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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

In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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