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Need to Know: Five things we've learned about the Redskins so far

Need to Know: Five things we've learned about the Redskins so far

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, August 22, 12 days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 players.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:10; Player availability and Jay Gruden press conference after practice, approx. 3:15

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 225 days ago. It will be 21 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 27; Browns @ Redskins 41; Redskins @ Ravens 48

Five things we have learned about the Redskins so far

The Redskins have been through two and a half weeks of training camp and they have played two preseason games. While we have no definitive answers about the team yet, there are some things that we have learned:

The running game still needs work—Perhaps a lot of it. Matt Jones had a solid camp but two of his big issues, fumbling and injury, sprang up against the Jets. Rookies Keith Marshall and Robert Kelley haven’t done much yet and the team has an average of 3.3 yards per carry so far.

DeSean Jackson is ready for a big year—The veteran is entering a contract year and he is ready for it. Jackson has been one of the stars of camp, hauling in deep passes from Kirk Cousins on multiple occasions. He did not miss a practice or even take a traditional veteran’s da off, a very good sign for a player who struggled to stay healthy last year.

The defense could be improved—During the preseason last year the Redskins had trouble when the other team’s No. 1 quarterback was in the game. Not so this year. Against the Falcons and Matt Ryan the defense forced two three and outs. The Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to generate two three and outs and then six plays and a punt. Ryan and Fitzpatrick combined to complete 4 of 13 passes for 43 yards. That comes to a combined passer rating of 30.8. There is a small sample size warning here but it is an improvement.

Josh Norman could be worth the money—All big-money free agents say they are going to work to show that they deserved their mega paydays but Norman is putting his work ethic where his mouth is. He stays at least 30 minutes after practice working on his game. After one practice in Richmond he caught 500 passes from the JUGS machine. Then after working overtime in training camp he spent more time with the fans signing autographs and posing for pictures than just about any other player. All of that is no guarantee of success on the field but it does show that, unlike many other Redskins free agents, he is doing all he can to be successful.

There is a real competition at left guard—Many thought that Spencer Long was just a placeholder for Shawn Lauvao at left guard. But with just one preseason game to go to decide (the fourth one doesn’t count) Long pulls the duties most often associated with being the starter. He has had the majority of the first-team reps and he has started both preseason games. Lauvao may end up with the job but he still has some work to do to get it.

Su’a Cravens will be well worth the draft pick—The Redskins’ second-round pick has made some plays in practice and he was all over the field in Atlanta. He’s going to make some mistakes but he will more than make up for them with some big plays.

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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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