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Need to Know: How significant is Redskins rookie camp?

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Need to Know: How significant is Redskins rookie camp?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 15, nine days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 126 days ago. It will be 120 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: OTAs start 9; Redskins training camp starts 74; Preseason opener @ Falcons 89

Hot topics

—I enjoyed having a discussion with JP and Tarik about the Redskins the other day. One of the things we hit on was the popular perception that Kirk Cousins was bad in the first half of the season. I say it was more like six and a half games, up until halftime of the Bucs game in Week 7. And even during his “bad” stretch he completed 85 percent of his passes against the Rams and led a late drive for a comeback win over the Eagles. He’s far from elite but 75% of the QBs in the league would love to have the numbers Cousins put up in, say, the Jets game as their worst performance of the year.

—Cousins’ passer rating in that game was 57.9, his lowest of the season. In the 2015 regular and post season quarterbacks threw at least 20 passes in a game and had a passer rating of lower than 57.9 a total of 41 times. Among them were Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Joe Flacco. Passer rating is not the end all of rating quarterbacks' performances but it is at least an indicator.

—I enjoy watching rookie minicamp but it’s hard to determine a whole lot from practices like these. It’s not so much that they are rookies, although the presence of the tryout players can muddle what things look like. It more that they are practicing in helmets and shorts. In case you’re wondering, that’s not football. It’s particularly hard to figure out what the capabilities of linemen are on both sides of the ball. And, really, how much can you tell about a running back if you can’t see how he reacts to contact? You get the idea. I was there, I observed and passed along some of my observations but don’t look for any sort of lasting significance.

—So you get down to stuff like this at rookie minicamp. I’m not taking a shot at my CSN Philly colleague John Clark here because four years ago I was there along with the rest of the DC media, hyperventilating over virtually every move made by the new rookie QB, also the second overall pick in the draft. But there is really nothing remarkable about Carson Wentz dodging “pressure” from one assistant coach and throwing to another assistant coach who is standing still.

Again, I'm not taking a shot here. I could well post a video of Josh Doctson making a nice catch against a defender who has zero chance of making the roster even for training camp. It's fun, it's harmless, but don't read too much into it.

—How good can Morgan Moses be? Perhaps he can be a test case for the importance of the offseason program. Last year he didn’t participate at all after suffering a Lisfranc injury near the end of his rookie 2014 season. A week into camp he was inserted into the starting job when they moved Brandon Scherff to guard. Moses was solid in run blocking, although like everyone on that unit he needs to get better. Per Pro Football Focus nobody on the team gave up more than the five sacks Moses was charged with. He did improve as the year went on, however, giving up four in the first 10 games and only one in the last six. Will he be better in 2016 after a full, healthy offseason? We will find out.

 

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!