ASHBURN — The offseason work has come to a close now. Players departed Redskins Park on Wednesday and they won’t gather together again until reporting to Richmond on July 27.
So what, exactly, did they learn? Be careful not to read too much into organized team activities and minicamp. They can tell you who is in shape, who is healthy and to whom coaches want to give the most repetitions. But that all changes once the pads come on at training camp and players have to go closer to full speed.
Kirk Cousins is in a good place
Forget the contract talks. Cousins and the Redskins have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. If it doesn’t happen he’ll play under the franchise tag ($19.55 million) and then figure it out after the season. Is that ideal? Not really. But his camp is willing to at least make it LOOK like he’s fine with that scenario. The looming deadline will tell if that’s an accurate read. Either way, Cousins was comfortable throughout OTAs and minicamp in a way he couldn’t have been a year ago when Robert Griffin III had the public support of the organization and he and Colt McCoy were trading second-team reps. He was boisterous. He was confident. He appears to have the trust of the coaching staff. Can’t ask for much more than that as Cousins heads into a season where he’ll be asked to prove that last year showed an emerging quarterback and not a one-year fluke.
The rookies aren’t ready…yet
Wide receiver Josh Doctson (1st round pick/22nd overall) didn’t participate during team drills. A sore left Achilles tendon and foot limited him. Those missed reps hurt. We’ll see where he is in Richmond. If things haven’t settled down by then it’s time to get concerned. Su’a Cravens (2nd round pick/53rd overall) worked mainly with the second unit at inside linebacker. He’s learning from the inside out. Kendall Fuller (3rd round pick/84th overall) was behind Dashaun Phillips at nickel cornerback, but he has six weeks to continue to rehab his surgically repaired right knee. Expect a better battle there in training camp.
The other rookies have work to do. Matt Ioannidis (5th round pick/152nd overall) is in the mix for playing time on the defensive line. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld (6th round pick/187th overall) appeared more comfortable during minicamp than he did during OTAs. But he is a long-term project and a year on the practice squad would probably do him good. Inside linebacker Steven Daniels (7th round pick/232nd overall) needs to show some special teams ability. Running back Keith Marshall (7th round pick/242nd overall) missed critical reps with a hamstring injury in later OTAs sessions and at minicamp.
Running back situation remains in flux
The Redskins can talk all they want about Matt Jones being the clear No. 1 back. Maybe the coaches believe he’ll get there this summer. But the questions can’t be ignored, either. The fumbles (five). The yards per attempt (3.4). His health (three games missed). All are legitimate concerns for a player the industry overall wasn’t as high on as Washington when it took Jones in the third round. There are positives to be sure. Pass protection. A physical running style. Better hands than expected and a strong screen game. Jones is a force when he gets moving downhill. But does he need a veteran alongside him to share the load? Chris Thompson appears to be what he is – a quality third-down back with a checkered injury history. Rookie draft pick Keith Marshall couldn’t stay healthy (hamstring). Beyond them are a host of unheralded, undrafted rookies (Robert Kelley, Kelsey Young) or second-year pros (Mack Brown).
Offensive line depth uncertain
The Redskins appear determined to get Spencer Long snaps at center. That might be as much for 2017 as this fall. Kory Lichtensteiger appears healthy and ready to resume his starting role. The key here is how left guard Shawn Lauvao looks during training camp after his ankle and foot surgeries in 2015. Long started 11 games in his absence at left guard. Arie Kouandjio earned some first-team reps during offseason work, though. He didn’t always look smooth. But he will get a chance to push for more playing time during camp. Interested to see where the depth builds with this group. Does Takoby Cofield take a step forward at guard or tackle after a year on the practice squad? Can Austin Reiter show enough to stick around as a potential option at center in the coming years? Is undrafted college free agent Kevin Bowen a potential dark horse?
Defensive line still lacks star power
On the other side of the ball, a revamped defensive line lacks stars, but might have a higher floor than last year’s group. Chris Baker is coming off a career-best six sacks and in a contract year. Behind him this team can go in any number of directions. Kendall Reyes, signed as a free agent from San Diego, looked like more of a force as offseason activities progressed. Can Joe Barry cobble together improvement with role players like Ricky Jean Francois and Stephen Paea? As an interior player you’d figure Ziggy Hood, a former first round pick, would have to displace veteran Kedric Golston in the middle. But Golston, the longest-tenured Redskins player, got more of the reps during OTAs and minicamp. Trent Murphy is still adjusting to life as a defensive end and that was obvious at times during minicamp. It’s unrealistic to expect a quick adjustment there. But without stars in front of him, there is time for Murphy to make himself a factor here.
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