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Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 1, eight days before the start of NFL free agency.

Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

At the NFL combine, Scot McCloughan said that the team liked one player’s ability but added that “he has to do it”. There are several players on the Redskins’ roster who have the potential to be very good but who need to take the next step and, as they used to say, just do it. If they don’t the team could be looking for replacements in 2017.

RB Matt Jones—This was the player that McCloughan was talking about at the combine. A running back generally isn’t considered a three-year project; he needs to start consistently showing signs that he can get the job done this year. The starting job is his for the taking and this may be his first and only chance.

OLB Trent Murphy—When they draft you in the second round and then the next year they take another guy to play your spot in the same round you have better be ready to fight for your job. Although Murphy retained the starting position for most of the year it’s clear that Preston Smith will be the starter going forward. Murphy needs to step up and earn some snaps or he will be a career special teamer.

WR Ryan Grant—He sure has Jay Gruden in his corner. “I feel really strongly about Ryan Grant,” Gruden said at the combine. “I think he’s an excellent receiver just waiting for his opportunity to be a starter.” Well, he got his chance to get some starts while DeSean Jackson was sidelined and he responded with 16 catches in 6 games, hardly No. 2 receiver production. On the season, Kirk Cousins, the most accurate passer in the league, targeted him 42 times and he managed just 23 receptions.

S Jeron Johnson—Duke Ihenacho beat him out for the starting job in training camp and then when Ihenacho was injured in the season opener Trenton Robinson went in. Johnson has one year left on the two-year deal he signed with the Redskins in 2015. Everybody needs safeties. If he can either start or be a key substitute this year he could get a good deal from the Redskins or from someone else. If not he could be searching for tryouts.

PR Jamison Crowder—Don’t get me wrong here. Crowder the receiver is just fine and on track to have a good career. But his punt returning left a lot to be desired. He doesn’t have great speed (4.56 in the 40 in last year’s combine) but at Duke he showed an uncanny ability to find the open areas and elude would-be tacklers while rolling through them. But last year his average of 5.3 yards per return was among the worst in the league and he made some very questionable decisions when fielding punts. A year to get used to the speed on the NFL game is fine but at some point he has to break one. His long return as a rookie was 16 yards.

Timeline

—Redskins running back Silas Redd was born on this date in 1992.

—The Redskins last played a game 51 days ago. It will be about 194 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 8; Redskins offseason workouts start 48; 2016 NFL draft 58

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offenseDoes Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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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