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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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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

After a poor first preseason showing and some questions about the physicality of Redskins training camp, JP Finlay talks with Patriots Insider Phil Perry from CSN New England to discuss the differences between Washington's camp and how they run things in New England.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

Few Redskins players draw more heated fan reaction than Ryan Grant. In three seasons with Washington, Grant has never missed a game, but he also hasn't produced much. His career stats: 39 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. 

Regardless, Jay Gruden and the Redskins coaching staff appreciates Grant in a way few fans understand. Grant is able to back up both the slot and outside receivers, and knows the roles of all the players.

"He’s really strong, he’s in great shape, and he’s Mr. Consistent," Gruden said of Grant. "Everything we ask him to do he does, and he does it right."

When Jamison Crowder missed time in Richmond with a hamstring strain, Grant stepped into Crowder's slot role. When Josh Doctson hurt his hamstring and missed time, Grant stepped into his role on the outside of the offense.

Throughout camp, Grant has displayed good hands and an adept knowledge of the offense. 

"No matter where he lines up, no matter what we ask him to do, he can come in the core and block the safety, whatever we want him to do, he can run whatever route from whatever positon and he runs at the right depth, perfect angles coming out of them," Gruden said. "He’s just ‘Steady Eddie,’ and that’s why I like him. I like consistent, smart players and that’s what Ryan is."

Against the Ravens in the Redskins first preseason game, Grant hung on to a tough catch over the middle to give the team one of very few offensive sparks. The problem for fans as it relates to Grant has not been preseason play. It's been inconsistent play in regular season games. 

Gruden believes that could change this year.

"I think people may be surprised with how many balls Ryan Grant might catch. Either way, could happen, I don’t know. I can’t foresee the future there, but I would be just fine with Ryan Grant being the target of a lot of balls."

To state the obvious: Grant is definitely making the roster. Behind Terrelle Pyror, Crowder and Doctson, Grant is the Redskins fourth wideout and one of the few players on the roster that is interchangeable among the Washington receiver positions. 

Grant's career best season came in 2015 when he caught 23 balls for 268 yards and two TDs. Based on his preseason, it seems Grant could surpass those totals in 2017. Much of his early season work has been a result of injuries to Doctson and Crowder, but make no mistake, Grant has been impressive in practice. 

Will it translate to the real games? The opprotunity seems only likely to arise if the Redskins deal with injuries at the receiver spot. 

Last year, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon accounted for more than 2,000 of those yards. Doctson, Crowder and certainly Pryor are likely to be the major recepients of Cousins' aerial prowess. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson accounted for another 1,618 yards last year.

Keep in mind, this is the last year of Grant's rookie contract. If there was ever a time to show in games what coaches have long seen and loved in practice, this would be the year. It seems only an injury would give him a major opportunity. If the situation came to pass, Gruden would have faith in Grant. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!