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Redskins 2017 OTAs to-do list: Quarterbacks have a lot to learn in a short time

Redskins 2017 OTAs to-do list: Quarterbacks have a lot to learn in a short time

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin on Tuesday, Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Offensive line to-do list

Tandler: The offseason program, starting with the condition program and continuing through OTAs and minicamp, is more important to quarterbacks than it is to any other position. With the 2011 CBA rules they can’t come in early and get some time working out and watching film with coaches prior to mid-April. Quarterbacks have about two months to absorb changes to the offense, develop rapport with new teammates, and generally improve their games.

One specific thing starter Kirk Cousins must work on is taking advantage of his taller wide receivers. The team has added Terrelle Pryor, Brian Quick, and Robert Davis and Josh Doctson returns from injury. All are 6-2 or taller, a much bigger group than the one that was spearheaded by the 6-0 Pierre Garçon, 5-10 (generously) DeSean Jackson, and 5-8 Jamison Crowder.

“When they’re covered, they’re open because you can throw the ball high and they can go get it,” said Cousins of his new receiver corps. That’s easy to say but Cousin knows that it takes a lot of work to take advantage of the catch radius of a player like Pryor or Doctson. It requires reading the field differently and a different kind of throw. Cousins will have to develop faith that his receivers can make the play and there is nothing that will accomplish that but hundreds of reps starting next week, when the rules permit the offense and defense to line up against each other.

Finlay:  Beyond Cousins, Colt McCoy needs to also build trust and a knowledge base with the new wideouts. Cousins has been remarkably durable as a starting QB, but the Redskins coaches believe in McCoy at a high level should their starter go down. It's harder for McCoy to develop timing with the starting receivers because he gets many less reps during the season, so in the offseason time is on his side. 

It's also key for Nate Sudfeld to continue his development. Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan believed Sudfeld could emerge as an NFL starter with a few seasons of learning. This will be the second year for the former Indiana Hoosier, the speed of the NFL should be customary for him now. 

Ultimately though, these OTAs need to be about Cousins asserting himself to a new offense. Jackson and Garçon were alphas; they're gone. While Cousins piled up a ton of yards in 2016, he never reached the peak last year that Redskins fans saw late in the 2015 season. Cousins, and Washington, need to get back to that level.

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Redskins technically have nothing left to play for, but Dwayne Haskins sure does

Redskins technically have nothing left to play for, but Dwayne Haskins sure does

In five starts as a rookie, Dwayne Haskins has led the Redskins to two wins, displayed plenty of toughness and made a handful of throws that hint at his immense talent.

Even considering those factors, though, Haskins hasn't done enough to convince the franchise that he should absolutely, without a doubt, 110-percent be their starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

That means that, while Washington as a whole doesn't technically have anything left to play for this year — their Week 14 loss in Green Bay officially (and mercifully?) took them out of the playoff hunt — Haskins has a ton riding on the final three games on the schedule.

In all likelihood, the Burgundy and Gold will be searching for a new head coach in a few weeks. Perhaps they'll also enter the offseason with an adjusted front office. Yet, regardless of whether the latter happens, the former means that at least one major piece of the team's future won't have any direct ties to 2019's 15th overall draft pick.

You can debate whether moving on from a first-rounder after a small sample of starts is fair, but the reality in the NFL is that new coaches like to begin their tenure with QBs that they really like, and often times, that means QBs that they've drafted.

Now, as mentioned earlier, Haskins has shown off some useful traits. His arm strength will never be debated, and since taking over as the Redskins' signal caller, the rookie has also been brave in the pocket, been way more mobile than expected and made incremental improvements in areas like footwork and at-the-line audibles.

No. 7 has tools to work with, and those tools could become sharper with more time and with a new coach who wants to sharpen them. Plus, those tools very well could be put to better use with a more well-rounded roster than the one he's currently on.

But then there are his numbers, which aren't encouraging and must be considered, regardless of the talent around him. In his five starts, he's completed more than 60-percent of his passes just once and has topped 200 passing yards just once. Those are two basic benchmarks for pro passers to reach and he's just not reaching them.

So, if the Redskins finish with a 3-13 or 4-12 record and find themselves in a position where they can draft another top-notch arm, will they do so? 

That's a question that's difficult to answer as of now. Haskins' performance in Weeks 15, 16 and 17, however, will make it easier. Either he'll start delivering, thus giving the organization confidence in him, or he'll continue to be mediocre, which'll lead to a very intriguing offseason.

When the Redskins selected Haskins last April, they hoped their recent QB rotation would finally stop, and it very well still could. Yet there's also a possibility that the rotation begins again in a few months. The next 12 quarters of football will mean nothing in the standings, but everything for Haskins and the team that picked him.

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Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins played much of the Redskins Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers with a sprained ankle.

The rookie had a very noticeable limp and struggled to put weight on his bad leg. Haskins was clearly not at full health. Backup quarterback Case Keenum was seen warming up multiple times on the sideline, but never entered the game.

In the team's postgame press conference, interim head coach Bill Callahan said he never considered pulling Haskins from the game. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who was teammates with Haskins at Ohio State and has known the quarterback for a while, never thought that Haskins would exit the game, either.

"I know Dwayne. I've known him for a while now," McLaurin told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay. "He's a tough guy, and I feel like he gives us a good chance to win games. I knew if he was out there, he was going to be good to go. He was hobbled a little bit, but he wasn't going to use that as an excuse at all. It was cool to see him fight through it. We just hope that he can get healthy for next week."

McLaurin was then asked whether he thought Haskins should have been pulled. The wideout commended his quarterback for his toughness, and believes that will go a long way in terms of earning respect from his teammates.

"I mean, I'm not a doctor, so I feel like if you feel like you can play, then you try to play. Only that person knows how bad it is," McLaurin said. "He's a tough guy. He's a guy trying to earn the respect of this team. He's a quarterback, he's young. I feel like stuff like that really puts you in a step forward to get some respect. He was noticeably hurt and he fought for us."

Haskins finished 16-for-27 for 171 yards. He connected on an incredible late touchdown pass with McLaurin to pull the Redskins within five with just over a minute remaining in the game. On the two-point conversion try, Haskins put his body on the line, diving for the goal line headfirst. He didn't convert.

The Packers recovered the Redskins ensuing onside kick attempt, the Burgundy and Gold's final hope at pulling off the upset. 

The Redskins offensive line did not help out a hobbled Haskins much either. The rookie was sacked four times in the loss and hit the turf on numerous other occasions.

Although the Redskins weren't able to pull off the upset, Haskins showed poise and toughness by fighting through a noticeable injury and giving the Redskins everything he had.

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