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Need to Know: DT Billings, WR Thomas to Redskins in latest mock draft

Need to Know: DT Billings, WR Thomas to Redskins in latest mock draft

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 25, 34 days before the NFL Draft.

I’m changing around the Need to Know format a bit. There may be some more tweaks in the coming days and weeks; your comments are welcome.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 75 days ago. It will be about 170 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 24; 2016 NFL draft 34; Redskins training camp starts 125

Hot topic

Todd McShay of ESPN has a new mock draft out (here's the link but it's behind a paywall) and many Redskins fans would be pretty happy if the top of the actual draft, which starts five weeks from yesterday, turned out like McShay predicts.

In the first round McShay has the Redskins going with Baylor defensive lineman Andrew Billings. He could fill the hole at nose tackle and play end as well. He is a load at 6-1, 311 and, as you can see in the GIF in my article on Billings, he plays hard.

In the second round McShay sends Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas to Washington. I’d like to congratulate someone in the national media for recognizing the Redskins’ need to draft a WR, with both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson turning 30 later this year and both entering the final years of their contracts. And who is going to complain about the team finally landing a big (6-3) wide receiver?

It seems that Billings will be there when the Redskins pick at No. 21. Thomas could be gone by early in the second round but you never know how things will unfold.

Fan question of the day

It’s true that Scot McCloughan wants to get more picks in the draft but it’s not necessarily because he sees a lot of defensive talent that he can stockpile. His philosophy is like that of many GMs—the more picks he has the better chance he has of hitting on them.

If you want to hit on, say, six solid players in a draft you probably aren’t going to do it with seven draft picks. You need, as McCloughan said earlier this week, more “swings”. Not all of your picks are going to succeed so if you want to build through the draft, having more picks increases the chances you will be able to do so.

This draft is strong on the defensive line but it’s just OK elsewhere on defense. There aren’t many strong edge rushers and, as seems to be the case frequently, safety is also weak.

So McCloughan’s desire for more draft picks is not about rebuilding the defense so much as it is a general team building philosophy at this phase of the team's development.

(Hit me up on Twitter with #NTK @Rich_TandlerCSN or here in the comments to submit a question)

Stat of the day

Jamison Crowder set the Redskins rookie record last year with 59 pass receptions. The most receptions for a Redskins player in his first year in the NFL was 72 by Gary Clark in 1985. Clark had played in the USFL prior to coming to the Redskins so he was not a rookie by the NFL definition.

In case you missed it

 

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Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

An Achilles injury robbed Josh Doctson of the bulk of his rookie season with the Redskins. After a strenuous offseason spent rehabbing and a clean bill of health, Doctson is ready to fight back.

"It feels good to be back out here with them and to be playing football again," Doctson said Wednesday at Redskins OTAs (full video above). "It's what I’ve been doing for a long time, it's why I’m here. I'm good at what I do."

Sure it's May and there was no contact, but Doctson showed how good he can look on Wednesday. He caught a number of balls throughout the two hour session and looked smooth in his routes. The second-year pro from TCU makes cuts while maintaining speed and balance, and the skills allowed him to get open a number of times to haul in passes using soft hands.

"Right now, so far, so good," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I like the way he looks, like the way he runs and love the way he catches."

Late in the OTA session, Colt McCoy found Doctson for a deep touchdown. While the sidelines erupted, Doctson just calmly jogged back to the line of scrimmage and talked with coaches. 

Doctson explained that to "show my teammates, coaches and myself again that I can play with these guys, play at this level, it feels real good."

The Redskins will need the 6-foot-2, 202 lbs. Doctson this fall. With the exit of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards left the Washington offense. Free agent addition Terrelle Pryor will be expected to pick up a large chunk of that yardage, but Doctson will need to offset that loss as well.

"He’s been impressive. I think the big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles and I think he’s got that right now. I saw him out there today and yesterday, the last two days he’s looked better and better. It looks like he can run down the field," Gruden said.

Doctson described the pain in his Achilles as "pretty much non-existent now."

Never a good place to look for nuanced analysis, last season some social media speculation suggested Doctson was homesick dealing with his injury. That theory seems foolish, as the receiver spent the entire offseason in Ashburn, working out and rehabbing.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling healthy," he said. "I got after it every day. It’s a tribute to my hard work why I'm feeling so feeling healthy."

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Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

On Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that even though there have been a lot of changes to his team’s defense, there would be no grace period for them to gel and start playing effectively.

“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” said Gruden. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.

“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C. We have to be good now.”

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The defense had plenty of issues last year. They were 19th in points allowed but 28th in yards and 20th in opponents’ passer rating. The unit saved its worst for the most critical situations, finishing 26th in red zone defense and dead last in third-down conversion rate.   

The organization responded by promoting Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator, hiring the well-regarded Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line, and by bringing in some more talent. Their top two draft picks, DE Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson, should contribute to the defense right away. D.J. Swearinger was signed as a free agent to man the free safety spot while Su’a Cravens moves from linebacker to play strong safety. Free agents Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should bolster the defensive line along with Allen.

Cornerback Josh Norman likes the changes and is confident that the team will do better.

“We will be [good]. Fixed points, will be,” he said. “We’ve got guys that’s capable of being that, of doing that. They will do that and we will be better. We’re definitely not going to have the product that we had last year, that’s for sure.

“We’ve got . . . edge rushers out here that’s pretty darn good. We got some guys in the draft that’s going to help us out. In the secondary as well, we brought guys in that’s going to fill that void for us.”

MORE REDSKINS: OTA practice observations 

In addition to drafting Anderson, the Redskins hope to have OLB Junior Galette healthy and contributing to the pass rush this year. He has missed the last two seasons after two Achilles injuries. The last two seasons that Galette played he had double-digit sacks each year and he was out participating in team drills yesterday, a good sign that he is on the road to good health.

“We’re going to be a whole lot better than we was last year,” said Norman. “The stuff they have us going, the scheme we’re going to be playing in is going to fit to what suits us, what we’re most capable of doing. I think it’s going to be a lot different result, the product on the field.”

A better defensive product on the field will almost certainly lead to a better overall Washington Redskins team. They will need to be better to keep up with what looks to be an improved and very competitive NFC East.

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.