Donnell "D. J." HoltLinebackerCalifornia6-0 34, 209The need: 37-year-old London Fletcher is as durable as they come and continues to corral anyone toting a football, but father time eventually wins all battles. The reserve options are a collection of players learning new positions, those coming off injury or special teamers who also play linebacker. The situation is hardly dire, but there is an opening for a training camp unknown to emerge, especially if the Redskins keep more than eight linebackers.The fit: An experienced and instinctive inside backer, Holt racked up 168 tackles thepast two seasons starting at Cal, 14for a loss. He also played on special teams, an area he must excel in for any shot at the opening game roster. Along with wide receiver Lance Lewis and corner Chase Minnifeld, SI.com highlighted the trio as potential undrafted free agent finds. Consistency and aggression more than skill dropped Holt in the eyes of draft evaluators. Finishing his senior season without an interception or forced fumble did not help his draft stock either.The depth chart: At one point this offseason, theslots behind starters London Fletcher and Perry Riley had a vacant sign on them. Then theRedskins shifted Lorenzo Alexander inside. Then they drafted Keenan Robinson in the fourth round. Then they signed free agents Jonathan Goff, a noted run defender who missed last season with a knee injury, and Bryan Kehl. There is a touch of uncertanty with how the reserves hierarchy shake out, but there are also enough pieces to make one think the Redskins should be passable barring the unforseen.Holt'supside: Last season the Redskins started with nine linebackers, five on the outside.If that final slot goes toone of the inside options, then Holt's chances increase. Even then,he would need to best Kehl on special teams, hopetaking more snaps in the middle than Robinson on the college level helps his causeand perhapsget lucky should theversatile Alexander get placed elsewhere on the roster. Obviously, injuries do and will crop up, so there is also that angle. Cracking the practice squad would be a good start.Pro Football Weekly on Holt: Stoutly built and thickly muscled. Secure clear-path tackler. Can drop into short zones. Football smart. Has special-teams experience. Good character...Catches too much contact and is not strong at the point of attack. Pedestrian speed and suddenness. Limited range (can be beat to the perimeter). Struggles to break down in space. Can play with more urgency. Has underachiever traits...Compact, inconsistent inside linebacker who looks the part of a thumper but does not play downhill or with a lot of strength. Intermittent violence, explosion and intensity are concerning."
Much of the Redskins offseason has been focused on players like Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins, or the addition of guys like Terrelle Pryor and Zach Brown. Further down the roster, however, is where games are won. Here's a look at three players that will have the opportunity to make a big impact in 2017.
- Kendall Fuller - Let's be honest: the second-year Hokie had a tough rookie year. He started the season injured, and probably wasn't all the way up to speed when he began playing Week 4. Early on he produced at a good level for a rookie, but quickly, the league saw how to beat him. In a November game against the Vikings, Fuller repeatedly got beat on the inside by Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs. After that, the Redskins coaching staff looked elsewhere for a slot corner. 2017 is a new season, and Fuller will be a full year removed from his knee injury. He still has good vision and hips, an NFL pedigree, and should have the first crack at the slot corner role. If he can produce like many expected from him in 2015 - when he was an assumed first-round pick - Fuller could make a big difference for the Washington defense. Third round draft pick Fabian Moreau might also push for snaps at corner, once he gets healthy.
- Stacy McGee - A new addition to the defense, McGee might be the answer Redskins fans want at nose tackle. Last season was by the far the best of McGee's career, and he emerged as a strong run stopper in Oakland. With his frame, and Jim Tomsula's coaching, McGee might play a big role this fall. His biggest hurdle? Staying healthy. In four seasons in the NFL, McGee has only played 16 games one season. Last year, he was limited to just nine games.
- Spencer Long - A free agent at the end of the season, Long comes in to 2017 looking to prove he can be a top tier center in the NFL. He excelled in pass blocking and calling the assignments on the Redskins line, but his run blocking could improve this fall. The literal centerpiece of a strong, young 'Skins line, 2017 will be a big opportunity for Long. Don't forget Washington moved up to draft Chase Roullier from Wyoming in the 6th round, and he played center and guard in college. Life in the NFL always has pressure, and Long will be facing some.
Always something on social: Enjoy the weekend folks.
See you Tuesday fam pic.twitter.com/NINvMBljUT— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayCSN) May 26, 2017
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Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 27, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.
It’s been 146 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 106 days.
—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 17
—Training camp starts (7/27) 61
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 75
The Redskins week that was
How well will the Redskins' defense adjust to six new starters? The Redskins unquestionably got an infusion of defensive talent but as we have seen in the past that does not guarantee better results. Throw a new defensive coordinator into the mix and it could take some time for this unit to reach its full potential. I think that there will be struggles early in the season and a better (but not dominant) unit by the time November rolls around.
Which Redskins will surprise in 2017? Every player carries expectations into the season. Some will be better than we believe right now (think of what many thought Vernon Davis would do last year) and some will play worse (Josh Doctson). I take out the crystal ball to figure out who will exceed expectations and who will fall below them.
Don't count out 3rd straight franchise tag for Cousins—Yes, Bruce Allen said that he is willing to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a third time next year, a move that would cost $34 million for one season. But I think that’s a total bluff; the Redskins’ salary cap situation for 2018 would make such a move very difficult for them to pull off. The best hope for Cousins being a Redskin in 2018 is getting him signed to a long-term contract by July 15 of this year. The tone of the conversation regarding a new deal has been positive lately but the team must come up with a serious offer for a deal to happen.
For Redskins, finding a nose tackle needs to be a priority—Well, it’s up to Jim Tomsula to “make” a nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a true NT and he will get a shot. But he hasn’t played a snap since 2014. Undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins also has nose tackle size at 6-3, 325. But he is a long shot, as are the Redskins’ chances of being significantly better against the run if they don’t find someone, anyone to be an adequate solution as the nose tackle.
Did Vernon Davis make the NFL change celebration rules? Although I prefer the John Riggins way of celebrating a touchdown—hand the ball to the referee because you’ve been in the end zone before and you expect to be back again soon—elaborate celebrations don’t bother me. After a TD in a game I’m covering I’m focused on writing about the scoring drive. When I’m watching at home, my attention goes to Twitter or to the refrigerator. I do think that it was dumb for the Redskins to lose 15 yards of field position because Vernon Davis put a jump shot over the crossbar so that’s why I’m glad that the NFL changed the celebration rules.