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Need to Know: How will the Redskins' safety situation shake out?

Need to Know: How will the Redskins' safety situation shake out?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 21, 34 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on the Redskins as the offseason sets in

—Did Jay Gruden and Sean McVay underutilize Jamison Crowder? The rookie slot receiver was targeted 78 times during the season. In 2014 slot receiver Andre Roberts was targeted 73 times. Considering that Crowder was a clear upgrade over Roberts he should have had a lot more opportunities. After nine games Crowder was on pace to catch 75 passes. He ended up with 59.

—The situation with Terrance Knighton shows why leaning so hard on free agency hurts the team building process. Knighton played OK and he got better as the year went on. But “not horrible and improving” is not the standard that a team that wants to make the playoffs and advance should be striving for. They might be inclined to let him go but unless they can attract one of the very few quality nose tackles on the market they might end up without anyone qualified to play NT. They could wait for the draft but the chances of finding an immediate starter at nose tackle in the draft are very slim. If they sign Knighton to a multi-year deal and then find a NT in the draft, the draft pick will be at least halfway through his rookie contract before a position opens up for him. They are kind of stuck in the free agent market.

—It will be interesting to see how the safety situation will shake out. They have Dashon Goldson and DeAngelo Hall under contract but their cap hits total just over $13 million. Both have their strong points but they could sign the Chiefs’ 27-year-old All-Pro Eric Barry and another mid-range free agent for that money. Duke Ihenacho, who won a starting job but broke his wrist in the season opener, is a restricted free agent. If the Redskins want to have the right to match any offers for him they’ll have to tender him at around $1.5 million. They might try to get him to sign for less. Jeron Johnson is still under contract and Kyshoen Jarrett should continue to grow. I don’t see all five of them being back, at least not at full price, but it will be interesting to see who takes their places.

—Would Scot McCloughan draft RB Ezekiel Elliott if he is sitting there at pick No. 21? It’s very early in the draft process but many of the mocks and rankings I’ve see have Elliott going right about there. Whether he does go to the Redskins or not, it won’t be because McCloughan won’t be held back by the conventional wisdom that says that you don’t draft a running back in the first round. He drafted a right tackle who converted to guard No. 5, something you’re not supposed to do, and the word was that he might have tabbed Todd Gurley if the Redskins had traded back. If Elliott is the best player on the board when the Redskins’ pick comes up McCloughan won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on him.

—I’ll start taking a look at draft prospects here starting soon but it’s more a matter of trying to identify McCloughan/Redskins-type players the team might be interested in. What we can’t determine as observers is the results of the background checks, what the trainer in the weight room has to say about a player’s work habits, how that broken leg the player had in high school has healed up, and other such details. But it’s fun to do and maybe we can learn something.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 11 days ago. It will be about 234 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 34; NFL free agency starts 48; 2016 NFL draft 98

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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 offense—Does 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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