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Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

During the Redskins’ bye week we’re taking a look ahead at the 2016 version of the Redskins. We’ve looked at the pending free agents and at the salary cap and what adjustments can be made. Now it’s time to take out the crystal ball and see what the depth chart will look like when they line up next September.

(Starter changes from 2015 are in bold)

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, draft pick

Sure, things can go south in the next nine games but right now the best bet is that Cousins remains the starting quarterback. I think they have to draft a quarterback; the only question is if they take one on Friday (rounds 2-3) or Saturday (rounds 4-7).

Running backs: Matt Jones
Backups: Chris Thompson, free agent, draft pick

When all is said and done, I think that Alfred Morris ends up leaving town and signing with a team that is more committed to the zone-blocking scheme. It also looks like Darrel Young could be headed out and the team will operate without a fullback. Assuming Jones can refine his rushing technique over the last nine games, he inherits the “lead dog” mantle. Thompson is a solid third-down back. Look for them to add a bargain veteran free agent and/or a Saturday draft pick to the mix.

Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon, first-round draft pick
Backups: Jamison Crowder (slot receiver), Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross

Yeah, I’ve spent the top draft pick already. With DeSean Jackson gone since he doesn’t fit into what Scot McCloughan is looking for in a veteran player, they need a big threat at wide receiver. To take a preliminary stab at it six months out, I’ll go with 6-2 Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss. Unlike Jackson, Garçon has the work ethic that McCloughan wants to keep around as an example to younger players. Crowder is the slot receiver for the foreseeable future.

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Niles Paul, Derek Carrier

The only good thing about the ankle injury that Paul suffered is that it was in the preseason opener, so he will have plenty of time to rehab. Reed will be going into his contract year and staying healthy will be of paramount importance for both him and for the team.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, 1-2 draft picks

I’m not 100 percent sure that Long can be an NFL starting center but he is probably the most immediate replacement for Kory Lichtensteiger, who would be better off in a zone scheme. The rest of the group can stay intact and continue to gel.

Defensive line: Trent Murphy, Terrance Knighton, Chris Baker
Backups: Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea, Frank Kearse

The unit gets a needed injection of youth with Murphy packing on a few more pounds and converting to end. Knighton re-signs for two or three years.

Linebackers: OLBs Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson
Backups: Preston Smith, Will Compton, Jackson Jeffcoat, Houston Bates

I’m not sure what to think of Riley’s future. He has a year left on his contract and his stock still seems to be pretty high within the organization. But Will Compton does a good job when he fills in and there could be a replacement in the draft or in free agency. Joe Barry will work to design ways to get Smith, Kerrigan, and Galette (who I think returns on an incentive-loaded deal) into the game at the same time.

Defensive backs: CBs Bashaud Breeland, Chris Culliver; SS Kyshoen Jarrett, FS Dashon Goldson
Backups: Trenton Robinson, Jeron Johnson, Quinton Dunbar, 2-3 draft picks/free agents

The starting corners are an easy call while the rest of the picture is murky. Goldson likely would have to agree to a renegotiated contract that would considerably lower his $8 million 2016 salary. If he doesn’t, I don’t see him staying but that leaves a hole at free safety that could perhaps be filled in the free agent market. Do things click for Jeron Johnson, allowing him to play a regular role? Does Jarrett return to safety, the position he was drafted to play? Or do they keep a good thing going and leave him in the slot? Do rookie free agents Dunbar and Deshazor Everett show enough promise that the team will bypass a late-round project in the draft?

Specialists: K Dustin Hopkins, LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way

Hopkins came out of nowhere to become the best kicker in recent memory, although we’re looking at a small sample size. Way is getting better at refining his craft and could have some Pro Bowls in his future.

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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.