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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—rebuilding the defense

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—rebuilding the defense

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 13, 11 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

The Redskins week that was

A look at five of the most popular posts of the week here at Real Redskins and at CSNmidatlantic.com:

Why haven't the Redskins released RG3? —Some have complained that this post was unnecessary but when I get a question asked over and over again in the comments and on social media, I figure it’s best to write a post to flesh it out and send people to that. Over 100,000 people have read it so obviously there are plenty of people still wondering and/or interested in the topic.

Despite 2015 success, Vegas not high on 2016 Redskins—Those of you who like it when the Redskins are underdogs and under the radar should be happy this offseason. The Super Bowl odds discussed in this post come from Bovada.lv and they have the Redskins with worse odds than every other team in the NFC East. I think that a healthy Romo (not a sure thing for 16 games) will help Dallas but I find it hard to see the Eagles and Giants, both with rookie head coaches among other issues, as favorites over a fairly stable Redskins team.

Who has the best chance of being the Redskins' first pick?—Interest in the draft is high even though we are still almost two weeks away from the NFL Combine, which is more than two months before the draft. I can see the Redskins going to just about any position in the first round with the exception of quarterback, tight end, and offensive tackle. There would have to be a real steal at some positions like outside linebacker but it’s possible.

Jarrett: 'He's a mature guy for a rookie'—Kyshoen Jarrett was one of the most pleasant draft surprises in years. He was expected to play some special teams and fill in at safety here and there. But he became a Swiss Army knife, playing 616 snaps nickel corner, corner, and safety. If you can find one or two of those a year is the difference between good drafts and excellent drafts.

Will McCloughan try to build the Redskins' defense through free agency?—I got an interesting question from a reader on Scot McCloughan’s plans for free agency. Last year he tried to build up the defense through some signings and they experienced mixed results. Will he give it another go and bring in veterans to bolster a defense that ranked 28th in yards allowed and in the bottom third in many other statistical categories? Or will he want to add some draft picks to the mix and have Joe Barry and company focus on developing them and some of the young talent already on the roster? A mix of both is likely but I suspect it will be more of the latter than the former.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 34 days ago. It will be about 211 days until they play another one.

—About 166 days until fullbacks and safeties report to Richmond.

Days until: NFL Combine 11; NFL free agency starts 25; 2016 NFL draft 75

In case you missed it

 

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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.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

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. 

More Redskins: When the talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags before

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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. 

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