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Need to Know: Should the Redskins be confident that Cousins can keep it up?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins be confident that Cousins can keep it up?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 18, 37 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’re flipping into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least a few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from the Real Redskins Facebook page.

First of all, it should be stated that there is never any guarantee that a player will perform well after he signs a big-money contract. Some players live up to them, some don’t and past performance does not guarantee future results.

That said, let’s look at some single-season performances of the three quarterbacks that you mentioned and compare them to Cousins in 2015. The seasons for Cassel (playing for the Patriots) and Kolb (Eagles) are the ones right before they got their big contract extensions. Foles’ (Eagles) numbers are from two years prior to his extension since that season was the basis for the contract the Rams ended up giving him.

It’s pretty easy to see that Cassel, who got a who got a six-year, $60 million contract with $28 million guaranteed from the Chiefs after the Patriots tagged and traded him, and Kolb, who got $64 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed after being dealt to the Cardinals, did not have seasons as good as Cousins’ 2015 prior to their paydays. Neither performed as well as Cousins did any any of the major statistical categories. Neither had, in Tim's words, a "great" season.

(I should note here that the salary cap has grown from $116 million when Cassel signed his contract to in excess of $150 million this year. Comparing what Cassel and Kolb got to what Cousins is likely to earn is not an apples to apples comparison. The 30 percent growth in the cap means that Cousins will get more than did Kolb and Cassel)

It appears that the Chiefs fell for the myth that win-loss records should be assigned to the quarterback. Sure the Pats were 11-5 with Cassel filling in for an injured Tom Brady. But his numbers were barely better than pedestrian even though he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker as targets. The Patriots went 11-5 more due to a top-10 defense, a top-five rushing game, and a coach named Belichick than they did because of Cassel's performance in 2008. (full career stats here).

How did Kolb earn his extension? I have no idea. You can look at his full career stats here. I guess it was just a matter of supply and demand or someone on the Cardinals thinking he saw great potential because he certainly did nothing in 2010 or prior to that to deserve a big payday.

Foles is a slightly different case. He did get paid on the basis of a very good season in 2013, his second year in the league. He found himself behind center in Chip Kelly’s very quarterback friendly offense that was like nothing the league had ever seen. Foles missed half of 2014 with a broken collarbone and got an extension (2 years, $24.5 million) from the Rams last summer in apparent attempt to make sure they would be able to keep him around and justify giving up on 2010 No. 1 pick Sam Bradford.

So Gruden and the Redskins organization have reason to be confident that Cousins will not get a big deal and then fade to mediocrity like Kolb and Cassel did (well, Kolb didn't really fade, he started and stayed mediocre). They aren’t certain because you can’t be certain. But given that it’s a gamble, Cousins is a pretty good bet or at least a better bet the Kolb and Cassel were.

Should Foles serve as a cautionary tale? Perhaps, but he had the advantage of Kelly’s very different brand of offense and LeSean McCoy leading the league’s No. 1 rushing attack. Cousins was working in Gruden’s West Coast style offense, which has been around in various forms for decades, and a running game that was 20th in yards gained and disappeared for weeks at a time. It is reasonable to assume that Cousins had a tougher road to hoe in 2015 than did Foles in 2013 and that his numbers were more of a true reflection of his abilities.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game eight days ago. It will be about 237 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 37; NFL free agency starts 52; 2016 NFL draft 101

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor
Other roster locks: Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier
On the bubble: Matt Ioannidis, A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu

How the defensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: The addition of Allen is a boost but the losses of Chris Baker (free agent) and Ricky Jean Francois (released) can’t be overlooked. Second-year players Lanier and Ioannidis should improve and Hood will be a rotational player instead of a starter, a role better suited to his ability. Andi new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will get the most out of them. The key to improvement will be McClain and McGee. If the two free agents live up to their contracts the line should be better than it was last year. If not, they will struggle again. Slightly better

To the rest of the NFL: But let’s not mistake an improved Redskins D-line for one of the better units in the league. While it’s tough to compare a 3-4 line to a 4-3 front, it still would be quite a leap for the Redskins to move from the bottom of the pack to the lower middle. Tomsula inherited a multi-year rebuild; one draft pick and a couple of free agents are not going to transform the line into a force. Bottom third

RELATED: 2017 OUTLOOK: WIDE RECEIVER

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Since I used his name in conjunction with that of Dave Butz above, that has to be Allen. He has both the physical ability and the mental makeup to be a very, very good one.

Most to prove: Nearly every player on the line has something to prove but only Phil Taylor has been out of football for the last two years. He has worked his way up from a brief retirement to a futures contract with the Redskins to a roster long shot to a probable starter. But he still only has 21 preseason snaps under his belt and he has a long way to go before he reestablishes himself as a legitimate NFL player.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: The only rookie with a realistic shot at making the roster is Allen. His Nick Saban-Alabama background has him well prepared to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a top draft pick and the expectations that come with playing in a place like Washington.

Bottom line: The best-case scenario here is that Taylor anchors the line in the middle, Allen’s learning curve is short, Lanier contributes six sacks in a nickel role, and the rest of the players make up a good rotation. Anything more would be a big bonus. Anything less would be back to being one of the worst defenses against the run.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Phil Taylor:

Well, I’ll tell you, I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose. He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain it.

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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Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

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Associated Press

Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

Let’s be clear here.

The Redskins’ loss of center Spencer Long for two weeks due to a knee injury is not a good development.

Long is going into his second year as the starter and he still has a lot to learn. Although he should be back for the games that count, he could have benefitted from the 30 or so snaps he would have taken against the Bengals in the team’s third preseason game this Sunday.

Also, the Redskins’ offensive line has struggled this preseason, especially when blocking for the run.

Another half with the full starting unit playing together would have helped them work on those problems. The third preseason game is supposed to be a dress rehearsal and it’s tough to have one of those if you don’t have all your lead actors.

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS PURSUE RETIRED JETS' CENTER?

However, in the NFL one’s player’s bad fortune can be an opportunity for another. Chase Roullier was a sixth-round pick of the Redskins. With Kory Lichtensteiger retired and John Sullivan departed to Rams, Roullier became the backup center by default. While many expected the Redskins to make a move for a veteran backup center, they have kept Roullier running with the second-team offense through OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the first two preseason games.

He was a bit shaky against the Ravens in the first preseason game but he was solid against the Packers on Saturday. It should be noted that Roullier will be facing the Bengals’ defensive starters on Saturday, not backups and players whose names will soon appear on the waiver wire as he was in the first two games.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

The competition that Roullier will face, however, is one of the upsides here. If the Redskins need their backup center during the season, their opponent is not going to pull its starter and line up a reserve player against him. He will be facing starters. The Redskins organization should have a pretty good idea of what they have in Roullier after a half against the Bengals’ front-line players.

Again, it would be better if Long was there for the line to work on its game. But the Redskins will have a chance to make the best of a bad situation by finding out if they are set at backup center or if they will need to pull the trigger on finding a veteran option.

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.