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Need to Know: Redskins starting defense nearly set after Goldson deal

Need to Know: Redskins starting defense nearly set after Goldson deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 4, 26 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Redskins’ 2015 starting defense is mostly set

There could be some changes if jobs are truly open to competition or if there is a surprise draft pick but for the most part the Redskins’ 2015 starting defense is set with the possible exception of one position.

When the Redskins open the season, which will happen on September 13 assuming they start with a Sunday game, Terrance Knighton will be lined up at nose tackle, flanked by Jason Hatcher on the right side and Stephen Paea on the left. Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois will get plenty of snaps in the rotation.

At left outside linebacker will be Ryan Kerrigan. Keenan Robinson is set at the Mike inside linebacker spot and Perry Riley is likely to be the Jack, unless Will Compton, who played well when Riley was out injured last year, can push him out. If the Redskins don’t draft an edge rusher in the first round later this month Trent Murphy will be the right outside linebacker. And even if they do take, say, Dante Fowler or Vic Beasley, Murphy could still start for the first month or so of the season while the rookie gets his feet under him.

The Redskins finally got the last piece of the defensive puzzle yesterday with the Dashon Goldson trade. He will start at free safety with Jeron Johnson at strong. The cornerbacks will be Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland with DeAngelo Hall and/or David Amerson coming in for nickel and dime situation.

A few quick thoughts on this group:

—Goldson did not play well in his two years with the Bucs and Johnson has one NFL start on his ledger. Safety will still be a weak spot in the defense.

—For that reason, the defensive front needs to get pressure on the quarterback and pile up some sacks. Paea will need to match the six he got last year, Hatcher needs to be near the double-digit total that earned him his contract, Kerrigan needs to have another big year and the right side needs to chip in with a dozen or so. It’s a tall order but the chances of it happening are better than those of the safeties holding up if quarterbacks have all day to throw against them.

—This doesn’t look like a bad defense on paper but the depth is suspect (some depth will come via the draft) and it’s likely that there will need to be some more retooling in 2016. They will have to re-sign Kerrigan, Knighton, and Robinson and probably replace Goldson, Hatcher, and possibly Hall.

Timeline

—It’s been 97 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 162 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 16; 2015 NFL Draft 26; Redskins training camp starts 117

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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!