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Need to Know: Who has stepped to the head of the Redskins' rookie class?

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Need to Know: Who has stepped to the head of the Redskins' rookie class?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 4, nine days before Washington Redskins open their preseason against the Browns.

If you need to catch up on what's happening in Richmond, scroll to the bottom for a list of our posts from the last 24 hours. 

RICHMOND—Last week, Jay Gruden was asked if he would hesitate to start a rookie over a veteran player. His answer was interesting on a couple of different levels. Let’s look at the first part of his answer.

“No, that’s not my M.O,” he said. “If you look at the track record, you know in Cincinnati we had a ton of rookies playing for us and I don’t have any problem with a rookie if he’s playing well.”

I don’t think it would be accurate to say that the Bengals a lot of rookies starting when Jay Gruden was the offensive coordinator there from 2011-2013. According to Pro Football Reference, Cincinnati had four rookies have roles as primary starters in three seasons: QB Andy Dalton and WR AJ Green in 2011, G Kevin Zeitler in 2012, and TE Tyler Eifert in 2013.

To be sure, they did have some other rookies who contributed off the bench like WR Andrew Hawkins (2011), C Trevor Robinson (2012), WR Mohamed Sanu (2012), and RB Giovani Bernard (2013). Still, I’m not sure if that qualifies as “a ton” of rookies playing but you can be the judge of that.

He names some names of 2015 Redskins rookies in his second part of his answer.

“Right now, Brandon [Scherff] is taking the first-string reps, Arie [Kouandjio] is making a strong move there at left guard, he’s doing a great job,” he said. "[Jamison] Crowder is making plays all over the field. Preston [Smith] is doing a good job on defense. Kyshoen Jarrett is doing an excellent job at safety. We’re going to let them guys keep competing and if they outplay a guy right in front of them, that’s what competition is all about. We’ll play the best guy."

What was interesting here, of course, was the names he chose to drop. We all know that Scherff is going to start and that Smith will have a substantial role in the defense despite the early struggles he has had in camp. But have the other three mentioned, picked on the third day of the draft, stepped to the head of the rookie class?

WR Crowder has displayed both good hands and impressive speed and quickness in camp. Jarrett has learned both safety positions and Gruden brought him up a day earlier as an option to replace Bashaud Breeland at nickel corner.

"Well, [he’s] got the mobility that you're looking for,” he said. “He has a quick change in direction, he's an athletic kid, and he's smart. He has picked up both safety positions relatively easily and feels good about moving into nickel.”

As of now, the chances of Kouandjio supplanting left guard Shawn Lauvao seem remote. But in 2016 Lauvao’s salary jumps up to $4 million and the team could look to go younger and cheaper at his position.

Timeline

—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this date in 1949.

Today’s schedule: Off day

—It’s been 219 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 40 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Browns 9; final cuts 32; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 51

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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!