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Need to Know: Redskins' draft prep hits crunch time

Need to Know: Redskins' draft prep hits crunch time

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 17, 11 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 98 days ago. It will be 148 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 1; 2016 NFL draft 11; Redskins training camp starts 102

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A few thoughts about the Redskins as they start up their offseason workouts and get into crunch time with their draft preparations.

—The Redskins hosted Eastern Kentucky edge defender Noah Spence last week. He plays a position that isn’t believed to be a huge area of need as they have pretty good players there in Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Junior Galette. But Galette is only under contract through next year and if he has a good year he could command a substantial contract. Scot McCloughan might like to have the option to let him walk if the contract demands get out of hand. Drafting someone like Spence could give him that option.

—According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have $11.7 million in cap space remaining. The will need some of that to sign their draft picks but only a net of about $3 million (post coming with details in the next week or so). It seems inevitable that they will release Andre Roberts and perhaps Adam Hayward at some point, which would clear up nearly $3 million so that pays for their draft picks. They will want to go into the season with about $5 million in space to cover players on injured reserve and the practice squad. In short, they are in good shape and should have $5 million or so million to roll over to next year unless they sign Jordan Reed to a contract extension.

—I didn’t mention Perry Riley as a possible cap cut although there has been plenty of talk that the team would rather have the extra $4 million in cap space than his services for 2016. But now they appear to be leaning towards keeping him to maintain depth at the position. Last year they were fortunate to be able to find Mason Foster on the street and that Will Compton was ready to step up from being a backup to starting when Riley and Keenan Robinson were injured. Right now the thinking appears to be that they would rather have Riley around than rely on Martrell Spaight and Terence Garvin to provide backup. But Riley shouldn’t feel totally secure; the draft could provide a younger and cheaper backup and they could decide to let Riley walk.

—Last year the Redskins started with 7 draft picks and by the time McCloughan and Bruce Allen were done dealing they had 10 plus one in this year’s draft. The trade that triggered the dealing was the one they pulled off with the Seahawks, sending their 3rd-round pick, which was No. 69 overall, to Seattle for their third-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks, which were all late in those rounds. It will be more difficult to pull off a similar trade this year since the Redskins are picking about 15 spots further back in each round. In short, their third-round pick this year isn’t as valuable as their third rounder was last year so they won’t get as much in return for trading back with it. If McCloughan wants to stockpile picks he may need to trade back earlier, starting in the second round or perhaps the first.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

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