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Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016?

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Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016?

 In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 12

Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016? 

El-Bashir: Yes, I do think Cousins will be a better quarterback in 2016.

Why? Let’s start with this: Cousins’ work ethic and meticulous preparation have always helped him overcome the fact that he’s not 6-foot-5 with a cannon for an arm. And that insatiable drive will continue to serve him well, I suspect.

When Cousins was relegated to benchwarmer in 2014, we learned recently that he flew in a private quarterbacks coach to help him refine his game…after he practiced with his full-time employers. Cousins continued to work with that coach last offseason and even sought help from Jon Gruden. Cousins also spent hours each day studying defenses and top-tier quarterbacks in his spare time.

When I heard about Cousins hiring a Chicago-based QBs coach—on his own dime and time—and then working with him after that day's Redskins practice, that pretty much told me all I needed to know about his makeup. He’s a worker, dedicated to his craft and determined to be the best player he can be. At the pro level, that's half the battle.

Now that he’s on the verge of signing a lucrative, long-term extension, I know some will wonder if he’ll take his foot off the gas and enjoy the fruits of his hard work. I don’t suspect that will be an issue. If anything, I think he’ll double down and feel that he’s now got even more to prove.

And, finally, I think Cousins will benefit from an offseason that’s going to begin with him riding a wave of confidence and momentum. An offseason that’s going to begin with him taking all the first team reps. An offseason that’s going to begin with a playbook that the coaching staff has tailored to his strengths.

My only concern is that the negotiations could prove to be a distraction, particularly if the team ends up using the franchise tag on him and/or talks drag out into the summer. Athletes often say they won’t allow contract issues to detract from their focus. But anyone who has gone through the process knows that’s not entirely possible.

Tandler: I have no doubt that Cousins will work as hard as he can to get better in 2016. I also doubt that the contract situation will be a distraction; even if it goes unresolved past the franchise tag deadline, Cousins simply won’t put any entries into any of the color-coded 15-minute blocks in his daily planner.

But there are things that are out of his direct control that will affect how well he plays in 2016. One of them is the Redskins’ running game. It was not good last year as they ranked 20th with 1,566 rushing yards and a dismal 29th with 3.7 yards per carry.

Cousins’ ability to put together a solid year despite the team’s poor performance running the ball is one of the least appreciated aspects of his season. Of the eight NFL quarterbacks who averaged 7.7 or more yards per attempt, Cousins (7.7/att.) had less support from the running game than any of them in terms of yards per carry. Same for the six who had passer ratings over 100 (Cousins 101.6).

If Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan can make good on their 2015 vow to have a powerful, effective running game that will take a lot of the pressure off of Cousins. If the defense is guessing that makes the play action game more effective and opens up a lot of things that Cousins does well.

An upgrade in depth at receiver would help Cousins, also. At times it seemed that targeting Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant was the same as throwing the ball into the dirt; they combined to catch just 53 percent of the passes thrown their way. And Rashad Ross needs to figure out how to evolve from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL wide receiver.

25 Questions series

·  Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?

·  Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?

·  Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?

·  Will there be a surprise cap casualty?

·  Will DeAngelo Hall return?

·  Should the Redskins draft a quarterback?

·  Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

·  Should the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?

·  Should Pierre Garçon return?

·  What should the Redskins do at tight end?

·  Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job? 

·  Today: Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016?

·  Tomorrow: Who will start at inside linebacker?

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Miami tagged Jarvis Landry - what does it mean for the Redskins?

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry - what does it mean for the Redskins?

Everything in the NFL feels like a powder keg, but the reality of Tuesday's opening of the franchise and transition tag period will play out as much more of a slow burn.

Few teams ever actually make moves on the opening day of the tag period, though the Dolphins bucked that conventional wisdom and used the non-exclusive franchise designation on wide receiver Jarvis Landry. 

Astute Redskins fans know the tag system all too well. Landry can now sign a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Dolphins worth more than $16 million, the average of the Top  5 paid receivers in the NFL. They can also trade Landry, and the compensation discussion with a non-exclusive tag begins at two first round draft picks, though it can eventually be settled for much less. 

What, if anything, does Miami's move mean for the Redskins? Let's take a look:

  1. Not gonna work here - Landry never really seemed like a great fit for the Redskins as a free agent, and that was before the franchise tag. He's a really good slot WR, but Washington already has that in Jamison Crowder. Whether or not Landry actually gets a deal done with the Dolphins or gets traded, it seems highly unlikely the Redskins are his next team. 
  2. "Spirit of the tag" - Miami putting the tag on Landry so early in the process signals that the team might be trying to trade him instead of actually trying to sign him. If that's the case, and plenty of people are suggesting just that, it would seem to be in contrast with the "spirit of the tag." The idea is that a franchise or transition tag is supposed to be used as a tool by an NFL franchise to get a long-term deal done with one of their own players facing free agency. Using the tag as a mechanism to pull of a trade seems very different. Why does any of this matter for Redskins fans? As reports emerged that Washington might look to use a tag on Kirk Cousins and work to trade him, the Cousins camp has made clear they would file a grievance against that technique. Why? Because it would violate the spirit of the tag. Well, it sure looks like Miami is doing the same thing, and as of now, nobody has complained. The situations aren't identical, few resemble the Redskins long, slow, awkward dance with Cousins, but certainly worth monitoring. 
  3. $$$$Wide Receivers$$$$ - The Redskins could use a veteran wideout to help their young group of Crowder and Josh Doctson. Well, with Landry getting tagged, the price tag just went up. The player that seems to make the most sense in Washington would be Jaguars wideout Allen Robinson. Coming off a knee injury in 2017, some thought Robinson could be signed on a somewhat team-friendly deal. If Landry can get franchised after a season where he didn't even get to 1,000 yards receiving, any thought of a team-friendly deal for Robinson is dead. Make no mistake, Landry and Robinson are good players, but the ever-increasing NFL salary cap will make both young receivers very well paid. 

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: The Redskins appear to be set at center

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Associated Press

Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 21, 21 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The Redskins appear to be set at center

Originally published 12/19/17

Chase Roullier might have been the Redskins’ fourth choice to play at center this year. But he could be snapping the ball for Washington for a long time.

Kory Lichtensteiger, the starter for the previous three years when healthy, retired. Veteran backup John Sullivan departed as a free agent. Spencer Long started six games this season before knee and quad problems pushed him to the sideline, elevating the rookie Roullier into the starting lineup.

The sixth-round pick started three games before breaking his right hand at some point during the game against the Saints. That’s his snapping hand and him finishing that game was an underrated act of courage this year. But he was out for three games before returning against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden was pleased with his play. 

“Chase did good. He did good,” said Gruden. “It was good to see him back in there. His snaps were outstanding and handled the calls and play well.”

That was good but standard praise. What was interesting was what he said next.  

“I like Chase’s progress right now,” he said. “I think he is going to be a very good center for a long time here. It was a great pickup for us in the draft.”

It appears that you can at least pencil in Roullier as the 2018 starter at center, if not put him in with a Sharpie.

Where would this leave Long, who is slated to be a free agent in March? The Redskins could let him walk and go with the younger and cheaper Roullier. They also could sign him to be their starting left guard. That job has belonged to Shawn Lauvao. But Lauvao also is a pending free agent and he is 30 and he has missed large chunks of two of the last three seasons with injuries. When he missed the last 13 games of the 2015 season, Long went in at left guard and played well.

If that happens, that would give the Redskins a starting offensive line consisting entirely of players drafted by the team and with only Trent Williams over the age of 27 in Week 1 of 2018.

Regardless of what happens at left guard, it looks like Roullier will be the man in the middle for 2018 and beyond.

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) 8
—NFL Draft (4/26) 64
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 200