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Need to Know: What are the Redskins' most important remaining needs?

Need to Know: What are the Redskins' most important remaining needs?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 11, two days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 122 days ago. It will be 124 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 2; OTAs start 13; Redskins training camp starts 79

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The Redskins have gone through free agency, the draft, and have signed about a dozen and a half college free agents. But they still have some needs on the team. These could be filled by someone stepping up from within, by signing a veteran free agent or by Scot McCloughan trading one of those extra 2017 draft picks that he stockpiled.

Here are the top needs that remain on the Redskins’ roster:

No. 2 running back—Or, is Matt Jones doesn’t pick it up a few notches over last year, they could be in search of a No. 1 running back. Chris Thompson isn’t built to handle a full load and seventh-round pick Keith Marshall is not a lock to even make the roster. The current free agent back who was the most productive last year was Joseph Randle, who rushed for 313 yards. But he is up to his neck in legal troubles. Joique Bell rushed for 2,235 yards in the last four years with the Lions. The preferred choice for a veteran still seems to be Pierre Thomas but a deal isn’t done.

Nose tackle—Can Kedric Golston plug the middle for 15 plays per game? Or will rookie Matt Ioannidis be the guy? The free agent options aren’t very attractive. They may go to training camp with what they have, see how Golston and Ioannidis work out, and either make a waiver claim or make a trade if they still believe they are in need.

Backup tackle—Last year Ty Nsekhe did a decent job of filling in for both Trent Williams and Morgan Moses. But he will be 31 around the midway point of the season and even though he’s a “low mileage” older player, with only two NFL games played prior to last year the Redskins may want to find a younger alternative. They didn’t draft anyone so perhaps they will give a shot to Takoby Cofield, who spent last year on the practice squad after being signed as an undrafted player.

Outside linebacker depth—You can’t have too many good pass rushers and the Redskins aren’t even close to having too many. They have three starting caliber players at the most important position on the defense in Preston Smith, Junior Galette, and Ryan Kerrigan but a lot of question marks behind them. Houston Bates may have some potential but perhaps McCloughan will want someone with more experience. And, no, the toxic Greg Hardy does not seem to be a possibility.

Stat of the day

The 1991 Redskins outscored the opposition by 261 points. That was the best post-merger point differential in the NFL until the 2007 Patriots outscored their opponents by 315 points. The Redskins are still second in that time period. They were had a point differential of plus-209 in 1983, a performance that ranks as the 15th-best since the merger.

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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!