Redskins preview: Kirk Cousins, GM spot still big questions

Redskins preview: Kirk Cousins, GM spot still big questions
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) directs teammates during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Training camps are still in the distance, but USA TODAY Sports is providing five things you need to know about every team in the NFL to catch you up on the offseason. Today, the Washington Redskins …

1. McCloughan’s dismissal brings drama back to D.C.

Washington appeared to be on somewhat solid ground after completing consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1997, though missing the playoffs and finishing third in the NFC East were both disappointments. But GM Scot McCloughan’s abrupt firing in March returned the team to the uncertain state that has been standard under owner Dan Snyder. No replacement has emerged yet, though the team could press on with president Bruce Allen and coach Jay Gruden making many of the key calls.

2. No answer on Cousins as deal deadline looms

The Redskins have until July 15 to sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal, but there’s little indication that this stalemate will be broken anytime soon. As it currently stands, Cousins is poised to play out the season on his nearly $24 million franchise tender while setting himself up for a massive payday in 2018. Cousins already broke his own franchise record for passing yards in a season and has completed 68.3% of his attempts in the last two years, but questions about his future will continue to dog him as well as the team until some clarity is provided.

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3. The receiving corps has been rebuilt

Washington carved out a dubious place in history by becoming the first team to lose two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason with the departures of DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Pierre Garcon (San Francisco 49ers). Terrelle Pryor arrives after a breakout season with the Cleveland Browns, and the 6-4, 223-pound target’s best football might still be ahead given his relative lack of experience at the position. Second-year receiver Josh Doctson will be in for a sizable role after missing all but two games as a rookie with an Achilles issue. Tight end Jordan Reed and slot receiver Jamison Crowder could be favored by Cousins early while a rapport is established with the outside receivers.

4. Red zone is the key

Washington’s offense finished third in total yards last season, ahead of powerhouses like the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys. But the team ranked just 29th in red zone efficiency, leaving it only 12th in total scoring. To make the leap, the Redskins will have to find a finishing touch in 2017. Pryor, Doctson and Reed all can be mismatches in the end zone but need to provide consistency. The real onus, however, may rest with Rob Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine to provide a short-yardage punch in the running game.

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5. The defense will have a different look at every level

Plenty of changes were made to a group that ranked in the bottom 10 both against the pass and run. With defensive ends Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois gone, first-round pick Jonathan Allen should slide into a starting role, while free agent acquisitions Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee could make for a completely new front. Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown was brought on to shore up the middle of the unit. Su’a Cravens will make the move to full-time safety after playing a hybrid role as a rookie, and D.J. Swearinger move into the other starting spot.

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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