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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins looks for balance between fire and ice

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins looks for balance between fire and ice

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 5, three days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Read and react

Here are some quotes from around Redskins Park on Wednesday and my thoughts on them.

Jason Hatcher on the importance of Sunday’s game and about the Redskins playing as big underdogs.
Every game's a must-win. We intend to win around here. Every game you play is big. Every game is the most important game of your career. So every game to me is a must win . . . You've got to play. There's grown men out there. You've got to play football, I don't care who you are. Redskins, 14-point underdogs, you've got to play.
Reaction: What a lot of fans and media types don’t get is that all games are important to the players and they sincerely believe they have a good chance of winning every time they take the field. They work all their lives to get to the NFL, work countless hours in the offseason and in training camp and during the season to be able to do what they love to do 16 times a year. That’s not very many opportunities. In the latter part, he's saying that no matter what the public might think, the Patriots will have to play well to beat them. Unfortunately, Bill Belichick's guy's almost always do.

Kirk Cousins on balancing the fire he showed in the “You like that!” video clip with the need to be calm in the huddle:
Finding that balance is important. I think that’s a constant learning process as I play to say, ‘OK, where do I operate best?’ It talked experience and time. There’s a level of wanting to bring that fire and passion because hopefully it can raise the level of play of the guys around you, too. Then also you want to stay poised and stay collected, operate like a CEO.
Reaction: The viral video from after the Bucs win was not the first time that Cousins has shown emotion in the tunnel. The CSN cameras are there after every game and have captured him letting off some steam before. It hard, especially for a quarterback, to find that balance. A defensive lineman can be a screaming maniac as soon as the huddle breaks and after the play. The quarterback needs to stay in command and start thinking about the next play as soon as the whistle blows. It’s a constant battle.

Jay Gruden on DE Chris Baker’s solid season so far:
“I think he’s been our most disruptive lineman, which is good. He’s been good in the pass rush, and obviously in the run game he gets great penetration. The great challenge for him is can he do it on a consistent basis? I tell all our guys, you take one play off against these guys, man, and you’ll be trying to get ready to block the extra point . . . Chris has done an outstanding job of that so far. We need it more consistent to move forward.”
Reaction: Frequently when a veteran player improves from one year to another, it’s not because he discovered something new or because he all of a sudden gained abilities at age 28 that he didn’t have at age 27. His play improves because he becomes more consistent. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of work on details and tremendous focus. I haven’t always been convinced that Baker gets it. He didn’t always seem to take things seriously enough. It appears that he does now.

DeAngelo Hall on what makes the Patriots so successful.
I just think they know who they are and are comfortable in their skin. I think they just bring in guys who fit what they want them to do. Whether that's getting another tight end in Chandler from Buffalo. With Hernandez and Gronk they had two, they were able to run or pass out of any formation. They kind of have that same thing now. Having Kevin Faulk, kind of a scat back, then Shane Vereen the last couple of year, they go find Dion Lewis, he kind of does the same thing, maybe even better . . . I just think they've done a good job of knowing who they are.
Reaction: The Patriots are reaping the fruits of stability. Bill Belichick is in his 16th season there and with control over personnel he has had the opportunity to build the team and then replace players as they leave as free agents, get injured, or just become ineffective. This is every GM’s dream and what Scot McCloughan wants to accomplish with the Redskins. But it takes time. Oh, and getting lucky with a sixth round pick and getting a Hall of Fame quarterback doesn’t hurt, either.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 3; Saints @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Panthers 17

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Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

An Achilles injury robbed Josh Doctson of the bulk of his rookie season with the Redskins. After a strenuous offseason spent rehabbing and a clean bill of health, Doctson is ready to fight back.

"It feels good to be back out here with them and to be playing football again," Doctson said Wednesday at Redskins OTAs (full video above). "It's what I’ve been doing for a long time, it's why I’m here. I'm good at what I do."

Sure it's May and there was no contact, but Doctson showed how good he can look on Wednesday. He caught a number of balls throughout the two hour session and looked smooth in his routes. The second-year pro from TCU makes cuts while maintaining speed and balance, and the skills allowed him to get open a number of times to haul in passes using soft hands.

"Right now, so far, so good," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I like the way he looks, like the way he runs and love the way he catches."

Late in the OTA session, Colt McCoy found Doctson for a deep touchdown. While the sidelines erupted, Doctson just calmly jogged back to the line of scrimmage and talked with coaches. 

Doctson explained that to "show my teammates, coaches and myself again that I can play with these guys, play at this level, it feels real good."

The Redskins will need the 6-foot-2, 202 lbs. Doctson this fall. With the exit of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards left the Washington offense. Free agent addition Terrelle Pryor will be expected to pick up a large chunk of that yardage, but Doctson will need to offset that loss as well.

"He’s been impressive. I think the big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles and I think he’s got that right now. I saw him out there today and yesterday, the last two days he’s looked better and better. It looks like he can run down the field," Gruden said.

Doctson described the pain in his Achilles as "pretty much non-existent now."

Never a good place to look for nuanced analysis, last season some social media speculation suggested Doctson was homesick dealing with his injury. That theory seems foolish, as the receiver spent the entire offseason in Ashburn, working out and rehabbing.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling healthy," he said. "I got after it every day. It’s a tribute to my hard work why I'm feeling so feeling healthy."

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Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

On Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that even though there have been a lot of changes to his team’s defense, there would be no grace period for them to gel and start playing effectively.

“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” said Gruden. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.

“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C. We have to be good now.”

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The defense had plenty of issues last year. They were 19th in points allowed but 28th in yards and 20th in opponents’ passer rating. The unit saved its worst for the most critical situations, finishing 26th in red zone defense and dead last in third-down conversion rate.   

The organization responded by promoting Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator, hiring the well-regarded Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line, and by bringing in some more talent. Their top two draft picks, DE Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson, should contribute to the defense right away. D.J. Swearinger was signed as a free agent to man the free safety spot while Su’a Cravens moves from linebacker to play strong safety. Free agents Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should bolster the defensive line along with Allen.

Cornerback Josh Norman likes the changes and is confident that the team will do better.

“We will be [good]. Fixed points, will be,” he said. “We’ve got guys that’s capable of being that, of doing that. They will do that and we will be better. We’re definitely not going to have the product that we had last year, that’s for sure.

“We’ve got . . . edge rushers out here that’s pretty darn good. We got some guys in the draft that’s going to help us out. In the secondary as well, we brought guys in that’s going to fill that void for us.”

MORE REDSKINS: OTA practice observations 

In addition to drafting Anderson, the Redskins hope to have OLB Junior Galette healthy and contributing to the pass rush this year. He has missed the last two seasons after two Achilles injuries. The last two seasons that Galette played he had double-digit sacks each year and he was out participating in team drills yesterday, a good sign that he is on the road to good health.

“We’re going to be a whole lot better than we was last year,” said Norman. “The stuff they have us going, the scheme we’re going to be playing in is going to fit to what suits us, what we’re most capable of doing. I think it’s going to be a lot different result, the product on the field.”

A better defensive product on the field will almost certainly lead to a better overall Washington Redskins team. They will need to be better to keep up with what looks to be an improved and very competitive NFC East.

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.