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Redskins Combine Countdown: Nebraska DE Randy Gregory

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Redskins Combine Countdown: Nebraska DE Randy Gregory

The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis in just 6 days. I will be there and in between now and then I’ll be 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.

Randy Gregory
OLB
Nebraska

Height: 6-5
Weight: 242

What they’re saying:
What I liked: He is clearly a sight to behold with very long arms and a slender build that makes you think Aldon Smith as a possibility on the edge just ruining plays. He can be a very active pass rush guy and when he sees something in front of him, he has this explosive gear that is uncommon. They also try to move him around and he can either stand or put his hand down and has some Clay Matthews explosion and versatility from all sorts of spots.

What I did not like: I really look for a high motor in my front 7 defensive players . . . We will trade motor for ability to a certain point, but for the most part, I need a guy that is always chasing. I did not see that consistently from Gregory. Some weeks, every play looked important. Other weeks, it did not.
Bob Strum, Dallas Morning News

How he fits the Redskins: Although the Redskins do have Ryan Kerrigan on one side of the line they could use a premiere pass rusher on the other side. They had 36 sacks in 2014 and 10 of them came in one game. If you throw out the Week 2 game against the lowly Jaguars they averaged just 1.6 sacks per game, well below the NFL average of 2.4 per team per game.

Getting Gregory, who said that he prefers to play standing up despite the fact that he played with his hand in the dirt most of the time in Nebraska’s 4-3 scheme, would allow the Redskins to utilize Trent Murphy in nickel situations.

In the mock draft that Mel Kiper released on Wednesday, he had Gregory going to the Redskins with the fifth pick in the draft. Kiper apparently is on board with the notion of the Redskins taking a pass rusher with their top pick. It may be a matter of choosing which of a few different prospects to take and Gregory certainly is in the mix.

The Redskins would want him to put on some weight to play the outside linebacker spot for them. Gregory said that he played at around 250 pounds at Nebraska and that he could get up to 270 if that’s what a team wanted. If he becomes a Redskin Jay Gruden and Joe Barry probably would be happy with him somewhere in the 250-260 range.

Potential issues: There are a few red flags with Gregory. One is the lack of a high motor that Strum talks about above. He also admitted that he got a case of “senioritis” his last year in high school, costing him his scholarship at Purdue. These certainly aren’t major issues but Scot McCloughan might look at them and question how much Gregory loves football.

There also has to be concern about the drop he had in production between his sophomore and junior years. Gregory went from 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss two years ago to seven and 10, respectively, last year. He said that it was because teams focused on stopping him more and the added attention given to him opened things up for his teammates. That is a claim that McCloughan will examine very closely on film.

On the injury front, he suffered a broken fibula just before what would have been his second season at Arizona Western Community College. That will be examined thoroughly by doctors in Indianapolis and possibly again when he visits teams in the spring.

Bottom line: There is a long way to go until the April 30 draft. McCloughan will put pass rushers Gregory, Shane Ray of Missouri, and Dante Fowler of Florida under the microscope between now and then and there is a chance he’ll take one of them. In his better moments Gregory has the ability to be worth the No. 5 pick. It could come down to a matter of McCloughan deciding if the team can correct some of Gregory’s issues or live with them.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

The Redskins will host Tim Hightower for a visit on Wednesday, ESPN's Mike Triplett reported. Bringing Hightower in at this point represents an impressive story far beyond a mundane free agent visit.  

If his career ended today, Tim Hightower's story would already be remarkable. Hightower - a DMV native that played his college ball at the University of Richmond - played for the Redskins in the 2011 season. That season, he tore his ACL, and was limited to five games.

While torn ACL's happen frequently in the NFL, what happened next for Hightower was anything but ordinary. He missed the next three seasons with an undiagnosed infection, before incredibly returning to the NFL in 2015 with the Saints. 

His last two years in New Orleans, Hightower has been a solid contributor behind starting RB Mark Ingram. He's rushed for more than 900 yards, gained another 330 yards through the air and hit the end zone nine times in 24 games for the Saints. 

In Washington, Hightower would join a backfield of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. It will be interesting to see if Washington adds any other backs through the draft in April as well. 

Born in Waldorf, Hightower went to high school in Alexandria before playing college ball at Richmond. Playing with the 'Skins in 2011, Hightower quickly became a fan favorite, especially with his local ties. 

The Redskins run game has not been particularly strong for a few seasons, and questions remain if the current stable of runners will be enough to improve. Hightower doesn't necesarily equal a significant talent boost, but perhaps coaches and front office staff are looking at the group.

Be aware, however, this could be nothing more than a visit. Triplett reported it remains possible Hightower returns to the Saints. He also visited the 49ers last week, and new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was running the 'Skins offense in 2011 when the team originally acquired Hightower.

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Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 36 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Isaiah Ford

Wide receiver
Virginia Tech

Height: 6-1
Weight: 194
40-yard dash: 4.61

Projected draft round: 3-4

What they’re saying

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance. He is willing to run across the middle and cut back inside on quick screens, showing the toughness to absorb big hits and still hang on to the ball. Ford was asked to play outside as well as in the slot

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The top of the Redskins’ depth chart at wide receiver looks good with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. But depth is a concern, especially with Doctson’s durability a question mark. On top of that, Pryor is there on a one-year contract so there must be some succession planning at the position.

Ford was a very productive receiver at Virginia Tech, the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He has the knack for making the sensational catch and he isn’t afraid to go across the middle.

At 6-1 he has the height that seems to be the trend on the Redskins’ wide receiver corps lately. Ford could be a good mid-round pick for the team to develop in 2017 and be ready to be a full contributor in 2018.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Pitt

Ford is not afraid to run slants over the middle and is willing to cut back to the center of the field after catching bubble screens.

His run blocking ranged from unimpressive to bad with the caveat that it’s hard to evaluate on the TV camera angles. This is an area that can be improved with NFL coaching. Adding a few pounds to his 194-lb. frame could help, too. It also sometimes appears that he could use more bulk to help him use his height when fighting for a ball.

The good and the bad of Ford was on display in the span of a few minutes during the Pitt game. He made a spectacular catch on a tipped ball that bounced off of both him and the defensive back (view here) while they were on the ground. Ford had the awareness to scoop the ball off the chest of the defender and secure it to make the catch. A little while later he was in a great position to made a catch for a first down but he bobbled the ball as he was falling out of bounds (view here) and the pass was incomplete.

In the games I reviewed Ford showed a good knack to make back shoulder catches, something the Redskins don’t seem to like to try. But the ability is there if they draft him and want to try it.

Potential issues: Ford looks skinny, almost fragile, at 194 pounds. If he does add weight he needs to do so without losing much speed. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at the combine. Against college defensive backs he looks fast enough but that will be a different story in the NFL.

Bottom line: The Redskins can’t go into the season with a very green Maurice Harris and a very pedestrian Ryan Grant as their backup wide receivers. They need a player who can provide depth in 2017 and be able to step up to have a legitimate shot at starting in 2018.

There will be several prospects in the third- and fourth- round range who could be the guy. If the Redskins think that Ford can add a few pounds without sacrificing speed and brush up on his run blocking a bit, they could take a serious look at him.

In his own words:

On how the coaching change from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente helped him:

I think it simplified everything for us. It limited the amount of routes that I ran - slants, outs, fades and posts; my first two years, I was running digs, post curls, comebacks, things like that - that was fine. I'm comfortable doing both. The route-running was never a problem for me because I feel that's what I do best. Being able to play primarily 'X' last year, winning those 50-50 balls and running those routes, it helped me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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.