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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

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Report: One more potential defensive coordinator is off the market for the Redskins

Report: One more potential defensive coordinator is off the market for the Redskins

Well it looks like the name many considered to be the Redskins top choice at defensive coordinator is off the market. Adam Schefter broke the news of Gus Bradley to the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Redskins interviewed Bradley early in their process of selecting a new defensive coordinator. His latest gig ended poorly after he was fired as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Bradley's best success came as defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks.

When he served in that role with Seattle, Bradley worked with Scot McCloughan. And prior to his coaching stint in Seattle, Bradley coached in Tampa, where he worked with both Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden.

Those connections, and his success in Seattle, had many fans hoping Bradley would take over for Joe Barry, who Washington dismissed more than two weeks ago.

The connection between Bradley and the Chargers comes as no surprise, and it leaves    Washington still in need of a defensive boss.

Mike Pettine probably jumps to the top of the ranks of other coaches the Redskins have interviewed, but it still seems internal candidate Greg Manusky could be in position to move up to coordinator. Manusky spent the 2016 season as outside linebackers coach and has prior coordinator experience.

The Skins have also interviewed Dennis Thurman, last of Buffalo, Jason Tarver, last of San Francisco, Rob Ryan, also last in Buffalo, and John Pagano, last with the Chargers.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Report: Kevin O’Connell to be hired as Redskins QB coach, possibly signaling future moves

Report: Kevin O’Connell to be hired as Redskins QB coach, possibly signaling future moves

The Redskins are reported to have a new quarterbacks coach. Normally that is not news that moves the needle much but if the report proves to be accurate the move has some big implications for the Redskins coaching staff. 

First, about the coach. Kevin O’Connell was most recently an offensive assistant with the 49ers. Prior to that he was a quarterback who spent time with the Patriots, who drafted him out of San Diego State in the third round in 2008, Lions, Jets, Dolphins, and Chargers. He only saw the field the Patriots and he attempted just six passes. His addition as the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach was reported by Fox Sports.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

The thing is, the Redskins don’t officially have an opening for a quarterbacks coach. The job is held by Matt Cavanaugh. However, the Redskins do need an offensive coordinator since Sean McVay left last week to become the head coach of the Rams. Moving Cavanaugh, who played quarterback in the NFL for 13 seasons before starting a 23-year career in coaching, to offensive coordinator, seems to be the logical move to make to many. 

If O’Connell’s addition to the staff does indeed become a reality, that would all but confirm that Cavanaugh is getting the promotion. Nothing is official until it’s official but this seems to be the way things are heading. 

Stay tuned to CSNmidatlantic.com for the latest. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.