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Redskins practice report, Day 8: Rookie Crowder shines

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Redskins practice report, Day 8: Rookie Crowder shines

RICHMOND—J. J. Watt and the Texans were in town today for the first of three days of joint practice. Watt did some, well, Watt-like things as will be noted in today’s Redskins practice report.

—The Texans don’t have any logos on their helmets or names on the back of their jerseys. The look is sort of reminiscent of Penn State, where Houston coach Bill O’Brien coached for a few years.

—A Houston rookie picked a bad time to muff a kickoff in the end zone. O’Brien was watching and came over and stood about five feet away from undrafted rookie Chandler Worthy. “You’ve got to field that [expletive] ball,” said O’Brien. The coach continued to stand there for a few minutes. Worthy had one of those “wanna get away” moments from the old Southwest commercials.

—The “experiment” of playing Brandon Scherff at right guard and moving Morgan Moses in at right tackle continued today. We will see if this continues in the future or if it is merely an evaluation and preparation in the event of injuries.

—Yesterday Jay Gruden said that Chris Thompson was developing in to quite a third-down back. Usually that means a player is a good receiver out of the backfield. But he was impressive running the ball today, showing great burst on a few runs. If he can keep that going he could get some carries on first and second downs, too.

J.J. Watt is not only big, he’s fast. The Redskins tried to run to the left, away from him, but he was over there in a flash. He just tagged the runner but it could have been a highlight-type of tackle for a three-yard loss in a live situation.

Jamison Crowder was one of the offensive stars of the session. He caught several passes working against the Texans’ first-team defense and he drew a flag when a defender had to grab him on a deep pass. We should tamp down the expectations meter since it’s early in training camp but the fourth-round pick is looking like quite a find.

—Wide receiver Rashad Ross became a fan favorite last year with a few good catches in camp and during the preseason. He made another nice grab today, going deep and taking Kirk Cousins’ pass away from cornerback A.J. Bouye.

Robert Griffin III got off to a rocky start in one set of full team work. His first pas was batted down by Watt. His second one was deflected by end Jared Crick. The offense did finish up the series with good run by Alfred Morris and a Griffin pass to Andre Roberts so it wasn’t all bad in that session.

Terrance Knighton was back to work today after missing yesterday’s practice with the flu.

Bill Callahan was having some words with Moses after Griffin had to scramble on a play. I’m not sure what it was about but Moses didn’t do much of anything after Watt shifted over and rushed against Scherff. Perhaps Callahan was suggesting that Moses should have picked another assignment.

—It’s a joint practice in early August so why not a fake field goal pass from Kai Forbath to Moses about 30 yards away from the goal line. There were regular NFL officials working and the one in the end zone called it an interception. The play happened right in front of me and it looked to me like Moses wrestled the ball away before they hit the ground. Replay may have overturned the call on the field.

—They finished off practice with a goal to go drill. Starting at the 10 the Redskins’ first-team offense couldn’t get into the end zone in three snaps. A third-down draw play by Thompson came up short. The Texans ones got into the end zone against the Redskins’ defensive starters on a pass to the corner of the end zone from Brian Hoyer to DeAndre Hopkins.

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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.

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Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 18, 99 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 43
NFL free agency starts 51
First Sunday of 2017 season 236

The coordinator search and more

Did the Redskins underachieve this year? I know that a metric like Football Outsiders' DVOA is not the final word in the quality of a team but looking at it year after year it usually does work out that the teams with the better numbers in DVOA usually win more games than those with worse numbers. The Redskins finished 2016 eighth in DVOA. Considering that 12 teams make the playoffs, that could be considered a playoff quality team. Yet 15 teams finished with a better record than they did. I’m sure there are some holes in the formula for the stat but just looking at that it sure appears that the Redskins did leave some wins out on the field.

John Keim is reporting that the Redskins are prepared to switch to a 4-3 defense if that is what their new defensive coordinator prefers. They have been in the 3-4 since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. Whether it is because of the scheme or lack of draft and free agent resources spent on the line and at safety, the defense hasn’t been very good. As Keim notes, they will need to make some personnel changes if they do change but with a full load of draft picks and $62 million in cap space this may be the time to do it.

I expected the angst that was all over Twitter when word of the Rob Ryan interview got out. But it’s pretty dumb to get all worked up over an interview (with all due respect to readers here who may have been upset). It’s not a hiring. Look, somehow or another Ryan managed to stay employed as an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 straight seasons. I don’t know how to research it without going through some very time consuming and tedious steps but I’d be willing to bet that only about a few dozen men in the history of the league have been able to remain a defensive coordinator for that many season in a row. The organization can learn something from sitting down and talking to him for a few hours.

I understand that we want things to talk about in a relatively slow time. But I just don’t see why there is fear out there over the possibility that Kyle Shanahan will get hired as the coach of the 49ers and somehow steal Kirk Cousins away to be his quarterback. The Redskins can maintain his rights via the franchise tag. They could tag Cousins and trade him to the 49ers but there would be a heavy price in terms of draft picks. But while it’s possible, it’s unlikely. The chances are very, very good that Cousins will be in a Redskins uniform this year via either the tag or a long-term deal. 

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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.