The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
Report date: July 26
Location: Richmond, VA
1. Are there repercussions from the Kirk Cousins drama?
Redskins fans could only watch and bemoan another front-office mishap play out right in front of their eyes when the team couldn’t come to a long-term deal with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Team president Bruce Allen then made it worse with some snarky, unprofessional remarks that made Cousins look like the bad guy. It’s been really, really bad. Cousins has taken the high road, maintaining he loves D.C. and wants to be there for the long haul. Many players have supported their quarterback. But will the player and front office being at odds be an issue in training camp? Lost in all of this is the Redskins were one possession from being in the playoffs for back-to-back years. Washington hasn’t done that since 1991-92. The offense was outstanding last year. This team has made moves that signal they want to contend again this year. But they can only do that with a quarterback who’s focused and a front office that at least doesn’t make a fool of itself.
2. How do new faces fit on the defensive line?
In OTAs, the first-team defensive line was Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier and Joey Mbu. Hood’s a career backup while Lanier didn’t register a tackle last year, and Mbu didn’t even play. Of course, this group probably will not start the season. The Redskins drafted Jonathan Allen in the first round and added Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain and Phil Taylor in free agency, and all four of those players should be important parts of the defensive line rotation. Regardless of who plays, they have to be better than last year’s bunch. The Redskins were 26th in rushing yards allowed per attempt, and only one returning defensive lineman (Hood) registered a sack last year. The team’s best defensive lineman from 2016, Chris Baker, wasn’t resigned and is now in Tampa Bay. The team has to fill his absence in the middle and get more production from the ends. Allen, who won essentially every individual defensive award last year at Alabama, will be expected to play at a high level immediately.
3. Who is the running back?
Washington’s rotating door at running back continues for the third straight year. Two seasons ago Alfred Morris started all 16 games, but Matt Jones soon started splitting reps. Last year Jones started the season as the top guy, but Rob Kelley took over halfway through. This year another committee approach seems imminent. Kelley is back, as is third-down specialist Chris Thompson, but Jones wants out of the nation’s capital. Also, Samaje Perine was drafted in the fourth round. Kelley seems to be the odds-on favorite to start, but he certainly won’t be a three-down back. If Perine can contribute sooner rather than later, he could take over the top spot. While the Redskins don’t run it a lot, they have to be better in that area. Even with an explosive passing game that prevented opponents from loading the box, Washington was 24th in rushing yards per first-down attempt, setting up some long down-and-distances.
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