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Need to Know: Who will be the Redskins' strong safety in 2015?

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Need to Know: Who will be the Redskins' strong safety in 2015?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 11, seven days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day 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 comes from the Real Redskins Facebook page:

If you read my posts here or follow me on Twitter, you may know that I don’t see any way that Alabama strong safety Landon Collins, who could be called the peoples’ choice for the Redskins’ pick at No. 5. Even though the pick would fill a major need for the team I can’t see any way that Scot McCloughan, who has a history of taking the best available player on the board, will pull the trigger on Collins with that top pick. There certainly will be better players on the board at that point.

Taking the best available player is great but the Redskins still will need someone to play strong safety in 2015. Who can do the job? Here are three possibilities from three different sources.

—If they want to fill the position from within, Phillip Thomas could get a shot. He was the Redskins’ fourth-round pick in 2013 and he has had to persevere through a year on injured reserve and a year spent partially on the practice squad. The Fresno State product did start four games at the end of the year and, as is typical for a young safety, he played pretty well against the run but struggled in pass coverage. Perhaps after a full offseason of work with the starting secondary he could improve enough to hold the position down at least in the short term and perhaps for longer.

—Going to the veteran free agent market is the traditional Redskins way of handling a position vacancy. They may go there but they are likely to stay away from the higher-priced end of the free agent market. Jeron Johnson was an undrafted free agent pickup by the Seahawks in 2011. Scot McCloughan happened to be in the Seattle scouting department then so he’s familiar with Johnson. Kam Chancellor’s 26-year-old backup didn’t play a whole lot last year (98 snaps on defense) but if McCloughan thinks Johnson has what it takes to be a starter, the Redskins likely could get him for a very reasonable cost.

Anthony Harris of Virginia is almost certain to be available when the Redskins draft in the second round and he could well be there in the third. He’s the second-best strong safety in the draft according to many analysts. It’s always a risk relying on the second-day pick to come in and start right away. But Harris, who has good instincts and has a reputation as a fast learner, may be able to pull it off.

The answer could end up being some combination of the options above. Maybe they will bring in Johnson and he and Thomas will have a situation substitution job sharing arrangement. Or Johnson comes in and holds down the job until Harris is ready. You can fill in the blanks with the names but that is likely how it will work out. Keep in mind that it’s a rebuilding team and that a solid, long-term solution may not be found in 2015.

Timeline

—It’s been 45 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 216 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 27; Redskins offseason workouts start 68; 2015 NFL Draft 79

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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Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 29, 25 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.

Timeline

At Redskins Park—Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft; conference calls with players selected; Gruden will speak to media shortly after Redskins’ final pick.

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 13
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 25
—Training camp starts (7/27) 89
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 134

The Redskins’ best late-round picks since of the last 10 years

While no aspect of drafting in the NFL is easy, it is much harder to find key contributors on the last day of the draft than it is in the first three rounds. The Redskins will have seven picks in this afternoon's draft to try to find one or two of them. 

Since the 2007 draft the Redskins have taken 56 players from the fourth round on. Of those, 45 played in at least one NFL game but only 12 of them were the Redskins’ primary starter at their positions for at least one season. Here are the five best of those players.

QB Kirk Cousins (round 4, 2012)—He was probably the most controversial pick on this list since the Redskins had just drafted Robert Griffin III a couple of days earlier. History proved Mike Shanahan right.

RB Alfred Morris (6, 2012)—This pick came a few hours after and with much less noise than the Cousins pick did. Many believed that the Redskins were set a running back with Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Morris not only surprised many by making the team but he lined up as the Week 1 starter. He went on to break the team’s single-season rushing record by piling up 1,613 yards rushing.

LB Perry Riley (4, 2010)—He didn’t get into the lineup until midway through his second season. Riley was always solid for four-plus seasons as the starter but never spectacular. The team let him go last year in training camp and he played well for the Raiders after they picked him up.

CB Bashaud Breeland (4, 2014)—Breeland started 15 games as a rookie. At first he was in the slot but after DeAngelo Hall was injured in Week 3, Breeland moved to the outside and he has stayed there ever since. He has seven career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

WR Jamison Crowder (4, 2015)—At 5-9, many teams thought Crowder was undersized and he didn’t run a great 40 at the combine. But he was big enough and fast enough to break the Redskins rookie record for receptions in a season and then to lead the team in touchdowns with eight last year.

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

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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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