- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2017

On Tuesday, the Redskins begin OTAs (that’s organized team activities, if you’re wondering), the first offseason workout sessions where the offense and defense can actually run drills against one another. Live contact is prohibited but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted according to the league’s offseason program rules.

The Wednesday session is open to the media and will begin, hopefully, to provide a glimpse at what the 2017 Redskins will look like on the field. With 89 players currently signed to the roster, plus an unsigned draft pick in third-round cornerback Fabian Moreau, OTAs give only a rough sketch of the team that will take the field in September.

Because the collective bargaining agreement allows for relatively little practice time with players and coaches during the offseason, though, it’s still an important look, particularly when it comes to the skill positions where the no-contact rule doesn’t distort the picture quite as much.

With that in mind, here are three things to keep an eye out for out of Ashburn next week:

Cousins’ connection with his new receiving corps

The Redskins signed two free agent wide receivers, drafted another and are essentially getting a fourth newcomer to the position group in Josh Doctson, who has recovered from his Achilles’ injury. That’s a lot of new targets for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who lost two 1,000-yard receivers to free agency in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

Cousins will have to adapt to each player’s route tree and catch radius. Garcon is 6-feet tall and Jackson is 5-10. Of the Redskins’ two free agent acquisitions, Terrelle Pryor Sr. is 6-4 (6-5 if you ask him) and Brian Quick is 6-3. Doctson is 6-2. Sixth-round draft pick Robert Davis is 6-3. After putting in offseason work with some of his receivers, including Pryor and Doctson, it will be interesting to see what kind of connections Cousins shows with the newcomers and bigger bodied players.

Doctson’s health

One Redskins storyline that will carry into the fall is how much the team can expect from players who came to the team with high expectations, but have yet to make a major impact on the field because of injuries. Jay Gruden said he expects linebacker Junior Galette to be kept out of OTAs as he continues to rehab from his second torn Achilles’ tendon.

Doctson, on the other hand, should be out there at full speed. Doctson put it out on social media back in February that he was running around, and Gruden has said that he’s healthy and ready to work. With Doctson, who missed his entire rookie year due to nagging Achilles’ problems, seeing will be believing.

If he’s healthy and quick, the question will become whether or not there are any signs of rust and what kind of connection Doctson has with Cousins after more than a year as teammates but not much work together.

The 2017 work environment

Jay Gruden provides continuity at head coach and the Redskins’ two new coordinators were both promoted from within, but the coaching staff has undergone a lot of changes this offseason. What will the environment be like on Wednesday? Washington’s coaching staff is good at keeping things light, but will there be an apparent sense of focus inside the team’s practice bubble?

On defense, Greg Manusky has moved up to defensive coordinator, Jim Tomsula was hired to coach the defensive line and Torrian Gray was hired to coach defensive backs along with assistant defensive backs coach James Rowe. Chad Grimm was promoted from defensive quality control to outside linebackers coach. There will be at least five new starters on defense.

On offense, Gruden is going back to calling the plays, so the division of labor between him and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will be different than it was with Sean McVay last year.

Add all that together and it’s a lot of change, even with familiar names at the top of the coaching staff.

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