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Need to Know: Will the Redskins make a move at safety?

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Need to Know: Will the Redskins make a move at safety?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 4, 24 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 85 days ago. It will be about 160 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 14; 2016 NFL draft 24; Redskins training camp starts 115

Hot topic

A couple of weeks ago, Jay Gruden sounded the alarm bell at the safety position, saying that it is an area of “great concern”. Since then, the Redskins have not done anything to try to bolster the position.

Over the weekend, one additional veteran has hit the free agent market. On Saturday, the Browns released Donte Whitner, who made three straight Pro Bowls in San Francisco (2012-2013) and Cleveland (2014). The former first-round pick of the Bills will turn 31 in July.

Still unemployed are Dashon Goldson, who was cut by the Redskins just before the start of free agency when he and the team were unable to agree on a reduced salary for this year, and Reggie Nelson, formerly of the Bengals.

Of the three veterans, Nelson had the best 2015 season. He intercepted eight passes, tying for the league lead. He’s also the oldest; Nelson will celebrate his 33rd birthday sometime during Week 3 of this season.

There was word that the Redskins had some interest in Nelson early in free agency but nothing has come of it since.

Both Gruden and Scot McCloughan have indicated that the door would be open to Goldson returning and that there have been some talks with his camp but there doesn’t seem to be much happening there at the moment. He might be their top option since he knows the defense and he provided some veteran leadership in the secondary last year.

Reading the tea leaves here, I think that the Redskins are waiting for Goldson’s asking price to drop to what they think his value is. In the meantime, it looks like Nelson is Plan B and they could make a move involving him if interest heats up.

It’s too soon to tell is Whitner is in the picture. One thing that the Redskins might like about him is his durability. He missed two games with a concussion last year but he had gone the previous five seasons with just one missed game.

The Redskins will have an eye on the position in the draft but it's tough to rely on that to fill an area of "great concern". Sooner or later, perhaps in May, they are likely to make a move for a veteran safety.

Fan question of the day

The Redskins will take Treadwell at No. 21 if they believe that he is the best available player. If he is not, they will take another player. The same applies to Thomas and their second-round pick.

Yes, that’s a simplistic answer so let me expand a bit here. If the Raiders had not taken Amari Cooper right before the Redskins make their first-round pick last year, Cooper would have been a Redskin and Brandon Scherff would have been playing elsewhere. So, clearly, they wanted a wide receiver. But despite the fact that there were some pretty talented wide receivers on the board in the second round they didn’t take one. Ditto in the third. They didn’t take a wide receiver until they took Jamison Crowder in the fourth.

So, for the most part, who they take in the second round is independent of who they take in the first. It seems that wide receiver is among the top two needs (it was last year, too) but that doesn’t mean they will use one of their top two picks to address it. So if things don’t fit right to take a wide receiver in the first, they won’t necessarily reach to take one in the second.

If they do bypass Treadwell in the first round because he’s not the best available in their evaluation they may hope in the back of their minds that Thomas will be there in the second and take him if he is. But if Treadwell is the best player on their board they will not leave him there in hopes that they can get their second choice later on.

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

Stat of the day

Here’s record that may never be broken: The 1983 Redskins had a turnover margin of plus-46. That’s the best in NFL history by 12. Only three other teams since the merger, the 2000 Ravens (+33), 1985 Bears (+30), and 1991 Redskins (+30) have been within 16 of that record.

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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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