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The 2016 Redskins will have to win with offense

The 2016 Redskins will have to win with offense

Although we are only a week into the new league year it is already apparent that the 2016 Redskins are going to have to win games based on how well their offense plays. The way things are going now their defense is not going to be much better than it was in 2015.

To be sure, the Redskins’ defense wasn’t awful in 2015, just on the lower end of mediocre. Although they were 28th in yards allowed they were 17th in points allowed. The number crunchers at Football Outsiders had them ranked 21st in DVOA.

The big picture view of the defense was that they gave up a lot of yards but they did well taking the ball away, ranking seventh with 27. They were pretty good on third downs (12th) and there was a bend but don’t break element with them as they were 13th in red zone defense and 12th in goal to go defense.

Again, that’s not great but it’s not all bad. And “we’re not dominant but not dreadful” will probably be the theme for the Redskins’ 2016 defense as well. It’s hard to see where great improvements will come from.

On the defensive line, while moving on from Jason Hatcher was the right thing to do in terms of the cap and looking towards the future, he did generate heat on the quarterback (48 pressures, one behind Ryan Kerrigan for the team lead). He will not be easily replaced. It looks like a draft pick will play nose tackle and another inexperienced player or two will be playing key snaps on the line. By sometime in 2017 this group could gel into a pretty good unit. Things might not be pretty in 2016.

Moving back to the linebackers, there is an opportunity to improve there now that Junior Galette has re-signed if he regains his explosiveness after suffering a torn Achilles last August. It’s safe to assume that Preston Smith will be consistent from beginning to end so his production should be higher. Perhaps Ryan Kerrigan will be better after he dealt with a knee injury.

So there is some reason to think that the pass rush will improve. However, the secondary is likely to remain suspect. At cornerback, Bashaud Breeland could get better in his third year. But Chris Culliver is coming off of a knee injury that he suffered in late November. The Redskins brought back Will Blackmon, which is good news but at the age of 31 he’s not suddenly going to morph into a lockdown corner. Quinton Dunbar is an interesting prospect but expectations should be low; he has been playing cornerback for less than a year.

Safety is likely to be the same weak spot it has been for almost 10 years in Washington. DeAngelo Hall could improve there after getting a full offseason at the position but his ability to stay healthy is in question. Injury issues have plagued Duke Ihenacho as well and the health of Kyshoen Jarrett is in question after he suffered possible nerve injury in the regular season finale. They added David Bruton, a nice addition but someone who is is a 29-year-old career backup. Barring a miracle safety will remain a vulnerable area.

Certainly they will add more defensive talent in the draft and they will pick up some more veterans. But unless they get very, very lucky they aren’t going to get the kind of players who can instantly transform the defense into a true top-10 unit.

It will again be up to the offense to put points up to win games. The Redskins were 10th in the league in scoring last year and they would like to improve that a few notches. That’s why they kept DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, with their combined cap hits of about $19 million. The choice to stick with the receivers shows what they want to do this year. The could have released one or both of them and they could have gotten in the chase for Olivier Vernon or Malik Jackson or other defenders who got huge paydays. But they know they will need to score points and they have made sure that they allocated their resources so that they will be able to continue to do so.

But defense wins championships, right? Yes, but Scot McCloughan would rather build up a top-notch defense via the draft instead of trying to do it in the free agent market. While he does that he wants to keep the team relevant and competitive by maintaining an effective offensive attack.

So expect to see another season where the Redskins will have to score at least somewhere in the mid twenties every week to have a chance of winning. That’s not where they want to be but it’s the best option for right now while they build for the future.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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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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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

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