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OPEN THREAD: Before contract, does Cousins need to go downfield?

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OPEN THREAD: Before contract, does Cousins need to go downfield?

Kirk Cousins was perfect in the Redskins blowout win over New Orleans. Literally, he finished the game with a perfect QB rating. Few QBs have had a better game than Cousins did Sunday, more than 300 yards passing and four touchdowns; he was great.

On the heels of that perfromance, contract questions have popped up repeatedly concerning Cousins. The fourth-round pick of the 2012 draft, his contract will expire at the end of this season, and Washington GM Scot McCloughan has until March to work on a new deal with the QB before Cousins hits the open market. Former Redskins and Texans GM Charley Casserly suggested Cousins will land a deal in the $16 to $20 million range, and after the Saints game, that number might be going up. 

But it's important fans look beyond just the Saints game and the whole body of work. Cousins is having a solid year, and he appears to have tamed his turnover tendencies. Through nine games, he's thrown for more than 2,200 yards with 14 TDs and nine INTs while completing about 68 percent of his passes.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT WOULD A COUSINS CONTRACT LOOK LIKE?

One area, however, Cousins has not found much success are on deep balls. According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins grades poorly on passes of over 20 yards. For the season, Cousins has thrown deep 36 times, completing just seven passes for 230 yards. More so, Cousins doesn't throw deep much, with passes of 20 yards or more accounting for just 10.8 percent of his total throws, good for last place among QBs graded. 

Certainly there are factors, none bigger than the absence of DeSean Jackson for the bulk of the season. Without Jackson, the Redskins lacked a true vertical threat, limiting Cousins ability to look for big gains. There's also a relatively conservative game plan instituted by coach Jay Gruden that has muted the downfield opportunities.

Still, the numbers tell a story. In the win over the Saints - a team gouged through the air all season - Cousins only threw one pass for more than 20 yards, and that came on the first drive of the game on a key third down conversion to Jackson. Again, Cousins pitched a perfect game against New Orleans, so no fault in finding recievers open on short and intermediate routes. 

But big picture, the Redskins need a QB that is capable of going downfield. To compete on the highest levels in the NFL, an explosive offense is a must. Is Cousins that QB? The next seven games Washington should have a healthy DeSean Jackson, and Cousins should look to find him deep. If that happens, Cousins asking price climb even higher. If not, McCloughan will have one more thing to consider this offseason.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."

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The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

Holding the 15th pick and with a litany of needs to improve their football team, the Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade up into the top five of the NFL Draft.

Unless Kyler Murray somehow comes available. 

The Redskins, like a host of other NFL teams, believe Murray has transcendent talent. Jay Gruden said so publicly at the NFL Scouting Combine, and privately, Ashburn sources have been clear that Washington considers Murray the top offensive player available in this draft.

Be real though, Murray has no chance of lasting around to Washington's selection with the 15th pick. It's still most likely he's the first player drafted. If Arizona doesn't take Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, things could get interesting. 

A report from New York showed that the Redskins have been talking with the Jets about the third pick, something that NBC Sports Washington suggested could happen as far back as February during the NFL Combine

The problem is the only player worth paying the cost to move up that high is Murray, and again, he seems unlikely to be available. 

One NFC scout explained that of the 2019 quarterback class, only Murray is the type a team would "reach" for. Beyond the Oklahoma Heisman winner, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are good, legitimate first-round prospects, but not the type to "sell the farm to get."

Sure, the Redskins might want a new QB, but it's entirely possible one of those three players last to the 15th pick.

One of the reasons that makes the 2019 draft so intriguing is that after Murray, there is very little consensus ranking the passers. It seems Haskins or Lock will go off the board as the second QB, but which one is up for debate. And Jones has some serious fans around the NFL. For example, Hall of Fame analyst Gil Brandt compared Jones to Peyton Manning. Seriously. 

Any combination of Lock, Haskins and/or Jones could go before 15, but it seems unlikely all three do. One former NFL executive suggested that the Redskins will take either Lock or Haskins if that player is available at 15 though.

If both are gone, and no top defensive player slips to 15 as a result of a quarterback or offensive line run early in the draft, then it's entirely possible the Redskins look to trade back. Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams said as much earlier this week. 

"I’m going to go on the record and say that’s a possibility that we won’t trade up, but there’s a great possibility we’ll trade back if that opportunity came," Williams said on Monday.

The Redskins met with Maryland safety Darnell Savage on Tuesday, and his draft stock likely seems to land somewhere in the bottom third of the first round or early in the second round. The Texans might be looking to move up and get a tackle, and Washington should answer that call if it comes. Houston holds the 23rd pick, and that could make sense as a spot to select Savage. 

Beyond Savage, a player like Boston College offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom could make sense if the 'Skins move back, not to mention Jones. The Duke QB seems unlikely to get past the first round, especially because of the advantage of having a quarterback on a rookie contract. A first-round deal comes with a low cost relative to NFL quarterbacks, and additionally, a fifth-year option. if a QB plays at a high level, that option year holds tremendous value for its team-friendly terms

That Jones seems a possibility at both 15 and at 23 illustrates that there is really no consensus anywhere. 

To that point, one talent evaluator said this draft holds the promise for chaos.

"It's going to be crazy."

For months, Murray seemed to be a lock to go first overall. Now, that doesn't seem like such a sure thing. The debate between Haskins and Lock has never really subsided. There is no clear-cut best wide receiver, or offensive tackle, two spots that often command picks in the Top 10. 

Anything can happen this week, and the Redskins are right in the middle of it all. They want a quarterback - Williams said so - but can't afford to mortgage the future of the franchise. 

Two nuggets to remember this week:

  1. Of the last 12 quarterbacks taken in the first round, 11 were drafted by a team that traded up to get them. The only QB that a team got without trading up? Baker Mayfield, last year's No. 1 overall selection.
  2. The Redskins missed the playoffs the least three seasons. The last time that happened was 2012, when the team mortgaged the future to trade up and select Robert Griffin III.

The only real truth about the 2019 NFL Draft is that nobody knows what's going to happen.

By draft day last season, it was pretty clear the Redskins would take either Daron Payne or Vita Vea. The team needed major help on the defensive line, and those were the two best players believed to be available when Washington picked. At the top of the draft, it was clear Mayfield would go first and the Jets wanted Sam Darnold. That allowed for some stability in projecting what else would happen. 

This year, there are a million scenarios, but no clarity.

Doug Williams summed the situation up very well: "We got the 15th pick at this time, and there are 14 teams in front of us, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Things happen that you don’t expect."

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