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Need to Know: Three dark horse draft picks for the Redskins at No. 5

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Need to Know: Three dark horse draft picks for the Redskins at No. 5

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 23, 15 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

Question of the day

I’m back from the combine but I’m still going to post the question of the day for a few more days before throwing it back out to the readers. Sticking with the draft questions: 

Who are the dark horses for the Redskins top pick?

Yesterday I wrote about the three players I think are most likely to be the Redskins’ pick if they keep the fifth pick in the draft. They were, in ascending order of likelihood, DL Danny Shelton of Washington, WR Kevin White of West Virginia, and edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida.

That certainly isn’t the definitive list; we still have over two months until draft day and plenty can happen as the Redskins and the other 21 teams refine their draft boards. Here are three more who seem to be less likely right now but who could jump into the picture between now and April 30

DL Leonard Williams, USC—This pick is unlikely because he probably won’t be there when the Redskins pick. But let’s say that the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, go 1-2 with the Bucs taking one and Titans the other or trading the pick to a team that takes the other. The Jaguars want an edge rusher and take Fowler, the local guy. And the Raiders want a weapon for Derek Carr so they take White. The Redskins gladly take Williams, the athletic, disruptive defensive end. Again, not a likely scenario but it’s hard to rule anything out in the draft over two months in advance.

Edge rusher Shane Ray, Missouri—If Fowler is gone, the Redskins could look to Ray to add to their anemic pass rush. At 6-3, 245 he isn’t quite as big as you’d like a 3-4 outside linebacker to be and we know that Scot McCloughan likes big players. But he has an incredibly quick first step and if he can add 10 or 15 pounds over the next couple of years without losing that quickness he could make life miserable for Redskins opponents.

S Landon Collins, Alabama—I go back and forth on Collins as a possibility at No. 5. Right now he is an in the box safety who likely would play more like a linebacker in nickel situations. A player like that may not have enough value to warrant such a high pick. And at 6-0, 228 he isn’t the Kam Chancellor-sized safety that McCloughan might prefer. But if McCloughan believes that Collins can be taught to be better in coverage, if he is a player who will stay late in the film room learning his craft, the Redskins dire need at the position (need is part of the grade that determines “best available player”), he could pull the trigger on him.

Timeline

—It’s been 57 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 202 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 15; Redskins offseason workouts start 56; 2015 NFL Draft 66

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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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor
Other roster locks: Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier
On the bubble: Matt Ioannidis, A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu

How the defensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: The addition of Allen is a boost but the losses of Chris Baker (free agent) and Ricky Jean Francois (released) can’t be overlooked. Second-year players Lanier and Ioannidis should improve and Hood will be a rotational player instead of a starter, a role better suited to his ability. Andi new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will get the most out of them. The key to improvement will be McClain and McGee. If the two free agents live up to their contracts the line should be better than it was last year. If not, they will struggle again. Slightly better

To the rest of the NFL: But let’s not mistake an improved Redskins D-line for one of the better units in the league. While it’s tough to compare a 3-4 line to a 4-3 front, it still would be quite a leap for the Redskins to move from the bottom of the pack to the lower middle. Tomsula inherited a multi-year rebuild; one draft pick and a couple of free agents are not going to transform the line into a force. Bottom third

RELATED: 2017 OUTLOOK: WIDE RECEIVER

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Since I used his name in conjunction with that of Dave Butz above, that has to be Allen. He has both the physical ability and the mental makeup to be a very, very good one.

Most to prove: Nearly every player on the line has something to prove but only Phil Taylor has been out of football for the last two years. He has worked his way up from a brief retirement to a futures contract with the Redskins to a roster long shot to a probable starter. But he still only has 21 preseason snaps under his belt and he has a long way to go before he reestablishes himself as a legitimate NFL player.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: The only rookie with a realistic shot at making the roster is Allen. His Nick Saban-Alabama background has him well prepared to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a top draft pick and the expectations that come with playing in a place like Washington.

Bottom line: The best-case scenario here is that Taylor anchors the line in the middle, Allen’s learning curve is short, Lanier contributes six sacks in a nickel role, and the rest of the players make up a good rotation. Anything more would be a big bonus. Anything less would be back to being one of the worst defenses against the run.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Phil Taylor:

Well, I’ll tell you, I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose. He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain it.

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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Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

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Associated Press

Long's injury gives Redskins' backup center Roullier an opportunity

Let’s be clear here.

The Redskins’ loss of center Spencer Long for two weeks due to a knee injury is not a good development.

Long is going into his second year as the starter and he still has a lot to learn. Although he should be back for the games that count, he could have benefitted from the 30 or so snaps he would have taken against the Bengals in the team’s third preseason game this Sunday.

Also, the Redskins’ offensive line has struggled this preseason, especially when blocking for the run.

Another half with the full starting unit playing together would have helped them work on those problems. The third preseason game is supposed to be a dress rehearsal and it’s tough to have one of those if you don’t have all your lead actors.

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS PURSUE RETIRED JETS' CENTER?

However, in the NFL one’s player’s bad fortune can be an opportunity for another. Chase Roullier was a sixth-round pick of the Redskins. With Kory Lichtensteiger retired and John Sullivan departed to Rams, Roullier became the backup center by default. While many expected the Redskins to make a move for a veteran backup center, they have kept Roullier running with the second-team offense through OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the first two preseason games.

He was a bit shaky against the Ravens in the first preseason game but he was solid against the Packers on Saturday. It should be noted that Roullier will be facing the Bengals’ defensive starters on Saturday, not backups and players whose names will soon appear on the waiver wire as he was in the first two games.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

The competition that Roullier will face, however, is one of the upsides here. If the Redskins need their backup center during the season, their opponent is not going to pull its starter and line up a reserve player against him. He will be facing starters. The Redskins organization should have a pretty good idea of what they have in Roullier after a half against the Bengals’ front-line players.

Again, it would be better if Long was there for the line to work on its game. But the Redskins will have a chance to make the best of a bad situation by finding out if they are set at backup center or if they will need to pull the trigger on finding a veteran option.

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.