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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Bears

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Bears

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, October 16, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field.

Nickel coverage

Five things you need to know about the Chicago Bears:

1. The Bears decided not to bring back longtime star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher this spring and they made D. J. Williams the starter in his place. Now Williams is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the Bears’ last game last Thursday night. Rookie Jon Bostic finished up that game and is now the starter. He’s a second-round pick out of Florida so he practiced against Redskins tight end Jordan Reed. Those two should cross paths at least a few times on Sunday.

2. Defensive end Julius Peppers carries a $14.83 million dollar salary cap hit this year, the highest on the team. The return on the Bears’ investment has been one sack and five tackles this year. To be fair, the Bears have been racked by injuries and Peppers is the only one of the four projected starters who playing in his original spot. Still, at age 33 you can’t help but think that time has caught up with the 33-year-old Peppers.

3. This week brings Round 2 of Jay Cutler against the coach who traded up in the 2006 draft in hopes of making him his team’s franchise quarterback. Of course, both Cutler and Mike Shanahan have since left the Broncos. The last meeting was in 2010 and Cutler threw four interceptions, all of them to DeAngelo Hall. The much-maligned 30-year-old signal caller is having a career year so far. He’s on pace to have his most passing yards ever, most touchdowns, and best passer rating and his interception percentage is near his career low for a season. Mark Trestman, his new head coach, appears to have done wonders for Cutler’s career, at least in the first six games.

4. Cutler has four prime pass-catching targets so the Redskins’ coverage will really have to be on point. The leading receiver is another former Shanahan draft picks, Brandon Marshall, who has 40 catches for 465 yards and five touchdowns. But the Redskins can’t focus on him and sleep on wide receiver Alshon Jeffry (29/456/2), tight end Martellus Bennett (31/349/3), or running back Matt Forte (33/244/0).

5. After giving up two long returns to Dwayne Harris last week the Redskins now have the task of trying to stop Devin Hester, one of the best kick returners ever. At age 31 he’s not having a stellar year, with no touchdowns scored. But he is averaging 30.3 years per kickoff return with a long of 80. The Redskins will have to hope that Kai Forbath is able to pound the ball high in the air and deep in the end zone on Sunday.

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Stat of the day

—The Bears are tied for second in the NFL with 17 takeaways (9 interceptions, 8 fumble recoveries). The Redskins have eight takeaways (3 INT, 5 fumbles) 23rd in the league.

Timeline

—Days until: Bears @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Broncos 11; Chargers @ Redskins 18

—Today’s schedule: Player availability 11:15; Practice 1:00 (open to media for first 30 minutes); Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III news conferences after practice (approx. 3:00), available streaming on CSNwashington.com.                                           

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.