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Duckett Redux

Duckett Redux

A couple of my favorite commentators, Joe and Michael, took exception to some of my points in my recent blog about the Duckett trade. Their points were excellent and many have echoed their concerns. They are worthy of further examination.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

See the original blog here.

Joe: The move smacks of desperation. I think to the "smart set" (your words) you only make a move like this if you're looking at about 8 games without your starter.

I used the term “aggressive” to describe the move. Aggression and desperation aren’t quite the same thing, but they hang out in the same neighborhood. A dog who has been backed into a corner becomes aggressive in trying to get out of there. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Skins feel that they have been backed into the corner. To me, the move makes sense and is fitting with the way that the organization does business even if Portis will be 100% for the Vikings game. It’s not like the Redskins are strangers do making moves like this absent a compelling reason for desperation such as a major injury. If Clinton Portis isn’t ready by Week 2 in Dallas then we will know the answer.

Michael: I do think the move makes the 'Skins better this year, but I also think we did overpay for Duckett's services, mainly because Duckett's on a 1-year deal. You have to ask yourself whether a high third-round pick equivalent is worth more than a situational RB for 1 year. I think the high third-round pick is worth more.

Ultimately, it depends on who the third-round pick is. If it’s Derrick Dockery, certainly it is. If that pick turns out to be Rashad Bauman, the one-year rental of Duckett has the potential to much move valuable. The third the Redskins gave up to get Mark Brunell in 2004 wound up belonging to the Packers and they used it to take Clemson DT Donnell Washington. He has yet to appear in an NFL game and he’s now the property of the Raiders. Then again, later in that round the Redskins traded their ’05 second-rounder and took Chris Cooley. Thirds are gambles; you might not even get one solid year out of them. There isn’t much of a chance that the Redskins won’t get one solid year out of Duckett. But if the pick gets used for another Cooley, the Redskins clearly will have lost the gamble.

Joe: As far as overpaying, yes, some people prefer minivans, some prefer Porches. Some people like homes next to a school, some like mansions in Malibu. Buy you don't pay Porsche money for a minivan. You don't pay Malibu money to live next to a school in Richmond. Regardless of utility, a 1st day pick is too much to spend on a short yardage back. Especially when you have a few guys on the roster that can handle it already.

Good points, but I think that they fall apart with the last sentence there. Who on the roster is a proven short-yardage back? Sellers had exactly one carry last year, for one yard and a touchdown. That was against the Eagles and, if you recall, Sellers coughed the ball up when it was just a hair over the goal line (or a hair short of it, depending on who you talk to). I pointed out Betts short-yardage numbers—two carries in third and two or less to go situations for minus two yards—in the first blog. Rock did it some in his rookie year but he doesn’t have the size to push the pile and he does have a tendency to put the ball on the ground. Am I missing some proven commodity here? If you don’t have that short-yardage guy and you believe that such a deficiency could cost you the Super Bowl then you pay what it takes to

Michael: What about team unity? Obviously, winning helps unite a team, but bringing Duckett in clearly has made waves at least among the RB corps.

Joe: They have a right to be upset if the coaches were blowing sunshine up their tailpipes while they spent all spring and summer working out in Ashburn, just to have the rug pulled out from under them on the eve of the season. You'd be mad, too.

This argument against the deal holds the least amount of water in my view. You don’t decide against making a move that you believe will improve your team because it might bruise the feelings of some of the players. These players are realistic enough to know that any sunshine blown their way is just temporary and that clouds could be cast in front of it at any second. We heard the initial gut reactions of Cartwright and Betts. Cartwright has apologized for what he said and Betts seems to be OK with it, too. They are professionals and they will go about their business and try to earn—that’s the key word, emphasized like in the old Smith Barney commercials—their roles and their playing time.

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?