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CB Eli Apple has the right stuff to be a key piece in the Redskins secondary

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CB Eli Apple has the right stuff to be a key piece in the Redskins secondary

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 43 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.

Eli Apple
Cornerback
Ohio State

Height: 6-1
Weight: 199
40-yard dash: 4.40

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying
Apple possesses several traits for the cornerback position that translate well to the next level with his size, length and athleticism. Apple isn't afraid to be physical and contest at the top of routes, but he's still learning what he can get away with and what will draw flags - desired length for the position, but NFL teams will be forced to live and die with his hands-on contact while he figures it out.

He is also an aggressive run defender, but needs to be more measured with his break down mechanics as a tackler. Apple is still very young and with that comes discipline issues, but he consistently stays in phase in press or off-man coverage and has upside.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: As of now, the Redskins have only one cornerback, Bashaud Breeland who is likely to be a key part of the defense in 2017. Breeland will be going into the final year of his rookie contract. Beyond him the picture is murky. Chris Culliver will count over $9 million against the salary cap and he will be 29 with two serious knee injuries in his past. Will Blackmon will be 32 and Quinton Dunbar is currently a project who may or may not develop into a front-line player.

The Redskins need another long-term solution at cornerback and Apple could be it. In a division with physical wide receivers like Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham you need physical corners. Apple fills the bill there with good length and a willingness to mix it up with the receivers he is defending.

He has been in some big-time games. As a redshirt freshman Apple was the starter during the Buckeyes’ run to the 2014 national title. His interception of Marcus Mariota’s last collegiate pass put the final seal in the title game against Oregon.

Potential issues: He came out of Ohio State after his redshirt freshman season so he is still quite green. Sometimes Apple being physical with receivers turned into him grabbing their jerseys, a tactic that will draw plenty of yellow flags in the NFL.

Bottom line: Apple is clearly a first-round talent in the eyes of many. He has the length that Scot McCloughan likes in defensive backs and he seems to be plenty fast enough to keep up with almost any receiver.

If McCloughan drafts Apple and they get Breeland signed to a long-term extension before his rookie deal expires the Redskins could have a pair of corners equipped to deal with the best receivers in the division and around the league for the next five years.

In his own words

On what about his game best translates to the NFL:
Just my press man cover skills. That's something in the NFL that's really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path. And that's something I do better than anybody, in my opinion. My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That's the main thing I do. I'm a physical guy and I get up on receivers and impact that.
Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.