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Looking ahead: Redskins 2016 depth chart projection, offense

Looking ahead: Redskins 2016 depth chart projection, offense

It’s time to take a look ahead and see what the Redskins’ depth chart might look like on opening day of 2016. Here’s a look at the offense; I’ll cover the defense tomorrow.

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, draft pick

Cousins will either be signed to a long-term contract or he will get the franchise tag. In any case, he is going nowhere. I’m a little bit iffy on McCoy. He came back here last year thinking that he had a shot at the starting job. Now that he knows he won’t start he may look for another location. I think there will be a developmental quarterback brought in via the draft, somewhere between the fourth and seventh rounds. That QB could be on the practice squad rather than on the 53.

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

Putting Jones at the top of the 2016 depth chart was an easy call when I sketched it out a couple of months ago. After he got dinged up a few times and showed that he has a lot of work to do in refining his game to become a full-time starter it’s not so certain. For right now it’s Jones but a draft pick or free agent could supplant him by the time the season starts. It still looks like Alfred Morris will move on, perhaps to a team that emphasizes zone blocking. Thompson was perhaps underutilized with only 35 receptions. Young is a free agent but there is a good chance he will return.

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

As DeSean Jackson struggled to return from a hamstring injury it appeared that he would not be back in 2016. Then after he made a few big plays the focus turned to him being a unique talent. But then there was the fumble on the punt return against the Cowboys and his apparently lackluster effort in trying get the ball across the goal line after a catch against the Packers and his future is back up in the air. Garçon’s return is no sure thing; he had a solid season (72/777/6) but is that worth the $10.2 million cap hit for 2016? If one goes and one stays, I think Garçon is safe but that’s far from certain. If both do not return, a receiver will need to be added in free agency or the draft.

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

Reed can become one of the best in the NFL if he isn’t already. Paul’s rehab from a dislocated ankle is coming along well and he said he plans to be ready for OTAs. If they can find a blocking tight end in the draft they might move on from Carrier.

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

I had Shaun Lauvao back at left guard until I saw him in the locker room on Monday, just off of a second major surgery and in need to a scooter to get around. Perhaps he can make a fast recovery but for right now I’m leaving Long at left guard. They will be on the lookout for a replacement for Lichtensteiger in the draft but the veteran likely holds on to his job for this year.

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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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