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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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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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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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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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