Quick Links

Need to Know: McCloughan continuing Redskins' emphasis on player development

Need to Know: McCloughan continuing Redskins' emphasis on player development

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 8, 10 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

(Note: I’m only going to address the first question here.)

I have read in some places that the draft really is, for the most part, a crap shoot. Teams like the Packers, Seahawks, and Patriots don’t necessarily draft better than other teams, they develop the players they draft better than other teams. There was evidence presented back and forth and the conclusion was that drafting good players isn’t all luck but you can make your own good fortune by developing the players you draft.

In terms of what they said and, to an extent, what they did, the Redskins started to focus on players they could develop when Bruce Allen took over the draft last year.

“What we’re looking for is people who love football and want to play football and want to win with the Washington Redskins,” Allen said at the Redskins’ pre-draft news conference. “Whether it was in free agency or this draft, we’ve done a very good job, we feel, of digging into the heart and soul of the prospects. In free agency we feel good about it, and we’re hoping to add to this team through the draft with some other very hungry football players.”

Scott Campbell went into more detail.

“In terms of trying to find players that are good developmental-type prospects, it’s something Bruce had mentioned before, what he was looking for in a football player – trying to find people that football is very important to them,” said the team’s director of player personnel. “You get that information through research, when you go through the campuses talking to the coaches, the trainers, the strength coaches. You find out what a guy’s work ethic is and how important football is to him. I think if you’ve got those two qualities, you’ve got an excellent chance to be developed. As opposed to a guy that doesn’t love the weight room, is late, doesn’t work, is overweight, never in shape when the season starts – those are flags to you on how important football is to that player.”

They mostly practiced what they preached in the draft. Trent Murphy was regularly one of the first players out on the practice field from training camp on. Bashaud Breeland spent so much time in the film room they sent him an Oscars ballot. Ryan Grant was still working hard late in the season despite the Redskins being long eliminated from the playoffs and the fact that he was getting very limited playing time.

Scot McCloughan, the man who will be running the draft room this time around, alluded to development a few times during his introductory presser last month.

“You know, same thing I’ve already mentioned a couple times, just the passion for the game, the passion to get better, to do the extra,” he said when asked about how some players succeed and some don’t. “There’s a lot of tremendous athletes out there in college football, some of them that are so tremendous that they don’t make it. Well, how come? And I’m lucky enough to be in this business long enough to realize, ‘Well, this is this and this,’ and others ones that weren’t as talented who are still playing after 10-plus years. It’s intelligence, it’s toughness, it’s competitiveness and it’s just the fact to understand this is what I do for a living, I want to be the best.”

So the first step here is getting players who are willing to do what it takes to be developed. It’s a stretch to say that any coach can develop a player who has the desire. But the Redskins players who work hard get the most out of their abilities have been able to do so despite dealing with what some perceive as inferior coaching. Others, perhaps more talented, have not.

It’s good that the Redskins do have an eye towards development. The players they draft won’t necessarily be the best players as rookies. But the hope is that in two years, five years, 10 years, they are still playing while others drafted ahead of them are gone.

The development problem has been recognized and they are consciously trying to do something about it. How it works out remains to be seen.

Timeline

—It’s been 42 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 219 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 30; Redskins offseason workouts start 71; 2015 NFL Draft 82

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Like Real Redskins on Facebook!

Follow Real Redskins on Instagram @RichTandler

In case you missed it

Quick Links

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.

Quick Links

Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 18, 99 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 43
NFL free agency starts 51
First Sunday of 2017 season 236

The coordinator search and more

Did the Redskins underachieve this year? I know that a metric like Football Outsiders' DVOA is not the final word in the quality of a team but looking at it year after year it usually does work out that the teams with the better numbers in DVOA usually win more games than those with worse numbers. The Redskins finished 2016 eighth in DVOA. Considering that 12 teams make the playoffs, that could be considered a playoff quality team. Yet 15 teams finished with a better record than they did. I’m sure there are some holes in the formula for the stat but just looking at that it sure appears that the Redskins did leave some wins out on the field.

John Keim is reporting that the Redskins are prepared to switch to a 4-3 defense if that is what their new defensive coordinator prefers. They have been in the 3-4 since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. Whether it is because of the scheme or lack of draft and free agent resources spent on the line and at safety, the defense hasn’t been very good. As Keim notes, they will need to make some personnel changes if they do change but with a full load of draft picks and $62 million in cap space this may be the time to do it.

I expected the angst that was all over Twitter when word of the Rob Ryan interview got out. But it’s pretty dumb to get all worked up over an interview (with all due respect to readers here who may have been upset). It’s not a hiring. Look, somehow or another Ryan managed to stay employed as an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 straight seasons. I don’t know how to research it without going through some very time consuming and tedious steps but I’d be willing to bet that only about a few dozen men in the history of the league have been able to remain a defensive coordinator for that many season in a row. The organization can learn something from sitting down and talking to him for a few hours.

I understand that we want things to talk about in a relatively slow time. But I just don’t see why there is fear out there over the possibility that Kyle Shanahan will get hired as the coach of the 49ers and somehow steal Kirk Cousins away to be his quarterback. The Redskins can maintain his rights via the franchise tag. They could tag Cousins and trade him to the 49ers but there would be a heavy price in terms of draft picks. But while it’s possible, it’s unlikely. The chances are very, very good that Cousins will be in a Redskins uniform this year via either the tag or a long-term deal. 

Tandler on Twitter

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 www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.