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Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 21, 7 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

With the start of training camp a week away, much of the focus is on the newcomers to the Redskins’ roster. But let’s take a look at some players who were around last year but have a chance to break out and perform at a high level in 2015.

DE Chris Baker—This could be a rare case of a player getting moved out of the starting lineup but having his impact grow. The acquisitions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea will have Baker starting most games on the bench after he started 12 games last year. But he should still play something close to the 500 snaps he played last year. Joe Barry’s defensive scheme features linemen attacking gaps rather than containing them much of the time. This suits Baker’s style of play much better than a two-gap system.

LG Shawn Lauvao—Just like the one gap will help Baker, power blocking will help Lauvao. That's the scheme he played for four years in Cleveland before coming to the Redskins. He also needs to upgrade his pass protection skills, something that Bill Callahan should be able to help him with. This is probably a make or break year for Lauvao, who is slated to see a salary increase to $4 million next year. If he doesn’t break out this year the Redskins could well go younger and cheaper at right guard in 2016.

CB David Amerson—Was last year a look at the real Amerson or was it just a sophomore slump? I think it’s the latter. The word is that he is taking preparation much more seriously this year and he has the physical tools to be a good cornerback. He will have to battle DeAngelo Hall for playing time but if he spends enough time in the film room he will find his way onto the field.

RB Chris Thompson—There is no doubt that the coaches are intrigued by his speed. They are also wary of his history of problems with staying on the field, stretching back to his days at Florida State. If he stays healthy he will get plenty of chances to show he can be a home run threat. For all the talk of Matt Jones serving as the third-down back Thompson is much more the prototype for that role. He could be all or nothing. If he stays healthy, he should have an impact. If not, the team will gladly keep Silas Redd and Thompson's future would be in doubt.

TE Jordan Reed—He already broke out once, with 45 receptions for 499 yards in nine games as a rookie. Than the injuries hit and he has been struggling to stay on the field and be productive when he is in the lineup. If he learns how to stay healthy—and that is something that can be learned—he become a go-to weapon in the Redskins offense. As with Thompson, it’s all about staying on the field.

Timeline

—It’s been 207 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 52 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 7; Preseason opener @ Browns 21; final cuts 44

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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

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