1. How will quarterback Kirk Cousins continue to grow in his first offseason as the starting quarterback? This is all new territory for him. The 27-year-old was serving as Robert Griffin III’s backup this time last year, but Cousins is clearly the quarterback in charge now. Multiple players have already praised Cousins’s leadership through the first two phases of the offseason program. The Redskins have pieced together what appears, on paper, to be a potent pass attack, with tight end Jordan Reed and wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. It’s an important season for Cousins to prove his second-half performance last year wasn’t a fluke. The team’s success in 2016 hinges on his development.
2. Will Jackson take part in offseason practices? This was a big story line last year as Jackson wasn’t around the facility for the voluntary events. He got off to a slow start during the regular season, pulling his hamstring during the season opener against the Miami Dolphins and missed six games as a result. Jackson did display his ability as a downfield threat by the end of the season, but he had his worst statistics of his eight-year career with 528 yards on 30 catches. The 29-year-old participated during Phase 2 of the offseason program, taking part in the team’s on-field drills at Redskins Park. We’ll see if he changes his offseason approach following a 9-7 record and a trip to the playoffs.
3. Which players who ended the season on injured reserve last year will be ready to participate? The Redskins had placed 15 players on that list, including outside linebacker Junior Galette. He tore his Achilles’ tendon during training camp but has worked his way back to nearly full strength. It isn’t crucial for Galette to participate during offseason practices, however. The Redskins will remain cautious with him, and other players, such as guard Shawn Lauvao and tight end Niles Paul. Washington will also monitor rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller as he recovers from microfracture surgery. The Virginia Tech product did not participate in rookie minicamp earlier this month.
4. How will the Redskins repair their defensive line this offseason? It was an inconsistent unit last year and the team moved on from defensive end Jason Hatcher and nose tackle Terrance Knighton. Washington doesn’t really have a true nose tackle on its team right now. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden has mentioned using Kedric Golston in that role, but teams are in the nickel packages for nearly 70 percent of the game in the pass-happy NFL. That doesn’t bode well for two-gap nose tackles in the base 3-4 defense. It’ll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Joe Barry experiments with certain players along the defensive line.
5. Where will rookie inside linebacker Su’a Cravens fit in this defense? This will be an ongoing question throughout the summer and possibly even into the season. Although he was initially listed as a safety, the Redskins used him at inside linebacker during rookie minicamp. This will be the first time we’ll see Cravens work with the entire team. His growth will be an ongoing process given his athleticism, size and flexibility to play either linebacker, safety or even nickel cornerback if necessary. The Redskins didn’t have such a versatile defensive player on the team last season as Cravens is part of a new breed of “moneybacker” defensive players coming out of college.