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Alexander sheds weight, adds speed

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Alexander sheds weight, adds speed

If special teams standout and backup linebacker Lorenzo Alexander looks faster, well, thats because he is.Alexander, who is transitioning from outside linebacker to the inside, said he shed 20-25 pounds in the offseason so he can keep up better in coverage.I did it because I wanted to be able to run with guys like tight ends Fred Davis and Niles Paul and receivers, I had to be lighter, said Alexander, who is listed at 244 pounds. You lose 25 pounds, probably 40-50 over the last two years, and Im still as strong, so Im keeping that explosion while moving less weight. So of course Im going to be faster.In addition to seeing an increase in his foot speed, Alexander said his body is taking less of a beating from carrying around the excess weight.At the same time, he added, his new weight hasnt hampered him on special teams, where he lines up on each unit with the exception of the field block team. He joked that he dieted his way off that unit.Its not like back in the say when we played Dallas or the Giant and you faced big 330 pound guys trying to hit the wedge, Alexander said, referring to kickoffs. Im just as strong, so I dont think it will be an issue at all.Alexander lost the weight with the help of a dietician and will power.Being disciplined, that was 90 percent of it, he continued. Ive always trained hard but I wasnt really disciplined as far as pushing back from the potatoes and the fried foods. I cut all that stuff out.He does, however, allow himself a cheat meal from time to time.Im an IHOP guy, Alexander said. I love pancakes. I can just go crazy, so I normally have a stack of pancakes, and Im in there just going to work on them.

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Redskins draft countdown: Washington safety Budda Baker

Redskins draft countdown: Washington safety Budda Baker

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 65 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Budda Baker
Safety
Washington

Height: 5-10
Weight: 180
40-yard dash: TBD

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Tremendously explosive and passionate in his play. Former high school track sprinter with good play speed. Screams off the edge as a blitzer. Always bouncing on balls of his feet just waiting to race to the action on a dead sprint. Plays with smooth backpedal and diagonal shuffle. Has a shiftiness that allows him to mirror change of direction in space . . . Scouts use terms like "winner" and "top notch person" to describe him.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: This doesn’t take a whole lot of explaining. The Redskins have not had a reliable pair of safeties since they lost Sean Taylor 10 years ago. Su’a Cravens is moving into the strong safety spot. A pick line Baker could solidify the position for years to come.

His passion for the game is a big resume enhancer for McCloughan. He wants players who love football and Baker appears to fit that mold.

Baker plays fast, as in fast enough to cover slot receivers when called upon. McCloughan doesn’t much care for 40 times; he will judge a player’s speed off the tape. But it will be interesting to see how Baker runs at the combine.

At Washington, they sent him after the quarterback on occasion and I could see the Redskins doing that as well. Baker had three sacks last season and in a game I watched him play against USC he had two quarterback hurries that led to interceptions by his teammates.

Potential issues: At 5-10, 180 he is on the small side for a safety, at least one that McCloughan might prefer. His size gives him trouble if he must tackle a tight end or a big running back.

His play against the run is inconsistent. At times, he takes bad angles, can’t get off blocks and misses tackles. But at other times he sniffs out a play and makes a tackle in the backfield.  

Baker might grade out to be more of a late first- or early second-round pick. McCloughan will stick to his draft board for the most part and if the value isn’t there in his opinion he could bypass Baker in favor of a higher graded player despite the need. Or perhaps he can execute a trade and end up with Baker with a pick somehwere in the twenties. 

Bottom line: Right now Baker is Mike Mayock’s fourth-ranked safety. Malik Hooker of Ohio State and Jamal Adams of LSU are likely to be gone by the time the 17th pick is on the clock. Jabrill Peppers, Mayock’s No. 3 safety, is too similar to Cravens and many think he might be a better fit on offense. If they want to get a first-round safety it appears that Baker is the guy.

Certainly, Baker’s size will give McCloughan pause. They can bulk him up some but he could have a problem carrying as many as 200 pounds. Not only could he have problems dealing with bigger players, he could deal with injury problems.

In Baker’s NFL.com profile they compare him to former Colts safety Bob Sanders. Every season in which Sanders played more than 10 games he was a first-team All-Pro. Problem was, he only managed to play in double-digit games in two seasons. The Redskins will be wary of the possibility of getting bursts of great play from someone like Baker with some stints on injured reserve. 

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Redskins position Outlook: Su'a Cravens will help, but safety needs more

Redskins position Outlook: Su'a Cravens will help, but safety needs more

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017.

Safety

Starters: Duke Ihenacho, Will Blackmon

Backups: Deshazor Everett, Josh Evans

Injured/Reserve/Waived: Donte Whitner, DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton

Free Agents: Duke Ihenacho, Whitner 

Rewind: The Redskins tried to get by in 2016 without a serious investment in the safety position. In August the plan was for Washington to start DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton at the safety spots. Hall suffered an injury in Week 3, Bruton in Week 4, and neither player would return. 

Bruton's play was never starter level, and his replacement for many snaps came in the form of Donte Whitner. Once a great player, Whitner was past his prime, and though he got a ton of action for the 'Skins, was often a liability. Ihenacho missed tackles, but curiously got fewer snaps than Whitner. Deshazor Everett flashed in his few opportunities with the defense, but also rarely got snaps. Blackmon made some plays and gave some up, but fought injuries and was converting to the saftey position from corner for the first time in his 10-year career. 

Fast forward: One big piece of the safety puzzle should come with Su'a Cravens' move from linebacker to safety. A physical, intelligent player, as a rookie Cravens proved a nose for the ball and a sure tackler. He will help the 'Skins in the back of the defense. What player lines up next to him will be a major question. Cravens does not have elite speed, and Washington will need to pair him with a safety that can handle deep middle coverage. 

It's very hard to see Bruton or Whitner back on the roster in 2017, and Ihenacho seems like a long shot as well. After dealing with injuries for multiple seasons, Hall will need to rework his deal to stay with the 'Skins, something the veteran admitted in his locker clean out interview with the media. 

Blackmon has another year left on his deal, and is a versatile option for the 'Skins defense. His natural position, however, is corner, and the 'Skins should effort to get Blackmon back on the outside of their defense. Everett deserved to play more than Whitner late in 2016, but didn't, which creates questions. Everett should at least get a chance to compete for more playing time in 2017. There is also speculation that Bashaud Breeland could transition to safety, but that seems far fetched.

It's important the Redskins look to bolster the safety position this offseason, be it in free agency or the draft. After the defensive line, safety may be the greatest position of need for Washington. Cravens has all the tools to be great, but he still is a young player with zero NFL experience in the secondary. Scot McCloughan should take steps to cement a solid player next to Cravens, as well as more depth at the position to sustain injuries, like what happened in 2016.

Redskins Position Outlook: Running back | Defensive line | Outside linebackers | Inside linebackers Cornerbacks