Maurice Hurt was supposed to spend the 2011 season on the practice squad, honing his ability and learning the NFL game so that he could challenge for a backup tackle spot in 2012. If he couldn't make it, another year on the practice squad may have been in the cards for the 2011 seventh-round draft pick.As they said in the old insurance commercials, life comes at you fast. After some injuries along the line, Hurt went from being a practice squad tackle to a starting left guard in a three-week period.For a seventh-round draft pick who made such a fast transition, Hurt didnt play badly. But not completely embarrassing yourself is not a very high bar.It would seem that the coaching staff was not completely enamored with his performance. They drafted one player at his old position, sixth-round tackle Tom Compton. And they took two players at his new position, drafting guards Josh LeRibeus in the third round and Adam Gettis in the fifth.Further putting a squeeze on Hurt is the fact that LeRibeus played center during the teams recent rookie minicamp and Gettis could be flexible along the interior line as well.Mike Shanahan likes players who can play in multiple positions. Anybody that comes in, if you dress seven guys or eight guys, that whoever that six is youve got to play center and guard and you have to play it well, he said of LeRibeus lining up at center. So that is a big plus.The flip side of that is that being able to play only one position would be a big minus. The Redskins have Hurt listed as a guard on their roster. Can he master the tackle position and still be able to contribute at guard?He could be on the practice squad as he was on the 45-man roster for eight games, the maximum number of games a player can be active and maintain eligibility for the PS. But that would be quite a step down.Hurt will be up against a numbers game. Hell be competing against the three draft picks, free agent signee James Lee, and holdovers Erik Cook, Tyler Polumbus, and Willie Smith for four or five spots. The more Hurt can do, the better his chances sticking will be.
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140
In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run
One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.
Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league. Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.
The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.
You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.
It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.
The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).
But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.
The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.
In case you missed it
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141
The Redskins week that was
Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.
Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.
Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.
The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.
Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy.
Tandler on Twitter
Teams picking between 33-45 will need to make sure they are comfortable with R. Foster, cause he will be there.— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) April 21, 2017
Would hate to see my TL if the Redskins pass on Foster at 17. But they are seeing the same red flags other teams are. https://t.co/xyDZTxb0L7— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) April 21, 2017
In case you missed it
- Chris Thompson has re-signed with the Redskins.
- Redskins' Thompson and Compton still unsigned but options are very limited
- Redskins mock draft roundup: Picks tilting towards defense
- Five pivotal games on the Redskins' 2017 schedule
- One reason to watch each Redskins game this year