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Redskins in turmoil--One year ago

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Redskins in turmoil--One year ago

After three games the team was struggling with a losing record and it looked like the season was going to spiral out of control. The defense couldn’t stop anyone and some fans were calling for the defensive coordinator to be fired. Both the game and the durability of the young quarterback were being questioned.

The scenario above is being played out now, of course. It also was being played out exactly 12 months ago. The Redskins were coming off of a 38-31 loss to the Bengals in a game that wasn’t really as close as the final score made it appear. In the first two games it looked like rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III would revolutionize the game with his running ability. The Bengals slammed Griffin to the turf multiple times and he often took a few seconds to pick himself up off of the FedEx Field turf.

It got to the point where Griffin had to talk about his toughness in the postgame press conference.

"I don’t know how many times I got hit, I got hit a lot . . . The one thing I won't do personally is quit or play scared. I've never played scared in my life. So it doesn't matter how many times they hit me, I'm going to continue to get back up," he said. "Even if they have to cart me off the field, I'm going to get off that cart and walk away."

At that point in the season, Griffin had run the ball 33 times for 198 yards.

The defense was getting torched. They were 30th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed (1,288) and they had give up 101 points, also 30th in the league.

But after allowing 31 points or more in each of the first three games, the Redskins’ defense settled in some. They allowed more than 27 points just twice in the remaining 13 games and the Redskins won both of those games.

Things got a little better as the Redskins came back the next week to beat the Bucs. But they lost four of their next five to fall to 3-6. We all know what happened after that.

There are some differences this year. Even though there is only a one-game difference in their record, having that zero in the wins column is a huge psychological factor. Griffin is not yet nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery.

But there is much more that is the same. The team has the same coaches, and almost all of the same key players. The schedule in front of the 2012 Redskins looked daunting, just like the upcoming games do for this group. And Redskins fans, and many in the media, were in a panic a year ago and many of the same people are now saying that the sky is falling.

History will not necessarily repeat. The fact that last year’s bunch recovered to post the Redskins’ best season in over a decade doesn’t mean that this year’s bunch will get it together.

But it does mean that it’s possible and that we do tend to overreact in the moment. The Redskins are right to resist calls to bench Griffin and/or fire defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. They will make some tweaks to the schemes and playcalling and perhaps give different players some additional playing time on both sides of the ball. But in the big picture they will continue to do what they have been doing. They have some history on their side.

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.