Quick Links

More talent and new coaches, but Jay Gruden knows challenges remain for Redskins defense

More talent and new coaches, but Jay Gruden knows challenges remain for Redskins defense

The Redskins defense struggled in 2016, especially on third downs.

The unit ranked dead last in the NFL allowing third down conversions, and that was one of many reasons the organization decided to overhaul their defensive coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry, secondary coach Perry Fewell and defensive line coach Robb Akey are all gone. Players liked Barry but often, mostly privately but at times publicly, disagreed with schematic decisions. Fewell had few fans among the Redskins secondary, and Akey's defensive line just did not perform. 

The moves all made sense, especially looking at defensive statistics from 2016. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

The hard part for Redskins fans to remember, however, is that new coaches will not necessarily deliver immediate results.

"It’s going to be a challenge. Anytime you have a new defensive staff, I don’t care how experienced you are, it’s your job to get the team to gel," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said during rookie camp. 

The changes start at the top, as Greg Manusky moves up from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Manusky is expected to deploy a more aggressive approach to the Washington defense, a move many players seem excited about. Players that worked under Manusky last season like Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy spoke highly of their position coach, which likely helped his candidacy for the coordinator spot. 

Replacing Fewell as secondary coach will be Torrian Gray, formerly of Virginia Tech. Gray has hands-on experience with second-year pro Kendall Fuller and knows DeAngelo Hall through Hokie connections. A fresh start will help in the secondary, where the unit often looked confused in 2016. More than one player would remarked last year that communicating with Fewell was never easy. That should be a first step for Gray.

On the defensive line, Gruden and 'Skins team president Bruce Allen think they got a star in coach Jim Tomsula. A powerful voice, Tomsula is known for developing strong players in the trenches, and he will be tasked with getting the most out of rookie Jonathan Allen as well as free agent additions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

"I think from a talent standpoint, we feel like we’ve done a good job in the offseason addressing some of our needs with the draft and free agency," Gruden said. "We lost a couple of good players, but we feel like we replaced them and upgraded our team with depth, which is very good."

Beyond McGee and McClain, the Redskins also added Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Brown and safety D.J. Swearinger. In the draft, they added Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson and UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau in the second and third rounds respectively.

One year after the Redskins spent nearly half of their salary cap allocation on defense as they did on offense, the team is trying to balance the ledger, particularly via the draft. It was the first time in 20 years the team used their first three draft picks exclusively on defense. 

Gruden believes in the players the team has acquired, and his defensive coaches now need to make it all work.

"I think we have a lot of depth on our defense right now as opposed to previous years, so it’s going to be their job and it’s a great challenge, that’s the challenge of all coaches is to get your team to gel defensively and play together. I feel like the talent is there for them to work with."

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

Quick Links

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

Quick Links

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

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.