Quick Links

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan to improve the defense?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan to improve the defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 27, 3 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Question of the day

A few days a week 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.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today's question is from Twitter, from a Redskins fan you may have heard of:

(Thanks to Dale for taking a minute to kick in a question for Need to Know about an hour before taking the track at The Brickyard.)

There have been more changes to the defense this year than any in recent memory. There will be at least five starters who are new to the team in NT Terrance Knighton, DE Stephen Paea, CB Chris Culliver, FS Dashon Goldson, and SS Jeron Johnson. There could be a sixth if Preston Smith can earn the starting role over Trent Murphy.

In addition, the coaches are almost all new. Kirk Olivadotti remains with the linebackers but Joe Barry is the new coordinator, Perry Fewell will coach the secondary and Robb Akey takes over the defensive line.

The changes were needed. We don’t need to rehash the numbers here again as we have been all offseason (108.3 opponent passer rating, 27.7 points/game, etc.). I think we can all agree the defense was bad.

Back to Dale’s question, will the defense be better this year? I think we’ve all learned over the years that different doesn’t necessarily mean better. Year after year, new players and coaches bring hope in the spring and summer but more of the same futility in the fall and winter.

On paper, the plan is to get an improved pass rush (t-21st in NFL) from the line. Outside of Jason Hatcher’s 5.5 sacks last year, the line kicked in just five. They are looking for more out of a (for now) healthy Hatcher, Knighton should be able to get some push up the middle when he’s in there and Paea had six sacks for the Bears last year. And if the line gets better pass rush that should leave spaces for Ryan Kerrigan, Murphy, and Smith to exploit.

It looks like the lion’s share of any improvement in pass defense will have to come from the pass rush. Culliver is a solid upgrade but the rest of the secondary remains suspect.

Knighton will be the huge, active run-stuffing body in the middle that the Redskins have been missing since switching to the 3-4 in 2010. His presence and an attacking one-gap system are set to be the solutions to stopping the run. In terms of raw yardage, Washington was a respectable 12th in the NFL in rushing defense but opponents did not run on them much because the weak pass defense was so inviting.

That’s how the Redskins would like to see it play out. Will it work? Maybe, but see the part above about change not always being for the better.

The challenge for Joe Barry and company will be to get the unit to gel in time for Week 1. The linebackers are the only unit returning intact (or three-quarters of it at least, pending Smith vs. Murphy). The sooner they are communicating and coordinating their stunts and other schemes, the better.

Having all of this come together by Sept. 13 is a big ask. While I think that the new players and coaches represent an upgrade, the improvement may not be immediate.

Timeline

—It’s been 211 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 48 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 3; Preseason opener @ Browns 17; final cuts 40

Quick Links

What's cuter than the way Kirk Cousins found out his baby's gender? Nothing

What's cuter than the way Kirk Cousins found out his baby's gender? Nothing

What's the cutest thing you've ever seen in your whole, entire life? Whatever that thing is, be prepared for it to slide down to the second spot, because what you're about to see is absolutely going to move up to No. 1 (and then stay there forever).

Two weeks ago, Kirk Cousins and his wife, Julie, announced that they were expecting. That announcement, which was posted on Julie's Instagram, was really adorable in its own right — Mrs. Cousins shared a photo of the couple's dog, Bentley, who was wearing a sign that read, "Mom & Dad are getting me a human!"

On Friday, though, Kirk put up a video on his Instagram that revealed their future child's gender. What else did that video do, you ask? Well, it only made every future gender reveal irrelevant, since none will ever top what the Cousinses did.

MORE REDSKINS: VERNON DAVIS "CAN'T FATHOM" NFL'S CELEBRATION RULES

Gender Reveal! Had to stand close so it wouldn't get intercepted... and still almost missed ha! IT'S A...

A post shared by Kirk Cousins (@kirk.cousins) on

OMG. O. M. G. OMG.

The regular season may be months away, but with that toss, Kirk Cousins is already 1-for-1 (yes, the pass was low, but a completion is a completion) with a perfect quarterback rating.

Quick Links

Vernon Davis 'just can't fathom' the NFL's very strict celebration rules

Vernon Davis 'just can't fathom' the NFL's very strict celebration rules

As he proudly demonstrated in a 27-20 win against the Eagles last October, Vernon Davis has a silky jumpshot. Unfortunately, in today's NFL, celebrating by shooting a football like Davis did in the end zone that fall Sunday is prohibited.

The tight end, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and eventually fined more than $12,000 for the move, didn't really get the point of the rule then, and he still doesn't understand it now. And as he told Kalyn Kahler of MMQB, he think it's time for the league to back off their strict stance on celebrations.

"I would just tell guys that when it comes to celebrations, anything is allowed, as long as it isn’t inappropriate," Davis said when asked how he'd change the celebration rules. "Anything that we know is wrong, we shouldn’t do. I think that is the key."

RELATED: THIS REDSKINS RULE PROPOSAL WOULD MAKE KICKOFFS MORE FUN

In Davis' case, he was penalized because of an odd technicality. The NFL doesn't want players using the ball as a prop — which No. 85 did on his jumper — but yet, they allow guys to spike and spin the ball without retribution. That gray area doesn't sit well with him.

"It doesn’t make sense to me at all," he said. "It should be really simple, we should know that we can’t use the ball as a prop for anything. So for them to allow spiking and not allow shooting, I just can’t fathom that."

The 33-year-old hopes that change is near, and he may get it, too, as the competition committee will reevaluate what is and isn't allowed at the upcoming league meetings. But if he and everyone else clamoring for less restrictions are rebuffed, Davis does have a workaround so that when he scores next, he won't get in trouble. 

"I shoot the shot, but without the ball," Davis said. "That’s my go-to now. As long as I don’t have the ball, I’m safe."

MORE REDSKINS: THE TEAM'S RECEIVING CORPS TOWERS OVER PAST GROUPS