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Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 23 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.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

T.J. Watt

Outside linebacker
Wisconsin

Height: 6-4
Weight: 252
40-yard dash: 4.69

Projected draft round: 1-2

What they’re saying

Uses his length and heavy hands to take on blocks, locking out to dictate the point of attack. Edge acceleration to threaten the corner. Natural balance and active feet to continue his momentum through contact. Attacks and disrupts the rhythm of blockers with his violence, rarely allowing himself to be locked up. Off-the-chart football instincts with an instant reactor. Senses what is about to happen and understands his surroundings.

Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The younger brother of three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt told NFL.com that he has a pre-draft visit scheduled with the Redskins. While a draft visit doesn’t necessarily indicate great interest in a player—each team can bring in as many as 30 players and the Redskins have only 10 picks—it does mean that the team has seen something in the player that they want to explore further.

The Redskins have four outside linebackers who have double-digit sack potential on the roster but question marks surround all but the steady Ryan Kerrigan. Trent Murphy is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Preston Smith has shown flashes of dominance surrounded by long stretches of near invisibility. Junior Galette has missed the last two years due to injuries and he is on a one-year deal.

Since you can’t have too many good pass rushers the Redskins are looking at more of them in the draft. Watt was a playmaker at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.

The arrow could be pointing up on Watt. He entered college as a tight end but he was moved to outside linebacker in 2015. A knee injury kept him out that year but he burst onto the scene as the starter last year. He is a meticulous worker who plays with a high motor. He could be headed straight up.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. Ohio State, vs. Minnesota

He switches from one side of the line to the other, usually on the edge but occasionally a few steps off the line.  

On a third and goal against Ohio State he showed his aggressiveness and recognition. He stormed in from the left edge and the pulling guard who was supposed to keep him from blowing up the play never had a chance to get him. QB J.T. Barrett tried a play action fake but Watt slammed into the running back right after the fake, allowing another player to come in a tackle Barrett for a loss.

Watt was not asked to do much in pass coverage. He usually just dropped into the flat in zone coverage.

You can see his high motor on display frequently as he chases down plays from the back side and keeps chasing the ball.

Watt can get pass pressure based on his hustle and quickness. But if he’s in a situation where he needs to overpower a blocker he’s in trouble. He might have to bulk up from his current weight of 252.

In the fourth quarter of a tight game against Minnesota he had a sack and three pressures that led to three Badger interceptions.

Potential issues:

As noted, Watt has just the one season of experience playing outside linebacker. While that leaves room to grow and improve, it also leaves room for the possibility that his strong performance last year was that of a one-year wonder.

In Brugler’s analysis on CBS Sports, he said that Watt “needs to mature his pass rush arsenal.” In the two games I watched he didn’t have enough moves to be considered “an arsenal”. It goes back to his lack of experience and it remains to be seen how much he can develop.

And, again, his size makes him kind of a tweener. He should be able to pack some more pounds onto his 6-4 frame and maintain his hustle.

Bottom line:

Watt seems to be a tweener in more ways than one. He would be a reach with the Redskins’ pick at No. 17 but he could well be gone when their second-round picks rolls around. Should the Redskins look to add some extra picks by trading back to a spot later in the first, somewhere in the late 20’s perhaps, they could find Watt to be a good value.

In his own words:

Watt on his potential:

"I’m only scratching the surface. I've only played defense for 18 or 20 months. If I can do all the things I did this last year what can I do when I'm under the tutelage of an NFL coach? Obviously lack of film lack of experience point that's come across I think it's not a problem with my work ethic and my bloodlines and stuff like that."

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.

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Need to Know: The pace picks up as the Redskins return to Ashburn

Need to Know: The pace picks up as the Redskins return to Ashburn

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, August 16, 17 days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 on September 2.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 227 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 25 days.

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 3
—Redskins @ Rams (9/17) 32
—Sunday night Raiders @ Redskins (9/24) 39

The pace picks up at Redskins Park

The Redskins have returned from Richmond and they get to work in Ashburn today with a 1 p.m. practice. It has been nearly week since their first preseason game. Now they have three days to get ready to play the Packers on Saturday. After that, things keep moving quickly as the Redskins get ready to play the Eagles in the season opener on September 10.

—They will have a week of practice that is close to a regular-season week. They play the Bengals on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field so they will have a full seven day’s to get ready for so-called “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. I have the quotes around it because they still don’t game plan or scout the opponent much if at all. But the starters should play at least the first half.

—After that, it’s quick turnaround as they get a couple of days of practice before heading down to Tampa to play the Bucs in the fourth preseason game on Thursday night. The short turnaround isn’t much of a concern as it will be the front-line players participating in the Bengals game and the bottom half of the roster scrapping for the last four to six spots still up for grabs will be playing at Raymond James Stadium.  

—The coaches don’t get much of a breather after that. After the clock hits 0:00 in Tampa they will have about 40 hours to get the roster cut down to 53. Starting this year, there is no first cut prior to the fourth preseason game so they go from 89 (Trent Murphy going to injured reserve takes care of one roster reduction already) to 53. That means that 36 decisions must be made and 36 players must be informed that they are no longer part of the team.

—After 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Redskins can start signing members of their 10-player practice squad. While many of them are likely to come from the pool of players they just cut, not all of them will. The team then starts to prepare for the regular season.

—For the final item here, an answer to a fan’s question from Twitter.

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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What Su'a Cravens's surgery means for the Redskins' safety plans

everett_hall_nicholson.jpg
USA Today Sports

What Su'a Cravens's surgery means for the Redskins' safety plans

Su'a Cravens will miss the entire preseason for the Redskins, save for three snaps already logged against the Ravens.

In those three snaps, Cravens injured his knee, and on Tuesday, Adam Schefter reported the second-year safety will undergo surgery on the knee

The surgery will clean up swelling that occured in his knee following the Ravens game, per a source, and Cravens should be good to go for Washington in Week 1 of the regular season. 

For Redskins fans, there might be some reason to worry.

One argument might suggest that Cravens has never played safety in the NFL after being used his entire rookie season as a linebacker. Therefore, Cravens needs the practice reps as a safety. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

 

While certainly he could use the practice at safety, this concern seemse overblown. Cravens is a much more natural player in the secondary than he ever was at linebacker. In college, Cravens played his best at safety, and his versatility will allow him to do more from the safety spot.

Cravens has already dealt with a number of different injuries, and perhaps that might concern 'Skins fans. As a rookie, Cravens missed time with a concussion and then late in the year with an upper arm injury. He played in 11 of 16 games last year. None of the injuries seem like the lingering type, which is good news. 

With Cravens out the Redskins will turn to Deshazor Everett, a third year player out of Texas A&M. Primarily a special teams force, Everett got minimal playing time at safety in 2016. In his only real opportunity to play with the defense in a Week 14 win at Philadelphia, Everett grabbed a vitally important interception in the end zone. 

Everett is unknown, but has ability. He also has a big opportunity these next three games playing alongside D.J. Swearinger. 

Behind Everett, the Redskins best options are both working back from injuries. Rookie Montae Nicholson, a somewhat surprising fourth-round selection out of Michigan State, just returned to team drills during the last few practices in Richmond. Nicholson has size and track speed, but much remains to be seen if he can improve his cover and tackling ability. 

Don't forget about veteran DeAngelo Hall. He started the season on the PUP list, expectedly, after landing on the injured reserve in 2016. Hall hasn't played a full season since 2013, when Mike Shanahan was still the Redskins coach and RG3 the starting quarterback. A lot has changed since then. 

Watching from the sidelines in Richmond during training camp, Hall seemed more of a coach than a player working back from injury, though he was seen running on the drill field late in camp. It would be a major surprise if Hall played in the preseason.

The Redskins intend to go with Cravens against the Eagles. Everett will be the backup plan. Nicholson has much to prove, and Hall still seems far away from seeing the field as a player. 

MORE REDSKINS: With Murphy out, Redskins to rely more on injury-prone Galette

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