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Need to Know: The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

Need to Know: The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 10, 58 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 50
NFL draft 107
First Sunday of 2017 season 243

The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017

—I think that it’s bad that the Redskins missed the playoffs for one reason that outweighs all others. You can’t replace the experience of playing in a playoff game. These players missed that opportunity. And, strongly related to that is that the best way to measure the progress of a quarterback is how he performs in the postseason. The Redskins didn’t get that data point that they could have used to evaluate Cousins’ value.

—The Redskins need to take two steps forward in 2017. After making the playoffs and going one and done in 2015, last season was supposed to be the year that they returned to the postseason and won a game. The fact that they didn’t get it done puts extra pressure on this coming year. It’s hard to make progress in the NFL and it’s even harder to hold on to it once you’ve made it. I don’t see the passing game being as effective as it was this past season, not with the probability that DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon will be gone in 2017. Either that production will have to come from a significantly improved running game or the defense will have to be substantially better than it was last year.

—Even though Scot McCloughan did not draft a defensive lineman until the fifth round last year, he thought the defensive line would be covered. Chris Baker was fine at one end. He believed that 2015 free agent signee Stephen Paea would bounce back from injury issues and a slow adjustment to the Redskins’ defensive system and become a solid player. Kedric Golston was penciled in for 15 snaps per game at nose tackle. McCloughan figured that between holdover Ricky Jean Francois and free agent Kendall Reyes he would have two adequate rotational linemen. But only Baker and Jean Francois worked out as planned. Paea never got going and was cut before the season started, Reyes was cut a few weeks into the season, and Golston was on injured reserve with a torn hamstring after Week 2. So, they ended up with Ziggy Hood and Cullen Jenkins playing major roles when they should have been much further down the depth chart, if they belonged on an NFL roster at all.

—As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry (I use that saying even though it never made sense to me; mice never struck me as being particularly good planners). The thing is, McCloughan’s plan wasn’t particularly well laid. It relied on a 33-year-old player, Golston, staying healthy. It also involved hoping that Paea could rebound and that Reyes’ play would elevate above the mediocre level he displayed in his previous stop in San Diego. There is no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL; there is always some degree of hoping that things go right. But this setup would have defied the odds if it had worked, like drawing three cards to an inside straight.

—We don’t know if things would have been better if McCloughan had drafted a defensive lineman earlier than the fifth round. Perhaps Vernon Butler, taken by the Panthers No. 30 overall, or Kenny Clark, the Packers’ pick with the 27th pick, would have improved the line significantly. But had a talented D-lineman been selected the team would not be starting from scratch like they might be with Baker set to enter free agency. Having one piece of the puzzle isn’t ideal but it’s better than having none.

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor
Other roster locks: Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier
On the bubble: Matt Ioannidis, A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu

How the defensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: The addition of Allen is a boost but the losses of Chris Baker (free agent) and Ricky Jean Francois (released) can’t be overlooked. Second-year players Lanier and Ioannidis should improve and Hood will be a rotational player instead of a starter, a role better suited to his ability. Andi new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will get the most out of them. The key to improvement will be McClain and McGee. If the two free agents live up to their contracts the line should be better than it was last year. If not, they will struggle again. Slightly better

To the rest of the NFL: But let’s not mistake an improved Redskins D-line for one of the better units in the league. While it’s tough to compare a 3-4 line to a 4-3 front, it still would be quite a leap for the Redskins to move from the bottom of the pack to the lower middle. Tomsula inherited a multi-year rebuild; one draft pick and a couple of free agents are not going to transform the line into a force. Bottom third

RELATED: 2017 OUTLOOK: WIDE RECEIVER

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Since I used his name in conjunction with that of Dave Butz above, that has to be Allen. He has both the physical ability and the mental makeup to be a very, very good one.

Most to prove: Nearly every player on the line has something to prove but only Phil Taylor has been out of football for the last two years. He has worked his way up from a brief retirement to a futures contract with the Redskins to a roster long shot to a probable starter. But he still only has 21 preseason snaps under his belt and he has a long way to go before he reestablishes himself as a legitimate NFL player.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: The only rookie with a realistic shot at making the roster is Allen. His Nick Saban-Alabama background has him well prepared to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a top draft pick and the expectations that come with playing in a place like Washington.

Bottom line: The best-case scenario here is that Taylor anchors the line in the middle, Allen’s learning curve is short, Lanier contributes six sacks in a nickel role, and the rest of the players make up a good rotation. Anything more would be a big bonus. Anything less would be back to being one of the worst defenses against the run.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Phil Taylor:

Well, I’ll tell you, I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose. He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain 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.

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Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

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Associated Press

Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

Let’s be clear here.

The Redskins’ loss of center Spencer Long for two weeks due to a knee injury is not a good development.

Long is going into his second year as the starter and he still has a lot to learn. Although he should be back for the games that count, he could have benefitted from the 30 or so snaps he would have taken against the Bengals in the team’s third preseason game this Sunday.

Also, the Redskins’ offensive line has struggled this preseason, especially when blocking for the run.

Another half with the full starting unit playing together would have helped them work on those problems. The third preseason game is supposed to be a dress rehearsal and it’s tough to have one of those if you don’t have all your lead actors.

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS PURSUE RETIRED JETS' CENTER?

However, in the NFL one’s player’s bad fortune can be an opportunity for another. Chase Roullier was a sixth-round pick of the Redskins. With Kory Lichtensteiger retired and John Sullivan departed to Rams, Roullier became the backup center by default. While many expected the Redskins to make a move for a veteran backup center, they have kept Roullier running with the second-team offense through OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the first two preseason games.

He was a bit shaky against the Ravens in the first preseason game but he was solid against the Packers on Saturday. It should be noted that Roullier will be facing the Bengals’ defensive starters on Saturday, not backups and players whose names will soon appear on the waiver wire as he was in the first two games.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

The competition that Roullier will face, however, is one of the upsides here. If the Redskins need their backup center during the season, their opponent is not going to pull its starter and line up a reserve player against him. He will be facing starters. The Redskins organization should have a pretty good idea of what they have in Roullier after a half against the Bengals’ front-line players.

Again, it would be better if Long was there for the line to work on its game. But the Redskins will have a chance to make the best of a bad situation by finding out if they are set at backup center or if they will need to pull the trigger on finding a veteran option.

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.