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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins' early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 22, one day before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Travel to Philadelphia, no media availability

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 7
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 14
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 32

Final report on injures of note:
Out
: CB Josh Norman (rib),
Questionable: OT Trent Williams (knee)CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle),
See the full injury report and analysis here

Five Redskins who are under pressure vs. the Eagles

Every NFL player is under pressure and the stress increased in games that are in the prime-time spotlight like the Redskins have on Monday night. But the spotlight is brighter on some players than it is on others.

—With a banged up defense, the Redskins are going to have to put up some points to win this game. That means that QB Kirk Cousins is going to have to help the Redskins get some points on the board. In the opener against the Eagles he threw a key interception, posted a season-low 72.9 passer rating, and got sacked four times. He has been playing better since then and he may need his best game of the year for the Redskins to pull out the win.

—DT Fletcher Cox is an All-Pro caliber defender and the battle between him and G Brandon Scherff will be important. But the Eagles other defensive tackle, Timmy Jernigan, is also a handful and it will largely be up to G Shawn Lauvao to keep him under control. Jernigan isn’t a great pass rusher (1.5 sacks, 10 pressures) but he tough against the run. The Redskins needs to establish a running game to win and Lauvao vs. Jernigan will be a key battle to get the ground game going.

—There still is plenty of time for WR Terrelle Pryor to have a breakout game and turn around his disappointing season. Monday would be an ideal time to start. He has 16 receptions on the season and with the exception of a couple of plays, his impact has been minimal. When the line gives Cousins time to throw the ball he will need a big target and Pryor is the ideal candidate.

—With Jonathan Allen on injured reserve, it will be up to DE Matt Ioannidis to continue to get pass pressure up the middle. Playing with Allen, the second-year player has 3.5 sacks and 16 pressures. He will need to keep that up in Allen’s absence. On Monday, Ioannidis and the rest of the pass rushers need to get Carson Wentz on the ground when they have the opportunity.

—As much as the Redskins would like to see Wentz take a bunch of sacks, chances are he will get away from the pressure on occasion and scramble to make a play. At times like that, S D.J. Swearinger and the rest of the defensive backs need to stay in coverage and not lose their men. It’s hard to cover a receiver for five seconds or more while the quarterback scrambles around but Swearinger needs to maintain his position as the last line of defense.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter

To update this tweet from the beginning of practice, Williams did practice on a limited basis and he is questionable for the game, although it is likely that he will play.

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Fantasy Football -- Updated Week 7 rankings

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Fantasy Football -- Updated Week 7 rankings

The latest Week 7 fantasy football (standard) rankings are out and updated following various injury updates around the league. That includes Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston cleared for action and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman sitting down for another week with a rib injury. As a reminder, get your Lions and Texans out of lineups this week. 

Quarterbacks

1.  Tom Brady, NE
 
2.  Dak Prescott, DAL
 
3.  Drew Brees, NO
 
4.  Carson Wentz, PHI
 
5.  Matt Ryan, ATL
 
6.  Kirk Cousins, WAS
 
7.  Cam Newton, CAR
 
8.  Tyrod Taylor, BUF
 
9.  Alex Smith, KC
 
10.  Marcus Mariota, TEN
 
11.  Russell Wilson, SEA
 
12.  Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
 
13.  Carson Palmer, ARI
 
14.  Jared Goff, LAR
 
15.  Brett Hundley, GB
 
16.  Blake Bortles, JAC
 
17.  Derek Carr, OAK
 
18.  Jameis Winston, TB
 
19.  Philip Rivers, LAC
 
20.  Andy Dalton, CIN
 
21.  Case Keenum, MIN
 
22.  Josh McCown, NYJ
 
23.  Trevor Siemian, DEN
 
24.  C.J. Beathard, SF
 
25.  DeShone Kizer, CLE
 
26.  Jacoby Brissett, IND
 
27.  Jay Cutler, MIA
 
28.  Mitch Trubisky, CHI
 
29.  Eli Manning, NYG
 
30.  Joe Flacco, BAL

Running backs

1.  Kareem Hunt, KC
 
2.  Le'Veon Bell, PIT
 
3.  Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
 
4.  Leonard Fournette, JAC
 
5.  Todd Gurley, LAR
 
6.  LeSean McCoy, BUF
 
7.  Jay Ajayi, MIA
 
8.  Melvin Gordon, LAC
 
9.  Devonta Freeman, ATL
 
10.  Mark Ingram, NO
 
11.  Jordan Howard, CHI
 
12.  Carlos Hyde, SF
 
13.  LeGarrette Blount, PHI
 
14.  C.J. Anderson, DEN
 
15.  Jerick McKinnon, MIN
 
16.  Adrian Peterson, ARI
 
17.  Doug Martin, TB
 
18.  Alvin Kamara, NO
 
19.  Chris Thompson, WAS
 
20.  Christian McCaffrey, CAR
 
21.  Joe Mixon, CIN
 
22.  Tevin Coleman, ATL
 
23.  Javorius Allen, BAL
 
24.  Marshawn Lynch, OAK
 
25.  Derrick Henry, TEN
 
26.  DeMarco Murray, TEN
 
27.  Duke Johnson, CLE
 
28.  Frank Gore, IND
 
29.  Aaron Jones, GB
 
30.  Orleans Darkwa, NYG
 
31.  Ty Montgomery, GB
 
32.  Isaiah Crowell, CLE
 
33.  Jonathan Stewart, CAR
 
34.  Mike Gillislee, NE
 
35.  Dion Lewis, NE
 
36.  Alex Collins, BAL
 
37.  James White, NE
 
38.  Marlon Mack, IND
 
39.  Latavius Murray, MIN
 
40.  Chris Ivory, JAC
 
41.  Tarik Cohen, CHI
 
42.  Matt Forte, NYJ
 
43.  Thomas Rawls, SEA
 
44.  Wendell Smallwood, PHI
 
45.  Giovani Bernard, CIN
 
46.  Robert Kelley, WAS
 
47.  Andre Ellington, ARI
 
48.  Matt Breida, SF
 
49.  Bilal Powell, NYJ
 
50.  Wayne Gallman, NYG
 
51.  Jamaal Charles, DEN
 
52.  Eddie Lacy, SEA
 
53.  Samaje Perine, WAS
 
54.  Shane Vereen, NYG
 
55.  Elijah McGuire, NYJ
 
56.  C.J. Prosise, SEA
 
57.  Jalen Richard, OAK
 
58.  Mike Tolbert, BUF
 
59.  DeAndre Washington, OAK
 
60.  Charcandrick West, KC
 
61.  Alfred Morris, DAL

Wide receivers

1.  Dez Bryant, DAL
 
2.  Antonio Brown, PIT
 
3.  A.J. Green, CIN
 
4.  Julio Jones, ATL
 
5.  Michael Thomas, NO
 
6.  Mike Evans, TB
 
7.  Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
 
8.  Chris Hogan, NE
 
9.  Brandin Cooks, NE
 
10.  Demaryius Thomas, DEN
 
11.  Michael Crabtree, OAK
 
12.  Alshon Jeffery, PHI
 
13.  Tyreek Hill, KC
 
14.  Jordy Nelson, GB
 
15.  Jarvis Landry, MIA
 
16.  Adam Thielen, MIN
 
17.  Doug Baldwin, SEA
 
18.  Pierre Garcon, SF
 
19.  Davante Adams, GB
 
20.  Keenan Allen, LAC
 
21.  Rishard Matthews, TEN
 
22.  Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
 
23.  T.Y. Hilton, IND
 
24.  Devin Funchess, CAR
 
25.  John Brown, ARI
 
26.  DeSean Jackson, TB
 
27.  Eric Decker, TEN
 
28.  Terrelle Pryor, WAS
 
29.  Danny Amendola, NE
 
30.  Amari Cooper, OAK
 
31.  Nelson Agholor, PHI
 
32.  Kenny Stills, MIA
 
33.  Cooper Kupp, LAR
 
34.  Robert Woods, LAR
 
35.  Ted Ginn, NO
 
36.  Jermaine Kearse, NYJ
 
37.  Martavis Bryant, PIT
 
38.  Robby Anderson, NYJ
 
39.  Allen Hurns, JAC
 
40.  Bennie Fowler, DEN
 
41.  Sammy Watkins, LAR
 
42.  Randall Cobb, GB
 
43.  Taylor Gabriel, ATL
 
44.  Sterling Shepard, NYG
 
45.  Ricardo Louis, CLE
 
46.  Tyler Lockett, SEA
 
47.  Mohamed Sanu, ATL
 
48.  JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT
 
49.  Willie Snead, NO
 
50.  Jeremy Maclin, BAL
 
51.  Paul Richardson, SEA
 
52.  Tyrell Williams, LAC
 
53.  Kendall Wright, CHI
 
54.  Josh Doctson, WAS
 
55.  Jamison Crowder, WAS
 
56.  Torrey Smith, PHI
 
57.  Mike Wallace, BAL
 
58.  Jaron Brown, ARI
 
59.  Roger Lewis, NYG
 
60.  Zay Jones, BUF
 
61.  Donte Moncrief, IND
 
62.  Cole Beasley, DAL
 
63.  Kenny Britt, CLE
 
64.  Brice Butler, DAL
 
65.  De'Anthony Thomas, KC
 
66.  Travis Benjamin, LAC
 
67.  J.J. Nelson, ARI
 
68.  Marquise Goodwin, SF
 
69.  Terrance Williams, DAL
 
70.  Jeremy Kerley, NYJ

Tight ends

1.  Rob Gronkowski, NE
 
2.  Zach Ertz, PHI
 
3.  Travis Kelce, KC
 
4.  Delanie Walker, TEN
 
5.  Jimmy Graham, SEA
 
6.  Evan Engram, NYG
 
7.  Hunter Henry, LAC
 
8.  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ
 
9.  Jordan Reed, WAS
 
10.  Austin Hooper, ATL
 
11.  Kyle Rudolph, MIN
 
12.  Cameron Brate, TB
 
13.  George Kittle, SF
 
14.  Jason Witten, DAL
 
15.  Zach Miller, CHI
 
16.  Jared Cook, OAK
 
17.  Ed Dickson, CAR
 
18.  Benjamin Watson, BAL
 
19.  Jack Doyle, IND
 
20.  Martellus Bennett, GB
 
21.  Nick O'Leary, BUF
 
22.  Tyler Kroft, CIN
 
23.  Vernon Davis, WAS
 
24.  Coby Fleener, NO
 
25.  Julius Thomas, MIA

Defenses

1.  Minnesota Vikings, MIN
 
2.  Seattle Seahawks, SEA
 
3.  Jacksonville Jaguars, JAC
 
4.  Pittsburgh Steelers, PIT
 
5.  Tennessee Titans, TEN
 
6.  Buffalo Bills, BUF
 
7.  Denver Broncos, DEN
 
8.  Carolina Panthers, CAR
 
9.  Miami Dolphins, MIA
 
10.  New Orleans Saints, NO
 
11.  Kansas City Chiefs, KC
 
12.  Los Angeles Rams, LAR
 
13.  Baltimore Ravens, BAL
 
14.  New York Giants, NYG
 
15.  Philadelphia Eagles, PHI
 
16.  Cincinnati Bengals, CIN
 
17.  New York Jets, NYJ
 
18.  Chicago Bears, CHI
 
19.  Arizona Cardinals, ARI
 
20.  Dallas Cowboys, DAL

Kickers

1.  Stephen Gostkowski, NE
 
2.  Dan Bailey, DAL
 
3.  Jake Elliott, PHI
 
4.  Harrison Butker, KC
 
5.  Matt Bryant, ATL
 
6.  Will Lutz, NO
 
7.  Ryan Succop, TEN
 
8.  Greg Zuerlein, LAR
 
9.  Graham Gano, CAR
 
10.  Justin Tucker, BAL
 
11.  Josh Lambo, JAC
 
12.  Blair Walsh, SEA
 
13.  Adam Vinatieri, IND
 
14.  Nick Novak, LAC
 
15.  Mason Crosby, GB
 
16.  Robbie Gould, SF
 
17.  Kai Forbath, MIN
 
18.  Aldrick Rosas, NYG
 
19.  Steven Hauschka, BUF
 
20.  Brandon McManus, DEN