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Jansen at Center a problem of altitude

Jansen at Center a problem of altitude

During last week's OTA's, Joe Bugel said that, as of now, Jon Jansen is the Washington Redskins' #2 center behind Casey Rabach.

"Jon has been a back-up center in college and we have him working at back-up center," Bugel said. "We always want to get the five best guys on the field, so if Rabach got hurt who do you plug in? Right now I'd have to say Jon Jansen."

Casey Rabach had better stay healthy. At best, this is a dubious move, or experiment.

Jansen's college career ended in 1998. He started 50 consecutive games at tackle for Michigan. In his junior and senior years he was the team co-captain. It's possible that he occasionally moved over a couple of slots from time to time and made some snaps in practice. But it's hard to believe that Lloyd Carr couldn't comb through his roster of 85 scholarship players and find a second-string center that would allow his star tackle to focus on playing tackle.

OK, so it may be a stretch to put "college backup center" on Jansen's resume. But he's a pro's pro, right? He can learn a new position, can't he?

Well, nobody has ever accused Todd Wade of being a slacker and he was unable to make the transition from tackle to guard last year. The problem wasn't one of attitude; it was one of altitude. Wade is 6-8 and he literally couldn't fit into the position. His height prevented him from getting the proper leverage to deal with the massive bodies at defensive tackle and it was a hindrance when he attempted to pull.

Jansen is 6-6 and I took a look around to see how his height compares to that of other centers in the league. In the NFC East, Rabach listed at 6-4, the same as Jamaal Jackson of the Eagles and Andre Gurode of Dallas. Shaun O'Hara of the Giants checked in at 6-3.

I kept on checking around the entire NFL. Of the 32 centers who were listed as first string as of the end of last season on NFL.com's depth charts, 28 of them were between 6-2 and 6-4. One, Dominic Raiola of the Lions, is shorter than the standard at 6-1. Three others, Mike Flanagan of the Texans, Jeremy Newberry of the Raiders and John Wade of Tampa Bay, are 6-5.

It can't be a coincidence that 87.5% of the starting centers in the league are within that 3-inch range in height. Obviously, that's the ideal height for working in the middle of the line. It doesn't mean that anyone outside of that range can't perform there, but it tells me that it would be considerably more difficult, especially if one is playing the position on a part-time basis.

What is making Buges and the Redskins consider this option is the numbers game. The team probably will carry nine offensive linemen. The five starters are Jansen, Rabach, Chris Samuels, Pete Kendall, and Randy Thomas. Stephon Heyer, who presumably would step in at right tackle should Jansen have to go snap the ball, is safe. Wade isn't quite as secure, but there are no other tackles on the roster right now.

On the inside, Chad Reinhart, the Redskins' third-round draft pick, would have to fall flat on his face to be left off of the roster. There was talk of him being the backup center, but it seems that they have decided to let him focus on playing guard in hopes that he will be able to step in for Kendall in 2009.

Jason Fabini, who filled in for Thomas at right guard most of last year, is the pre-camp favorite to snag the last OL spot. He is a converted tackle and at 6-7 he's not a good candidate to work at center either.

Rookie free agents Andrew Crummey and Kerry Brown are long shots to make the team. But as 6-5 guards, one or both could make the practice squad and play center on the scout team.

The Redskins could pluck an experienced center off of the waiver wire but that would mean that they would lose depth at other positions.

They could keep 10 offensive linemen but that would hinder depth at other positions. Keep in mind that many teams utilize their long snappers as their backup centers, but Ethan Albright is very much the specialist and he won't be snapping to Jason Campbell.

You would think that the Bugel would have learned from the Wade experiment and that he would shy away from trying to squeeze a tall peg into a short hole.

Again, Redskins fans should be hoping for good health for Casey Rabach.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—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.

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.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—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. 

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.

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