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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.

https://twitter.com/habimaki88/status/563354927167442945

(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.

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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 63 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Malik McDowell
Defensive line
Michigan State

Height: 6-6
Weight: 276
40-yard dash: TBD

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Slippery and long. Combination of arm length and flexible torso allow him to slither into gaps and create disruptions for blockers. Freaky combination of size and athleticism. Can overwhelm blockers with pure strength and explosiveness when his feet are right. Strong enough in lower half to play through contact and cause stress in the pocket. Has tremendous amount of untapped potential waiting to be unlocked.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: If you’re reading this, you know that the 2016 Redskins’ defensive line was manned by one pretty good player in Chris Baker and a cast of journeymen and youngsters with some potential but little immediate production. They need to add at least one top-flight D-lineman in the draft and McDowell could be the guy.

If you are spending a top draft pick on a D-lineman you want one who can be an asset against the run and be able to rush the passer. McDowell’s profile fits that job description. He could defend the run as an end in the base 3-4 defense and kick inside to provide pass rush up the middle in nickel situations.

McDowell is generally rated behind Jonathan Allen of Alabama and Caleb Brantley of Florida among interior defensive line prospects. Allen and Brantley are likely to be gone by the time the Redskins pick at No. 17 but McDowell should be there as an option.

MORE REDSKINS: Will Chris Baker be back in 2017?

Potential issues: His production was inconsistent and his technique needs a lot of work. The fact of the matter is, I can probably copy and paste that sentence into the write up of virtually any defensive lineman in the draft. The college linemen who are NFL prospects are generally just bigger and stronger than the players trying to block him.

A look of some plays in the Spartans’ game against Notre Dame shows McDowell’s inconsistency. At times, he can’t disengage from a single blocker and a few plays later he was able skirt around three blockers and make a tackle for a loss. He also was good at getting push upfield when he rushed the passer but too often the pressure was not in the direction of the quarterback.

McDowell also had some issues with major penalties. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag in the Notre Dame game, although the film didn’t show what he did to earn it. Later in the year he was tossed from a game against Indiana, a game his team lost in overtime. Since the ejection came in the second half, he had to sit out the first half of Michigan State’s next game.  

Bottom line: Interviews with his coaches, MSU weight room staff, etc., will be keys in the evaluation of McDowell. If the Redskins try to teach him the proper fundamentals of line play will he absorb it? Will consistency come with maturity (he will be 20 on draft day)?

It seems like a good fit as if McDowell is believed to be coachable he may be the best player available at No. 17 and even if the Redskins manage to retain Chris Baker and sign another veteran or two the position will need an infusion of youth. We will see if it works out

Previously in Redskins draft countdown: