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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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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

The Redskins have interviewed some high-profile candidates for their open defensive coordinator position. When it was reported that they will meet with former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, the reaction among the fans was, “Who?”

Let’s take a look at what Tarver’s qualifications are to get the job of running the Redskins’ defense.

Before becoming a coordinator: At the age of 22, Tarver took a coaching job at West Valley College in California, and did that while earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Santa Clara. After that he was a graduate assistant at UCLA for three years before getting into the NFL in 2001, when the 49ers hired him as a quality control coach. Tarver worked his way up to outside linebackers coach in 2005 and did that job until 2010, when he was let go went Mike Singletary was fired as the head coach. After a year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Dennis Allen hired Tarver to run the Raiders defense in 2012.

More Redskins: Early first-round draft possibilities

Note: If you want more complete stats on Tarver’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2012 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,672 (18th), points 443 (28th), takeaways 19 (26th), 3rd down 39.1% (20th), DVOA 12.5% 29th
Notable players: DT Richard Seymour, DE Lamarr Houston

It should be noted that Allen had a defensive background so he had a hand in these numbers. This team just wasn’t very good as indicated by the fact that Seymour, at age 33, was one of their best defensive players.

2013 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,918 (22nd), points 453 (29th), takeaways 22 (21st), 3rd down 43.1% (28th), DVOA 10.3% (26th)
Notable players: S Charles Woodson

They did make an effort to shore up the defense by bringing back Woodson and drafting cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round. But Hayden only played in eight games and Woodson could only contribute so much at age 37. The pass defense struggled, ranking 29th in DVOA.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

2014 Raiders (3-13)

Rankings: 5,721 (21st), points 452 (32nd), takeaways 14 (30th), 3rd down 38.5% (14th), DVOA 6.3% (26th)
Notable players: LB Khalil Mack, S Woodson

Allen was fired after an 0-4 start and Tony Sparano took over as interim head coach the rest of the way. Sparano has an offensive background so perhaps Tarver is more fully accountable for these results than those in other seasons. They did draft Mack with the fifth overall pick but his impact as a rookie was limited as recorded four sacks. Hayden again missed half of the season and, again, the defense was near the bottom of the NFL.

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.