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Grading the Washington Redskins draft

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Grading the Washington Redskins draft

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

Strategy—C+

They came in with the handicap of not having a first-round pick, with that selection going to the Rams as the final payment in the deal to land the rights to Robert Griffin III. There is no way at the time that they thought the pick would be the second overall but it was what it was. We won’t know for a while if the trade will prove to be a good deal but in the short term the fact that the Redskins do have a quarterback in place obviated the need for Redskins Nation to spend the last four months debating the relative merits of Johnny Football and Blake Bortles was a positive.

Because of that deal the Redskins went in with six picks; they ended up with eight. They picked up an additional third by moving back in the second round from the 34th overall pick to the 47th. That deal was with the Cowboys and the Redskins did quite well in the deal. Looking at the draft value chart, such a move back should have netted Washington Dallas’ fourth-round pick. But they were able to take advantage of the Cowboys’ desperation for a pass rusher and they extracted a third-rounder from their division rivals.

A few players the Redskins could have used did go off of the board in between their original pick and the one they traded for. In particular, offensive tackle Joel Bitonio and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt were players many had connected to the Redskins. It seemed that Washington liked the guy they ended up getting, outside linebacker Trent Murphy. Some saw that pick as a reach but not a crazy one. They took guard Spencer long with the additional third-rounder from the deal.

Late Saturday afternoon they pulled off a similar deal on a smaller scale, dealing with the Titans to move back eight spots in the sixth round, collecting Tennessee’s seventh-round pick in the process. They likely got the same player with the 186th pick as they would have with the 178th, running back Lache Seastrunk of Baylor.

You can debate how wisely the Redskins used that extra seventh as they took a kicker, Zach Hocker of Arkansas. Some say it’s dumb to ever draft a kicker, especially when you have a pretty good one in Kai Forbath. I disagree on the first part, if you like a kicker, take him rather than scramble through the chaotic undrafted free agent process. I do agree that Forbath is a quality kicker and that burning a draft pick to challenge him is not good strategy.

Many thought that the Redskins should have taken a safety somewhere along the line given that Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark are both on the wrong side of 30. Gruden said that they didn’t have the chance to take one who they thought could make the roster. It was generally thought that this was a very weak draft at the position and Gruden’s explanation is quite plausible. Still, it could come back to burn them if Bacarri Rambo and/or Phillip Thomas, the two safeties they drafted last year, can’t develop into starters or at least solid reserves.

Talent/Fit—B

Morgan Moses is the best fit on the Redskins’ board. The team clearly wants to move on from right tackle Tyler Polumbus at some point. Moses is a good candidate to unseat him, perhaps sooner rather than later.

Some question the Murphy fit but those people need to look at Brian Orakpo’s contract. He’s a free agent after this year and the Redskins will have to decide if they want to sign him, franchise him, or let him leave. The first two options will be expensive and the team will have more leverage if they have a replacement for Orakpo on the roster. For this year, Murphy will play a few hundred snaps on defense in addition to being a full special teams contributor.

Spencer Long, the Redskins’ third-round pick, will be a good fit if, as some believe, he can become the team’s starting center. Ryan Grant will have to work to overcome his shortcomings (mainly pedestrian speed) to become a productive receiver. Bashaud Breeland and Lache Seastrunk both left college a year early and could become assets if they mature. Seventh-round tight end Ted Bolser will have to justify the team carrying four tight ends.

Overall—B-

In the lead up to the draft, the Redskins let it be known that they were looking for hard-working, hungry, overachieving players who love playing the game more than they love what the game can get for them. And an ability to play special teams was a major resume enhancer as well.

The players they picked fit the criteria. Not all of them precisely fit, of course, but well enough to where you can say that the draft class has a reasonable chance of developing into a successful group.

In particular, scouting reports on Murphy and Long noted a “first on the field for practice, last one off” mentality. And Murphy, Grant, Breeland, and Bolser played special teams in college and spoke as though they expect to do the same thing in Washington.

They keys to this draft could end up being Breeland and Seastrunk. Breeland could be a starting corner in a year or two if he develops. If Seastrunk can learn to catch out of the backfield his home-run ability could make him a great asset.

If those two and, say, two of the top three picks pan out, this would be quite a successful draft. Anything else would be gravy.

But that’s easier said than done. This franchise has not done a very good job of developing mid- and late-round picks into starters or even key reserves. Bruce Allen noted this failure in last week’s press conference and said that the solution was to focus on high effort players with the belief that they will put in what it takes to grow as a player.

Will it work? We will have to wait and see. For now, we can give Allen and the organization some credit for recognizing the problem, having a plan to fix it, and sticking to that plan.

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Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

The Redskins moved the ball well against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but continued red zone woes again sent Washington home with a loss. While the late November schedule proved brutal for the 'Skins, playing two games in five days, now the Redskins come to Arizona for an early December game with fresh legs and ample rest. Played indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium, weather will not be a factor for the 4 p.m. EST kick, but all the action starts on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at 3 p.m. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Keep it moving - Kirk Cousins showed he likes to get hot in the second half of the season during 2015. The quarterback's play late last year won the 'Skins the NFC East, and while a division title is out of reach with the Cowboys already at 11 wins, Cousins again looks to be on a heater. In three games since the bye, Cousins has thrown for more than 1,000 yards to go with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The No. 1 story for the 'Skins is Cousins, and if he keeps his hot streak going, Washington should find itself in position to win in Arizona.
  2. Missing in action - This will be the final game of a four-game suspension for left tackle Trent Williams, and the Washington offensive line has performed admirably in his absence. Arguably more important this week will be the absence of tight end Jordan Reed, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in Dallas. What's wild about Reed - he came back to play in the second half against the Cowboys - and score two touchdowns - while playing with a separated shoulder. Reed did not practice this week, and Jay Gruden said his range of motion in the shoulder is just too limited to go against the Cardinals. 
  3. Consider the source - The Redskins offense might be the most potent group in this game, but Washington would be foolish to sleep on the Cardinals. Arizona was widely considered a Super Bowl contender coming into the season, and though they are in the midst of a disappointing year at 4-6-1, a win against the Skins could get the Cards back on the playoff track. Arizona running back David Johnson is the 3rd leading rusher in the NFL with 921 yards on the ground, not to mention an additional 613 yards receiving. Gruden on Johnson, "He is probably the best all-around back there is in the National Football League right now as far as being able to move outside, be a great route runner but also run between the tackles and run outside with his speed. So it’s going to be a matchup problem." Defensively, the Redskins ranks 25th in the NFL at stopping the run. Watch out for David Johnson.
  4. Problems don't just go away - Look at just about any metric on the Redskins offense, and the results are impressive: No. 2 in yards-per-game, No. 2 in yards-per-play, No. 2 in pass yards-per-game. But for all the yards, the 'Skins don't score at a corresponding clip as they rank 9th in the NFL in points. The culprit? Red zone troubles. "There are so many good things we’re doing on offense to put a damper on what they’re doing offensively with the red zone. It’s hard to do, but it’s something that is a glaring weakness of this football team right now," Gruden said of his team. The best road to wins for the Redskins is by scoring, ideally at least 30 points, and that will require some success inside the 20s.
  5. The harder they fall - If the Arizona offense has an Achilles heel, it's their offensive line. Carson Palmer has been sacked 16 times in the Cards last four games, and the 'Skins need to focus on bringing Palmer down. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy - who will be playing in his hometown - have been the leaders at getting sacks for Joe Barry's defense, and Preston Smith could be in line for another big game. Getting to Carson Palmer should be among the defense's top priorities, as that can slow Larry Fitzgerald and the Cards pass game.

Numbers & Notes:

  • DeSean Jackson's 67-yard reception in Dallas was a season long and his longest since a 77-yard touchdown vs. Buffalo in Week 15 of the 2015 season.
  • Kirk Cousins' 3,540 passing yards in 2016 now rank 10th-most in a single season in team history, and he still has five games left to play.
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFL in percentage of fewest 3-and-out drives at 9.5 percent.
  • If Pierre Garçon can gain 137 receiving yards on Sunday, he will pass Michael Westbrook for 10th-most career receiving yards in team history.
  • With nine sacks, Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from becoming the fifth member of the Redskins (Dexter Manley, 4; Charles Mann, 4; Andre Carter, 2; Brian Orakpo, 2) to post multiple 10-sack seasons since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances