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Need to Know: What should we expect from Joe Barry's Redskins defense?

Need to Know: What should we expect from Joe Barry's Redskins defense?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 25, 36 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

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.

Today’s question is from Twitter:

We are not really sure what a defense headed up by Joe Barry will look like since we don’t have much history to go on. For the past four seasons he has been the linebackers coach in San Diego and the defense was under the direction John Pagano and, before that, Greg Manusky.

His only stint as a coordinator came in 2007-2008 when he was with the Lions. It’s unlikely that Barry will take much away from those units, considering that they ranked dead last in the NFL both years. In addition, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli came from the defensive side of the ball and he certainly had a heavy hand in running the defense.

We have learned a few things about what the defense going to look like despite the fact that it’s best for Barry and Jay Gruden to keep things under wraps for as long as possible. It will be a 3-4 base but it seems that they will go with a lot of four-man and other fronts, especially in nickel situations. This is something that many 3-4 defenses do to try to get their pass rushers in the best matchups.

The other change that seems to be coming to the Redskins defense is more use of a one-gap attack. They have been using a lot of two-gap, which means that each defensive lineman is responsible for the gap on either side of the offensive lineman in front of him. The idea is that the linemen tie up the blockers and the linebackers make the plays.

In a one gap, the lineman is only responsible for the hole on one side of the blocker. That gives the linebackers gap responsibility as well. The one gap is a more aggressive scheme than what the Redskins have been playing. That sounds better but, as with any defensive scheme, it comes down to proper execution.

Beyond the X's and O's, Barry will display a fiery personality. “Everybody loves the guy,” said Chargers coach Mike McCoy, Barry's former boss in San Diego. “He really cares about you as a person, not just as a player. If you ask anybody on the defensive side of the ball, or even some of the guys he was close with on the offensive side, he’s a great guy. Very positive. A good motivator.”

That’s about all we know. Press or off-man? Zone coverage or man-to-man? Heavy on blitzing or reliant on four-man rush? We just don’t know yet and given that the coaches have absolutely nothing to gain by telling us or showing us a whole lot in training camp or in the preseason, we probably won’t really find out until Week 1 of the regular season.

Timeline

—It’s been 87 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 172 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 26; 2015 NFL Draft 36; Redskins training camp starts 127

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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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.”

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. 

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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. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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