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Need to Know: What are the chances that Baker returns to the Redskins?

Need to Know: What are the chances that Baker returns to the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 15, 22 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 14
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 61
—NFL Draft (4/27) 71
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 207

Wednesday quick hitters

Defining “heat”: It appears that I upset some people yesterday with my tweet promoting the Need to Know post. I said that “The heat is on Scot McCloughan.” Some were wondering (rather angrily I might add) why a GM who helped the team get to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in nearly 20 years would have the heat on him. And the answer is that the heat always is on an NFL GM. If the franchise hasn’t even been to an NFC championship game in about 25 years there is heat on the GM to get the team there. If they just won a Super Bowl, there is heat on the general manager to do it again.

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Important work: Having the heat put on him and being under pressure does not mean that McCloughan is on the verge of behind fired. It means just what it says. Aren’t you under pressure in your job from time to time? Does it always mean that you are about to be fired? In most cases, it means that you have very important work to get done and you are on a deadline. That applies to McCloughan regarding free agency and the draft.

Baker’s return a coin toss: It appears that Chris Baker’s status is truly a 50-50 proposition. On the pro side of keeping him, he is a very solid defensive end on a team that desperately needs defensive linemen. Why let him go and have one more hole you need to fill? Also, he is settled in the area and he wants to stay. The other side of the coin is that he will command a three- or four-year deal worth $7-$8 million per year. They may be hesitant to offer that to a player who will be 30 a few games into the season. I’ll say he ends up staying but I say it with no confidence.

Pay the big man: After the Redskins sort out their free agents they need to get down to business with some contract extensions for eligible players. Morgan Moses should be first in line. He has done a solid job since taking over the right tackle spot, the second most important position on the O-line, during training camp in 2015. Last year he would have missed a game or two with a badly sprained ankle he suffered in London but since Trent Williams had gone out on a drug suspension right after he got injured, Moses pushed through it. He should get five years for between $6 and $7 million per year. 

More Redskins: Dysfunction at Redskins Park?

Quality QB’s on tap in ’17: There is a lot of talk about a shortage of quarterbacks in the NFL but don't tell the Redskins that. Of the 13 teams on their 2017 schedule only one, the 49ers, have genuine questions at the position for the coming season. The Broncos also are unsure who will start but they are not in full-scale blowup mode at the most important position on the field with Trevor Simeon and Paxton Lynch in the house. The rest of the QB’s on the slate range from competent (Alex Smith) to rising stars (Derek Carr, Dak Prescott twice, Carson Wentz twice) to established stars (Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers) to sure first-ballot Hall of Famers (Drew Brees). Injuries could change this situation but right now even though the Redskins need to upgrade their rushing defense it looks like they will have to bolster their pass defense as well.

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In case you missed 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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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.

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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.

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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.