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Need to Know: Will the Redskins draft a center with their top pick?

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Need to Know: Will the Redskins draft a center with their top pick?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 28, 31 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 78 days ago. It will be about 167 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 21; 2016 NFL draft 31; Redskins training camp starts 122

Hot topic

For some reason, the idea of the Redskins drafting Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round has caught fire with the fan base. I have been asked about it out of the blue multiple times on Twitter. My answer is always some variation of saying that he’s a good player and they might draft him No. 21 overall. But the team needs impact players, playmakers. You don’t get those by drafting interior linemen in the first round for two years in a row.

Let me state the obvious here—it’s always good to have a great player on the team no matter what position he plays. Having a great center and a great right guard, assuming that Kelly and Brandon Scherff, who was last year’s first-round pick, both develop into great players, would be a good thing for the Redskins.

But a great center has much less impact on a game than a great wide receiver or a great running back has. A cornerback who can dominate a game is better to have than a guard who can dominate his man. There are reasons why good wide receivers generally get drafter higher than good centers and why top cornerbacks make a lot more money than top guards.

The best way to get good players at the impact positions is to draft them and, generally speaking, the higher the better. Good interior linemen can be found later in the draft. Scot McCloughan needs to look at impact positions, including the defensive line, when making this year’s first-round pick. They can either choose a center from the several options on the roster or take one later in the draft.

Fan question of the day

I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking about so I’ll take it in two directions. The defensive player who will have the green dot on his helmet, the one who gets the signals radioed in from the sideline, will be Will Compton. As the Mike linebacker, he will call the signals in the huddle. So, in that respect he will be the quarterback of the defense.

But who will be the leader of the unit, the defensive captain? That is up in the air right now. Last year it was Dashon Goldson but he has been released. There is a possibility that he may return but nothing has happened beyond just talk that the door is open. And he may or may not be the captain if he comes back.

There are two obvious candidates to replace Goldson. One is DeAngelo Hall, who was a captain for a while when Mike Shanahan was here and was one with Gruden in 2014 before he tore his Achilles in Week 3. The other is Ryan Kerrigan. He has shied away from taking a leadership role but he now has the tenure (going into his sixth season) and the paycheck (5-years, $57.5 million extension given last year) that say he should step up and lead.

(Hit me up on Twitter with #NTK @Rich_TandlerCSN or here in the comments to submit a question)

Stat of the day

In 2014 Kirk Cousins’ passer rating on third down was 46.4. Last year it improved to 100.9.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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