Entering this offseason, one of the Redskins’ top priorities was to upgrade the defensive line. Now, nine days into free agency the organization still has a lot of work to do up front. In fact, the unit probably is worse now than it was when the 2016 season ended.
They lost their top lineman, Chris Baker, to free agency. They released Ricky Jean Francois, arguably their second-best D-line performer in 2016. To replace them, they signed Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain. Neither is as good as Baker and in 2016 both were roughly on par with the performance on Francois.
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Speaking to Chris Cooley and Kevin Sheehan on ESPN 980, new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the McGee and McClain “fill a need” for the team.
“[McClain] just gives me juice,” said Manusky. “He’s got a little bit of juice and waggle inside so he can get after the quarterback. He’s got heavy hands so he can lay them on blockers and he can post on the double teams, which is great for him.”
McClain had 2.5 sacks last year, a career high. He has had trouble staying on the field in the past but he started 15 games last year.
“Stacy McGee, a talented guy, long player who can press the pocket, beat tackles and beat guards,” Manusky said of the former Raider. McGee had 2.5 sacks in 2016 after having a total of just 0.5 in his first three years in the league. He also forced the first two fumbles of his career last year.
Manusky said he sees McClain and McGee as the “bookends” in the 3-4 defense. How about the guy in the middle? McGee played some nose tackle in Oakland but Manusky said that he did not see him playing there. So what does the position look like now?
“Right now we’ve got [A.J.] Francis, we’ve got Joey [Mbu], and we’ve got Phil Taylor,” said Manusky. “Now we’re getting those three guys in the mix and we’ll see how it pans out.”
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Francis and Mbu both spend most of last year on the practice squad and Taylor has not played in an NFL game since 2014. That is not a group that makes anyone think “problem solved”. Manusky essentially admitted that they need more help here.
“Right now, we might be in a situation where we’re looking for a nose in the draft,” said Manusky.
This sounds familiar. The team has run the 3-4 defense since 2010 and they never have attempted to draft a long-term solution at the nose position. Maybe this will be the year but nobody will be shocked if they emerge from the three-day draft still looking for someone who can handle the middle of the line.