Quick Links

Need to Know: Five backups who could start games for the Redskins in 2016

ricky-jean-francois-vs-bears-usat.png

Need to Know: Five backups who could start games for the Redskins in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 14, 44 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

Today at Redskins Park: Minicamp practice 11:30; Defensive assistant coaches available coming off of the field, approx. 1:30; Jay Gruden news conference (streamed live on CSNmidatlantic.com) approx. 2:00

—The Redskins last played a game 156 days ago. It will be 90 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 44; Preseason opener @ Falcons 58; Final roster cut 81

Five backups who could start games in 2016

In the NFL, every player on the roster is one or two plays away from becoming a starter. However, some are more likely to get a chance at starting than others. Here are five players who are down the depth chart now who have good chances to get some starts in 2017.

C Austin Reiter—I’m starting off with something of a long shot here. But I keep thinking about Jay Gruden lamenting the lack of a true center to replace Kory Lichtensteiger when he was injured. The only backup center who is not a converted guard is Reiter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reiter go in if Steiger has injury problems again.

RB Chris Thompson—Although the Redskins may bring in another running back between now and training camp, as of right now Thompson is the No. 2 back behind Matt Jones. And the smart money is on Jones being unable to go for 16 games and that would mean starts for Thompson. If they do get another back we can revisit this.

DE Ricky Jean Francois—I mentioned this a few days ago. I don’t think that it would take an injury for this to happen; he could flat out earn the job. And even if he’s not in on the first snap there will be some games where he plays more snaps than any other DE except perhaps Chris Baker.

DE Matt Ioannidis—The team had defensive line listed as its top draft need but due to the way the board fell they only took Ioannidis in the fifth round. I think they want him to play nose tackle in their base defense and as soon as he’s ready, which could be in September or maybe November, he could get his chance.

CB Quinton Dunbar—What are the chances of all of the top three cornerbacks staying healthy for 16 games? The Redskins hope they can stay healthier at the position this year than they did in 2015 but some dings here and there are inevitable. If some happen, Dunbar is set up to be the guy who steps in.

In case you missed it 

Quick Links

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

Quick Links

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!