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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must come through to beat the Ravens

Need to Know: Five Redskins who must come through to beat the Ravens

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, October 8, one day before the Washington Redskins go up the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore.

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Today's schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Lions 15; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 22

Five Redskins who must come through to beat the Ravens

QB Kirk Cousins—As noted a couple of weeks ago, Cousins has a permanent spot on this list until he has a couple of late 2015-style games in a row. He wasn’t bad against the Browns with three touchdown passes but he had that head-scratching interception and the offense mostly disappeared on the second and third quarter. The Washington defense is not suddenly going to morph into a top-10 unit; the pressure will be on the offense to win games. The Redskins are going to have to put up about 28 points to beat the Ravens and Cousins will need to be on point.

WR DeSean Jackson—The Redskins aren’t going to beat the Ravens with a bunch of 10-12 play drives. Baltimore is too good defensively and the Redskins have a tendency to stall drives themselves with penalties. They will need Jackson to connect with Cousins to  get a couple of big chunks of yardage to move things along.

OLB Preston Smith—He was on this list last week and, like Cousins, he will remain on it in Sharpie until he comes thorough with a couple of games like he had in the latter stages of last year. There is no better time for Smith to get his first sack of the year than this Sunday. With Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley likely out with a foot injury Smith could line up against Alex Lewis, a rookie guard who would slide out to left tackle. Smith has been close with four quarterback hits and six hurries. He needs to find that extra half step and maybe going up against Lewis will give him the edge he needs to get going.

ILB Will Compton—Compton is the chess player, adjusting the defense as the offense shifts and shows some keys. The defense has struggled in two games against rookie quarterbacks and now they go up against Joe Flacco, who has 141 games under his belt including 15 in the playoffs. Compton will need to get the defense aligned properly and while he’s at it he needs to up his own level of play. He has 15 solo tackles in four games, not enough for the Mike linebacker spot.

CB Quinton Dunbar—With Bashaud Breeland on the shelf for another game Dunbar steps into the starting lineup again. If the Redskins have Josh Norman trailing Steve Smith then Dunbar will often match up against speedy Mike Wallace. If they don’t trail and just play sides then Dunbar will get his share of matchups with Smith. In either case he has to play sound football and prevent the big play against Flacco, who likes to launch passes downfield.

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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!