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Baylor NT Andrew Billings could be worth the Redskins' first-round pick

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Baylor NT Andrew Billings could be worth the Redskins' first-round pick

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 44 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 he might fit in Washington.

Andrew Billings
Defensive lineman
Baylor

Height: 6-1
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 5.05

Projected draft round: 1

 

What they’re saying
STRENGTHS: A load in the middle with brute power to engage blockers and toss them aside. Tough to block due to his blend of power and quickness.

At his best when he keeps his pad level low and rolls his hips at the point of attack to carry his momentum into the pocket. Has a motor that is always revving and effort isn't an issue.

WEAKNESSES: Needs to improve backfield vision and pre-snap anticipation. Relies on forward lean, leading to him overextending and ending up on the ground. Has room to improve his patience and ball awareness. Lacks ideal range to consistently make plays outside the hashes.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins said goodbye to nose tackle Terrance Knighton and we are a week into free agency with no free agent replacement in sight. The Redskins could look to Billings to fill the void.

What makes Billings intriguing for the Redskins is that he can play both the zero technique (lined up directly over the center) or the one technique (over either of the center’s shoulders). The Redskins will line up in a true 3-4 only about 25 percent of the time so it is important to have a player who can be flexible.

Billings is unlike a few of the top D-line prospects in this draft in that you don’t have to project his production. In 2015 had 5.5 sacks and led the Bears with 15 tackles for a loss.

Scot McCloughan will examine a lot of film to determine if he fits the Redskins. But this one play shows that he just might. He is out in coverage on a screen pass and he has both the speed and the determination to chase him down from behind.

(GIF via Dallas Morning News)

Potential issues: The issues noted under “weaknesses” above can all be fixed with coaching and film work. The question that needs to be asked is if a first-round pick is too high for a nose tackle. Teams will usually wait until later rounds and find a big body who will plug the middle. If you are going to take a NT in the first he needs to produce like Haloti Ngata, Dontari Poe, or Vince Wilfork. Is Billings at that level?

This may be a positive or a negative but it’s worth noting that he just turned 21 earlier this month, making him one of the youngest players in this year’s draft pool. On the one hand you have to wonder if he will immediately have the maturity needed to succeed in the NFL. On the other hand, he will be in his second contract at the age of 25. He could be around a while.

Bottom line: Billings brings a rare combination of strength and speed. You saw his speed in the GIF above; when they put a stopwatch to him at the combine he ran a 5.05 forty-yard dash. He showed his strength as a senior in high school when he went to the state meet and set a record lifting a combined 2,010 pounds (805 pounds on the squat, 505 on the bench press, and 705 on the dead lift).

Would McCloughan pull the trigger on a nose tackle at pick No. 21? I think he showed last year that he’s not afraid to defy conventional wisdom in regards to when positions “should” be picked when he took Brandon Scherff, who was first a right tackle then a guard, with the fifth pick. If McCloughan thinks that Billings is the right kind of player and the best one on the board I don’t think he will hesitate to turn in the card.

In his own words

How he sees himself growing as a player:
I envision myself with double the knowledge really, and really playing the game smarter, not harder. I want to be able to get all the tricks the defensive linemen have right now and really use them against offensive linemen who have been playing for 12 years in the league.
Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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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