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One personnel move shows why the Seahawks are better than the Redskins

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One personnel move shows why the Seahawks are better than the Redskins

After rallying to beat the Packers, the Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl. The Redskins, on the other hand, knew that they would be headed home in late December a couple of months before the season actually ended. Why are the Seahawks where they are and why are the Redskins where they are?

The answer, of course, is complicated but let’s take two players, one from each team, and compare them.

You don’t have to be an expert in analytics to figure out that the two players had comparable seasons. If you're going to give one the edge you'd have to give it to Player A. But the two players really aren’t comparable in terms of what they cost their teams and what they say about how their respective teams were built.

Player A is defensive tackle Jordan Hill, age 23, of the Seahawks. He was a third-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2013 (87th overall). The Seahawks paid him $495,000 in 2014 and he counted $651,000 against the cap.

Player B is defensive end Jason Hatcher, age 32, a free agent signed by the Redskins in 2014. The Redskins wrote him checks totaling $10.5 million to him this year and his cap number was $3.75 million.

I think you can see where I’m going here. The Seahawks needed a defensive lineman and they had Hill waiting in the wings after he played sparingly as a rookie. The Redskins needed someone on the DL and they had to go throw big free agent money at a 32-year-old coming off of a career year.

To be fair, it’s possible that Hill would not have had as many sacks if he was playing for the Redskins since he was playing on a team that had the lead much of the time. The Redskins trailed much more frequently than they led. And if you put Hatcher in Seattle, he may well have had more sacks.

And it’s not as though the Seahawks have never gone out to sign a free agent defensive lineman. In 2013, they signed Michael Bennett after he had spent a while on the free agent market. He wasn’t cheap--$4.8 million for one year—but he was a player the Seahawks, who had advanced to the divisional round in 2012, believed would push them over the top.

They were right. Bennett was their best defensive lineman, getting 8.5 sacks during the season plus another 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during the playoffs. That playoff run, as you know, ended with the Seahawks hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Back to the original comparison, Hatcher likely will be gone after this year as his cap number becomes untenable for a 34-year-old lineman in 2016. He will leave behind $4.5 million in dead cap when he goes.

The Seahawks will have two more years of Hill at minimum salary before they have to decide what to do with him. If he remains productive, he can be re-signed to what will likely be a reasonable contract. Should they decide to let him go, perhaps because another defensive lineman they drafted in the middle rounds has overtaken him on the depth chart, the Seahawks would not have to deal with any dead money on their cap.

Scot McCloughan was part of the personnel department that drafted Hill. From 2010-2014 the Seahawks drafted 12 defensive linemen. In some years they drafted DL even when it wasn’t considered to be an area of “need”. That’s how you get a Jordan Hill.

The Redskins? They have drafted two defensive linemen since 2010. They also took Chris Baker off of the scrap heap and developed him into a pretty good end. But for the most part when they have needed defensive linemen they have gone to the free agent market, signing Hatcher, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen to big-money deals. And now that age is catching up with all three of them the Redskins have no ready replacements.

It might take a while for the Redskins to get where the Seahawks are. In fact, they might never get there. But if they keep on bringing in hired guns like Hatcher instead of drafting guys like Hill, they will never even close the gap.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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