Quick Links

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

billings-gif.gif

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:

Quick Links

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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.

In case you missed it