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Need to Know: New mock draft fills key needs for Redskins

Need to Know: New mock draft fills key needs for Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 2, 26 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 83 days ago. It will be about 162 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 16; 2016 NFL draft 26; Redskins training camp starts 117

Hot topics

Here’s a look at five of the most popular posts of the last week here and on CSNmidatlantic.com.

RG3 called Shanny?—Since this was a news story I tried to stay away from opining. But I was sure to note that this was Shanahan’s version of things. As we know, Shanahan’s version of an event and the truth can be total strangers. One indicator that he may have, uh, embellished the story is that the version that he tells makes him look better. That’s the case here so may I recommend taking his version of what transpired with a whole shaker full of salt.

Gruden on unheralded CB Dunbar: 'He’s going to be a good one'—I thought the Redskins were in big trouble in late November last year when I saw Quinton Dunbar line up across from Odell Beckham when the Redskins and Giants met in a game critical to the Redskins’ playoff hopes. But Dunbar performed just fine and he came up with a key end zone interception in the second half that kept the Giants off the board. It will be interesting to track the progress of the undrafted wide receiver turned cornerback this year.

NFL Mock Draft 7.0: Pondering NFC East decisions—Nose tackle and safety, done and done. I have to think that nearly every fan out there would be pretty happy with the real draft if it turns out like this one (although some might be a little nervious about the Eagles' top pick). Go take a look.

Can Cousins become top 5 QB?—This one drew more comments than any other post in March. I think a lot of them were confused, believing somehow that Jay Gruden was saying that Cousins is or should be one of the five best QBs in the NFL. His exact quote: “Now all of a sudden when as you’re trying to establish yourself as one of the top five guys in the NFL.” I’m not sure why there is anything controversial there. Should Cousins just settle for getting in the top half, maybe the lower part of the top 10? What happened to your reach should exceed your grasp and all that? Pressure? Come on. Nobody puts more pressure on Cousins than he puts on himself.

Will the Redskins draft a center with their top pick?—I said this in the post and I’ll say it again—them might draft C Ryan Kelly of Alabama at No. 21 but it would be a horrible idea. It’s better to have a good interior O-line than not but spending two straight first-round picks on a guard and a center just isn’t the way to go. Expending high value picks on low value positions is not a good use of the draft.

In case you missed it

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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!