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Assessing the Redskins' needs on defense

Assessing the Redskins' needs on defense

Everyone knows the Redskins have plenty of personnel needs on both sides of the ball and the temptation is to say that they just need everything. And while there isn’t a position on the field where they can’t use some help, some areas are in more dire need than others.

In an attempt to quantify that, let’s put each position group on a needs meter. The scale is 1-10 and here’s the scale:

1—The depth chart at the position is completely set with players entering prime ages with market value contracts.
5—The team has enough NFL-caliber players under contract at the position but it could use quality depth and some replacement planning for aging players.
10—There are no players under contract who could reasonably be expected to start 16 games.

We looked at the offensive side of the ball earlier, today it’s the defense.

Defensive line—As many as four players who were on the depth chart in 2015 could be gone. NT Terrance Knighton is slated to be a free agent, Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston will be 34 and 33, respectively, when the season starts and an upgrade could be found for Frank Kearse.

Need Meter: 8 Assuming that at least three of the four possible roster openings are there, the Redskins will have to be aggressive both in free agency and in the draft to fill in the holes.

Outside linebacker—If we take Junior Galette’s vow that he will return to the Redskins at face value, they are in pretty good shape here with him, Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy.

Need meter: 3 You can’t have too many good pass rushers so if one pops up on the draft board Scot McCloughan may pounce. But other than that they should be in good shape, perhaps looking at someone who could fill the last spot on the depth chart.

Inside linebacker—This is a tough one. Can the Redskins start the season with Will Compton, Perry Riley and, if the re-signs, Mason Foster at the top of the depth chart and 2015 draft pick Martrell Spaight as a backup? Sure, they could. But the defense could be helped greatly by the addition of an impact player in the middle? Absolutely.

Need meter: 5 If that impact player is there on the draft board they should strongly consider pulling the trigger. And they might do some succession preparation as Riley is in the last year of his contract.

Cornerback—Beyond Bashaud Breeland there are a bunch of question marks here. Will Chris Culliver be recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered on Thanksgiving Day by the time to season starts? Is it worth continuing to develop Quinton Dunbar as the nickel back? Are reserves like Dashaun Phillips and Deshazor Everett, both of whom played well on special teams, good enough to win with?

Need meter: 7 Cornerbacks are like pass rushers; with teams lining up in multiple receiver sets so frequently you really can’t have too many. They don’t need to go out and get an upper-echelon free agent like Culliver again. But they could justify going for a cornerback in any round of the draft including the first.

Safety—The Redskins’ perpetual problem area got a little better with the rapid development of sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett as a viable option at safety. The other side of the coin is that Dashon Goldson turns 32 early in the season and carries an $8 million cap number and DeAngelo Hall is 32 and will count $5 million against the cap. At the very least the Redskins need eventual replacements for those two players.

Need meter: 8 The need is higher than it might be otherwise because good safeties are hard to find. The draft is perpetually thin as the better athletes at defensive back want to play cornerback. That scarcity works its way through to the free agent market. If they can find a good safety in the draft they need to grab him.

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Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 29, 25 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.

Timeline

At Redskins Park—Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft; conference calls with players selected; Gruden will speak to media shortly after Redskins’ final pick.

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 13
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 25
—Training camp starts (7/27) 89
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 134

The Redskins’ best late-round picks since of the last 10 years

While no aspect of drafting in the NFL is easy, it is much harder to find key contributors on the last day of the draft than it is in the first three rounds. The Redskins will have seven picks in this afternoon's draft to try to find one or two of them. 

Since the 2007 draft the Redskins have taken 56 players from the fourth round on. Of those, 45 played in at least one NFL game but only 12 of them were the Redskins’ primary starter at their positions for at least one season. Here are the five best of those players.

QB Kirk Cousins (round 4, 2012)—He was probably the most controversial pick on this list since the Redskins had just drafted Robert Griffin III a couple of days earlier. History proved Mike Shanahan right.

RB Alfred Morris (6, 2012)—This pick came a few hours after and with much less noise than the Cousins pick did. Many believed that the Redskins were set a running back with Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Morris not only surprised many by making the team but he lined up as the Week 1 starter. He went on to break the team’s single-season rushing record by piling up 1,613 yards rushing.

LB Perry Riley (4, 2010)—He didn’t get into the lineup until midway through his second season. Riley was always solid for four-plus seasons as the starter but never spectacular. The team let him go last year in training camp and he played well for the Raiders after they picked him up.

CB Bashaud Breeland (4, 2014)—Breeland started 15 games as a rookie. At first he was in the slot but after DeAngelo Hall was injured in Week 3, Breeland moved to the outside and he has stayed there ever since. He has seven career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

WR Jamison Crowder (4, 2015)—At 5-9, many teams thought Crowder was undersized and he didn’t run a great 40 at the combine. But he was big enough and fast enough to break the Redskins rookie record for receptions in a season and then to lead the team in touchdowns with eight last year.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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