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How many new starters for the 2016 Redskins?

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How many new starters for the 2016 Redskins?

Even though the Redskins went 9-7 and made the playoffs last year they are not standing still in terms of personnel. There will be a number of new starters, particularly on defense. In fact, you might be surprised at how many new starters they are likely to have.

Before we dive into this, let’s look at how we’re defining “starters”. In official terms, the 11 players who are on the field for the first snap on the game on each side of the ball are the starters. But we will loosen that definition a bit so that we are talking about front line players.

For example, cornerback Justin Rogers was a starter in the season opener against the Dolphins in 2015. But after that one game he was inactive for two weeks and then waived in Week 5. Rogers is not a player most would think of as a “starter”.

On the other side of the coin, Jordan Reed played in 14 games but he only started in nine of them. I don’t think that there is any question that Reed is a front-line starter.

With that said, let’s look at the anticipated 2016 front-line players compared to 2015.

There will be two new starters on offense. Matt Jones will start at running back in place of the departed Alfred Morris and Jamison Crowder will play slot receiver replacing Andre Roberts, who was waived last month.

Both were 2015 draft picks. Crowder started six games and played 474 snaps while Jones did not have a start and played 349 snaps.

On defense there will be several new starters. Last year, Terrance Knighton started 15 games at nose tackle and Jason Hatcher started 14 at right defensive end. They are both gone so there will be new starters at those positions. For right now the nose tackle is Kedric Golston and the right DE is Stephen Paea but that lineup is written with a dry erase marker, nothing permanent.

At linebacker, either Preston Smith or Junior Galette will start opposite Ryan Kerrigan on the outside, replacing Trent Murphy, who converted to defensive end. On the inside, it looks like Will Compton and Mason Foster have the, well, inside track to starting jobs. They started nine and five games, respectively, last year. Of the other two inside backers who started games in 2015 one, Keenan Robinson (8 starts) has gone to New York and the other, Perry Riley (9) is still around with a shot at winning back the starting job.

Cornerback Josh Norman replaces Chris Culliver (who started the season) or Will Blackmon (who had 10 starts), depending on how you want to look at it. At safety, DeAngelo Hall, who started five games at safety last year, and David Bruton, who was a reserve with the Broncos in 2015, are now the starters. If it’s not Bruton at strong it will be Duke Ihenacho, who started the opener last year but went out early in the game with a wrist injury that landed him on injured reserve. Last year Trenton Robinson, who is no longer with the team, started the most games at strong safety (7).

To count up the changes it’s easier to look at who is staying put. There are three returning solid starters and they all play on the left side—DE Chris Baker, LB Ryan Kerrigan, and CB Bashaud Breeland. At the other eight positions there will be at least six new starters (two each on the DL and S, one each at OLB and CB) and depending on how things shake out and how you want to define new starters, two more possible changes at the inside linebacker spots.

So taking the low number and adding in the offense there will be a minimum of eight new starters for the Redskins this year. That looks like a lot of disruption to a team that seemed to be on its way up but it really isn’t. The way it looks right now only two of the new starters, Norman and Bruton, are new to the team in 2016. All of the others either started some games or played a substantial role with the exception of Galette, who was on injured reserve all of last year.

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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.