on 21 carries against the Raiders last week. That was a career high for the third-year veteran and his second career 100-yard rushing game. So we’ll see if he can do it again. And yes, against the Redskins’ 30th- ranked rushing defense take the over.

—So far this year the Ravens are a top-10 defense, perhaps even top five. They are first in total yards allowed, third in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards. Going again to the advanced stats, they are fourth in the NFL in defensive DVOA. They have nine sacks, one more than the Redskins, and Terrell Suggs, despite that fact that he is nearly 34 and coming off of a torn Achilles, has three of them. It will be tough to move the ball against them.

—Speaking of ageless wonders, WR Steve Smith is 37, also coming off of an Achilles tear, and he is leading the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (281). Will the Redskins have Josh Norman trail him like he did Odell Beckham and Terrelle Pryor? It may depend on if Bashaud Breeland is ready to return from his ankle injury. If he can go they might just play sides. If not, they might not trust Quinton Dunbar to be able to cover Smith. In any case, they could start off playing sides and see how it goes, moving Norman with Smith if it becomes necessary.

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!