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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 8, 16 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

You can’t have too much pass rushI said this after the AFC championship game and I’ll say it again. Five players shared in the Broncos’ seven sacks and eight different players hit Cam Newton at least once (13 total QB hits). Pass defense starts with the pass rush. You can't have too many defenders who can get after the quarterback.

You have to bring extra pressure—Denver has two of the best pass rushers on the planet in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware but they still brought five or even six pass rushers on occasion. During the season the Redskins brought four in pressure the vast majority of the time and they got 38 sacks, 15th in the NFL. Joe Barry was cautious because his defensive backfield was weak. But sometimes you have to damn the torpedoes and go full speed.

Who needs a No. 1 running back?—Denver started Ronnie Hillman (207 rush att., 863 yds., 7 TDs) 11 times and C. J. Anderson (152/720/5) five times this year. As a team they averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, enough to move the chains and give the Broncos defense a rest. A great, workhorse back can be a good thing to have but sometimes a combination will work just fine.

A game manager can win at quarterback—In terms of quarterback performance, the Broncos went back to the days of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, pedestrian QB’s who got rings thanks to playing on a team with a dominant defense. This one just happened to be Peyton Manning, who had a terrible regular season and put up a 56.6 passer rating in the Super Bowl. Manning was smart enough to let the defense win the game. The Redskins are about to drop a lot of money in Kirk Cousins and that’s a move they need to make. But Scot McCloughan’s goal needs to be to try to construct a team that can win even if Cousins doesn’t play well.

Make the obvious hire—Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seemed to be a natural choice when the Redskins needed a defensive coordinator a year ago. He had a reputation for turning defenses around and that’s exactly what the Redskins needed. But Jay Gruden chose Joe Barry instead and Phillips went to Denver and did a magnificent job, getting named assistant coach of the year and doing a masterful job pulling the levers last night. It should be noted that the Redskins were not the only team to pass over Phillips. Between the time the Texans let him go after the 2013 season and the Broncos hired him (as their second choice) a year ago, 21 defensive coordinators were hired.

Timeline

—Former Redskins guard Raleigh McKenzie, who started two Super Bowls for Washington, was born on this date in 1963

—The Redskins last played a game 29 days ago. It will be about 216 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 16; NFL free agency starts 30; 2016 NFL draft 80

In case you missed it

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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!