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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 4, four days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Patriots

—After the Patriots lost left tackle Nate Solder for the season a couple of weeks ago, they flipped right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a seven-year veteran, over to the left side. Not many coaches would make a move like that but according to Bill Belichick, Vollmer is doing fine. “He’s done a great job of making that transition over there the last couple weeks,” said Belichick. “We’ve really needed him to do that. Sebastian is one of the best teammates, a guy who always puts the team first as much as anybody we have on our team.” A mostly-effective Vollmer is probably the best option to protect Tom Brady’s blindside.

—The pass rush has been getting to Brady, with and without Solder. He has been sacked 18 times this year, 5.9 percent of his dropbacks (20th in the NFL). But if the Redskins get to him they had better sack him. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s been under pressure on 96 of his 311 dropbacks this year but when he has been able to get the pass off his passer rating is a 118.2. Yeah, that’s a lot better than most quarterbacks are when they have plenty of time to throw.

—The raw stats say that teams have had a reasonable amount of success running against the Patriots. They give up an average of 4.2 yards per carry, 21st in the NFL. The thing is, they don’t have very many rushing attempts against them, presumably because they are averaging 3 points per possession and 35 points per game on offense so the teams are trying to catch up. But if the Redskins can finish drives with touchdowns, the ground might be a promising route.

—This will be an interesting test for Kirk Cousins. He made a strong case for being the starting quarterback of the future, or at least at the start of 2016, with the comeback against the Bucs. But he could give back a lot of the capital he earned in that game if he is unable help keep the Redskins competitive. If he presses and goes on an interception binge, his stock will go down considerably. Should Cousins maintain his composure, minimize turnovers, and make proper decisions, he can add some value to his stock.

—The Redskins are 14-point underdogs. The last time they were double-digit dogs they went into Dallas on a Monday night last year and beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback. What’s that I smell? Is it an up—, oh, never mind. That Dallas team was a flawed group that was on a roll. These guys are better coached and better put together from the top guy on the roster down to the 53rd. A Redskins win is not impossible but it is highly unlikely.

Timeline

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

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 4; Saints @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Panthers 18

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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!