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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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Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Gruden is looking for Cousins to become a Redskins coach on the field

While it’s still possible for the Redskins to trade quarterback Kirk Cousins, team president Bruce Allen has said that no talks have taken place and coach Jay Gruden is looking forward to having Cousins at the helm for the third straight year.

“He’s getting ready, he’s excited about the season, been in contact about what he wants to work on,” said Gruden on Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “We’ve addressed that so when OTAs hit we can hit hard. It’s great to have a guy who’s been in the system for two years now can just jump right in to hard core situational work, just really fine tune the other things like cadence, just the little things you want to fine tune without starting from scratch. He can be a big part in the teaching process also with the young players.”

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Actually, Cousins has been “in the system” for all three years that Gruden has been the head coach in Washington. He started five game in 2014 before turnover problems sent him to the bench. The following seasons Gruden named Cousins the starter at the end of August and he has played every meaningful snap since then.

Cousins has played well, passing for over 9,000 yards and leading the team to its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1997-1997. Gruden will be looking for more out of his quarterback, who will be making $24 million this year if he plays on the franchise tag.

“In a perfect world, you want your quarterback to be an extension of the coaching staff,” said Gruden. “I think that’s why you look at the great quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, they’re extensions of the coaching staff. The coach doesn’t have to go out and tell everybody what to do all the time. Sometimes the quarterback can just go right out and whisper it to them. It helps that we’re saying the same thing and speaking the same language and that takes time.

“It’s not perfect yet but being in the third year of the system I think he’ll be a lot more comfortable in that role. I hope he does because we can’t see everything out there on the field all the time and it’s good to have the corrections come within the team and not just from the coaches all the time.”

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Although Cousins’ future with the team is very uncertain—even if he is around this year there is a good chance he will be able to leave as a free agent in 2018—the quarterback and Gruden will do the only thing that they can do. The will get ready for the coming season and let the chips fall where they may after that.

Gruden pointed out that Cousins is not the only player on the roster with just one year left on his deal. Indeed, WR Terrelle Pryor, OT Morgan Moses, CB Bashaud Breeland, and C Spencer Long are all set to be free agents a year from now.

“We’re going to have a number of guys on one-year contracts and I fully anticipate them coming in and working their tails off and being prepared and doing everything they can to win a championship,” said Gruden. That’s what it’s all about. And at the end of the year we’ll come back to the negotiating table to try to get something done. But ideally, you’d like to have everybody under long-term contracts and that’s obviously not possible.”

Gruden confirmed that Cousins was in Tampa yesterday along with some of his receivers including Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder getting in some work with Gruden’s brother Jon. It looks like it will be business as usual unless and until something happens change things.

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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Need to Know: Redskins' rule change rejected but others will make game safer, move faster

Need to Know: Redskins' rule change rejected but others will make game safer, move faster

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 29, 29 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 19
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 44
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 56
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 108
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 156

Rule changes with commentary

—Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays.

Tandler: While it’s a fun play when it’s executed properly I can see the player safety angle of it. I’m not sure why teams didn’t just run some placement kicks with delayed snaps to get a free five yards because once a player has committed to the leap he can’t stop.

—Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

Tandler: One of the few times that this came into play was in Week 3 when Giants center Weston Richburg got the boot for multiple penalties against the Redskins. I suppose most Redskins fans will be fine with it until a Washington player gets kicked out of a key game. Last year the rule was experimental and this makes it permanent

—Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

Tandler: I think this is kind of a dumb rule but it's designed to reduce kickoff returns and they did go down from 1,138 in 2015 to 1,012 last season. That’s an 11 percent drop and they want to give the experimental rule another year to see if that was just a statistical anomaly. It should be noted here that the Redskins’ proposal to place a kickoff that goes through the uprights at the 20-yard line did muster 11 votes but that’s far short of the 24 needed to pass it. The No Fun League indeed.

—Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

Tandler: These are two different rules but I’m combining them into once comment—good for player safety, not sure why it took them so long to pass these rules.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

—Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

Tandler: This is good for so many reasons. We should get better, more consistent decisions (although there’s no guarantee that my evergreen “Siri, what is a catch” tweet will be retired permanently). And the time that replay uses up should be greatly reduced.

—Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

Tandler: This keeps teams from grabbing multiple receivers to prevent a Hail Mary attempt at the end of half or a game and prevents them from holding multiple players on a punt attempt to run out the clock at the end of a game. It’s a loophole that was closed, forcing a team to play defense or execute a punt instead of committing intentional penalties. The key is that the clock is reset to where it was when the ball was snapped.

—Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Tandler: This just takes the penalties that result in 10-second runoffs in the last minute of a half, mostly false starts when the clock is running, and makes them illegal any time after the two-minute warning.

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.

Tandler on Twitter

Responding to a tweet saying that the rule to put replay in the hands of official at the NFL offices:

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