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Need to Know: What will Ziggy Hood's role with the Redskins be?

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Need to Know: What will Ziggy Hood's role with the Redskins be?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 3, 21 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

What role will Ziggy Hood play on the Redskins’ defense?

The Redskins signed DE Ziggy Hood, a 2009 first-round draft pick of the Steelers, to a one-year contract. What role will Hood, who will turn 29 later this month and has played in 98 NFL games with 46 starts, play on the Redskins’ defensive line.

On the base level, Hood provides the line with another body. They could lose as many as four defensive linemen from last year’s 53-man roster. NT Terrance Knighton is a free agent and the buzz that he may not be re-signed is growing louder. Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston well on the far side of 30 and the Redskins may look to go younger and, in Hatcher’s case, cheaper. Frank Kearse is under contract but the team could look to upgrade his spot.

Hood was signed now because he was available, eligible to sign with a team because he wasn’t on a team’s roster when the season ended. His acquisition is only the beginning of the Redskins’ defensive line rebuilding project. If things work out as they should, Hood should be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.

What is “things working out as they should”? Stephen Paea comes back fully healthy after a disappointing 2015 season that ended with him on the shelf with a toe injury. Scot McCloughan needs to invest two draft picks in the position, at least one of them in the first or second rounds (assuming a player fits the best-available requirement, of course). Assuming Knighton is gone, if one of those draft picks is not a nose tackle who is ready to contribute immediately that position needs to be addressed in free agency.

Nose tackle is important because it keeps Chris Baker at end, where he had his best season in 2015. He could play nose if necessary but McCloughan needs to try to make sure that it’s not.

That would leave Paea or Ricky Jean Francois and Baker as the starting ends and the draft pick or free agent pickup at nose. Hood, another draft pick, Kearse, 2015 practice squad player Cory Crawford and perhaps another low-priced free agent pickup or two would be fighting for the last few jobs and position on the depth chart.

It’s good that Hood has starting experience because you never know what will happen during a 16-game season. But if he is penciled in to be the Week 1 starter that is a sign that things did not go well along the line during the offseason when it comes to bolstering the defensive line. And the best case will be if Hood gets let go at the final roster cut because McCloughan has found enough younger talent to effectively fill out the depth chart.

The likely scenario is somewhere in between. Hood probably makes the roster and plays 20 or so snaps per game as part of the defensive line rotation.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 24 days ago. It will be about 221 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 21; NFL free agency starts 35; 2016 NFL draft 85

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”