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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama S Landon Collins

landon-collins-head.png

Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama S Landon Collins

The NFL Draft is six weeks away and I’ll continue researching the prospects throughout the lead-up to the draft. 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.

Landon Collins
Safety
Alabama

Height: 6-0
Weight: 228
40 time: 4.53 sec.

What they’re saying:

Strengths: Well-built athlete with light feet and fluid hips to change direction quickly. Forceful and reliable open-field tackler who often rips at the ball aggressively as he's taking opponents to the ground. Better working downhill when he can attack the action, but has shown improvement in pass coverage, learning from past mistakes and improving his awareness in the deep half of the field.

Weaknesses: Trusts his eyes and can be deceived with good play-action or by savvy quarterbacks who will look one way and fire the other. Much more effective coming downhill in run support or protecting the middle on crossing routes than with his back turned to the quarterback. Possesses good but not elite speed and doesn't show the burst to recover when beaten initially.

Dane Brugler and Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: Earlier this week I wrote about West Virginia WR Kevin White and said that he could be the big, fast, physical receiver the Redskins haven’t had in, well, forever. Landon Collins could be the smart, physical, aggressive strong safety the Redskins haven’t had in a long time, except for brief stretches when LaRon Landry was healthy. He has the potential to be a very good one.

This is a team that has been unable and/or unwilling to find a permanent, quality solution at either free or strong safety. Certainly the untimely death Sean Taylor was something that couldn’t be anticipated. But seven offseasons have passed since then and the Redskins haven’t come close to replacing Taylor and haven’t found a solid strong safety either.

This is not to say that Collins will be as good a strong safety as Taylor was a free safety. But he could be very good and, barring misfortune, he could be around for a very long time.

Potential issues: He’s a question mark in coverage and he has some technique issues to clean up (as does virtually every player coming out of college). And although he’s not small by any means, Scot McCloughan likely would want a bigger strong safety manning the middle of the field for the better part of the next decade.

But the big issue with Collins is if the Redskins can will the trigger on drafting him.

Under the philosophy of drafting the best available player, which is what Scot McCloughan espouses, it doesn’t look like they will be in a position to take him. Although Collins is a quality prospect, there are other quality prospects at positions of higher value that are likely to be graded higher than Collins.

Suppose the Redskins trade back? They might be able to justify taking him somewhere in the 10-15 range. But he might not make it out of the back end of the top 10, given the shortage of quality safeties both in the draft and currently in the league.

Bottom line: A reach at five and gone at a realistic trade back landing spot. That is the tweener status that is likely to have Collins lining up for a team other than the Redskins this fall.

It should be noted that you never know what will happen in a draft that is six weeks away. Certainly it’s worth monitoring, as it remains unlikely.

In his own words:

Collins on Taylor, who Collins starting watching when Taylor was still in high school.

"I idolized Sean Taylor for his physical play, his passion for the game, you could see it every time he touched the field . . . and I like being physical in the box . . . I've watched YouTubes on him, I've watched everything -- hour-long videos on him, I watched a 30 for 30.”

Previously in Draft Countdown:

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.