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Redskins' starting skill players solid but depth is questionable

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Redskins' starting skill players solid but depth is questionable

 Now that the Redskins have set their 53-man roster and the season is less than a week away, it’s time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Where are they better? Where will they still have issues? The series started with the offensive line. Now we look at the offensive skill positions.

Offensive skill positions

Starters: QB Kirk Cousins; RB Alfred Morris; FB Darrel Young; TE Jordan Reed; WR Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson

“It’s Kirk’s team,” said Jay Gruden when he announced that Cousins will start ahead of Griffin. If Gruden wants it to remain Jay’s team his move had better work out. If the team ends up with the three-quarterback circus it had last year, Gruden’s job security would become shakier with each QB change. The key for Cousins is to stay away from interceptions.

Morris needs to reverse a trend that has seen his production decline in each of the last two seasons. And he needs to do it with a new power-blocking scheme that may not play to his strengths and behind a line that could take some time to gel. If he is not getting it done, rookie Matt Jones could be breathing down his neck sooner rather than later. Young is versatile and a good special teams contributor.

It’s pretty simple with Reed. If he can stay on the field he is a threat to put up Pro Bowl numbers. If he can’t, his future could be in doubt after the season is over.

Garçon and Jackson are one of the better starting tandems in the NFL who stand to benefit the most if the quarterback situation stabilizes.

Reserves: QB Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy; RB Matt Jones, Chris Thompson; TE Derek Carrier; WR Andre Roberts, Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross

The benching of Griffin and the “will he stay or will he go” drama over him has been well chronicled here and elsewhere so there’s no need to rehash it here. McCoy is good to win you a game or two but he is not a 16-game answer at this point in his career.

Jones and Thompson have looked good all year but Jones has no experience in actual NFL games and Thompson’s experience is very limited. We will have to see how they fare when the other team’s starters are in the game for 60 minutes. They both have some injury history so keep a wary eye on that.

Carrier just arrived a few weeks ago so we really don’ t know what he brings to the table. Given Reed’s injury history and the lack of any other backup tight ends we may well find out. It should be noted that offensive tackle Tom Compton is likely to line up as a blocking tight end for a number of snaps each game.

We will have to see if Roberts has shaken the drop problems that plagued him last year. He still had some issues during the preseason so he still has a lot to prove. Crowder and Grant will fight for snaps as reserves. It seems likely that Ross will be inactive most games unless someone gets injured. 

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS 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: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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