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Redskins Combine Countdown: Florida DE Dante Fowler

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Redskins Combine Countdown: Florida DE Dante Fowler

The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis tomorrow. I will be there and I have been doing a lot of work getting up to speed on the draft class of 2015. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

Dante Fowler
Edge
Florida

Height: 6-3
Weight: 260

What they’re saying:
STRENGTHS Well-built, athletic frame with very long arms. Has transformed body since coming in, losing 25 pounds while adding substantial explosiveness in space. Versatile --was moved around field for Gators. Can rush from two- or three-point stance. Good first-step quickness. Uses improving spin move to counter when rush stalls high-side.

WEAKNESSES Bounced all over the field. Raw pass rusher. Still learning nuances of the position. Needs more coordination between hands and feet. Pass-rush approach lacks efficiency and includes too much wasted motion. Expected "speed-to-power" conversion inconsistent on tape.
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: Fowler is almost the prototype for the college defensive end who can successfully convert to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He has the athletic ability to get it done and, as noted, Florida had him moving all around, rushing from a two-point stance and with his hand in the dirt. Although you ideally might  want him to be an inch or two taller, he can compensate for that slight disadvantage with his long arms.

As they will if they draft Randy Gregory of Nebraska or Shane Ray of Missouri, the Redskins will slot Fowler at right outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan replacing Brian Orakpo, who is an unrestricted free agent. Second-year OLB Trent Murphy would revert to the role he played before Orakpo got hurt and come into the game in nickel situations.

There are no character questions about Fowler, who won’t turn 21 until training camp, and he gives a solid effort on every play.

Potential issues: Although the effort is always there for Fowler, his performance in inconsistent. His technique needs a lot of polish as he won’t be faster and stronger than a lot of players in the NFL like he was in college. This is the case with many great athletes and top performers in the draft as their coaches worry more about the underachievers. If a guy can get the job done as well as Fowler did they aren’t going to fuss over his fundamentals.

On glaring issue is with taking on straight-on blocks in the running game. That seems odd with his quickness and it’s something that his NFL coaches with work with him to correct.

Still, until he learns and adapts in the NFL you don’t know if he can do it. Projecting is the hardest part of drafting and with that No. 5 pick being so important for the Redskins, Scot McCloughan will earn his money with this evaluation.

Bottom line: Fowler will be in the mix for the Redskins with that fifth overall pick. Although it might take a year or two to add polish to his game, he could have instant impact on Redskins’ struggling defense.

If I had to make a way-too-early prediction of who will the Redskins’ top draft pick, I’d guess the name on the card will be Dante Fowler.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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