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."
Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 24, 36 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.
—NFL free agency starts 44
—NFL Draft 93
—First Sunday of 2017 season 229
Gruden's fate rests on Manusky, McCloughan
In his press conference the day after the Redskins lost to the Giants to end their season, Jay Gruden talked about the decision-making process that would unfold if there were changes in the coaching staff.
“Ultimately I would think it is my call – our call,” he said. “Bruce [Allen] will have some input, Dan [Snyder] will have some input, Scot [McCloughan] will have some input, but from a staff standpoint, I like to think I have a lot of pull on that one.”
That doesn’t make it sound like he was completely free to replace the fired Joe Barry and new Rams head coach Sean McVay with whomever he chose. Others could make suggestions and have input and possibly veto power.
The decision to make Greg Manusky the defensive coordinator likely was influenced by and/or had the approval of, McCloughan. Manusky ran the defense in San Francisco when McCloughan was the GM there. McCloughan was instrumental in getting Manusky to come to the Redskins to coach the outside linebackers a year ago, after he was fired as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.
Having McCloughan’s approval for the hire provides Gruden with some degree of security. If it doesn’t work out, if the Redskins upgrade the talent on defense and still don’t get better results, the heat will be on McCloughan as well as Gruden.
Still, Gruden will be the one in the spotlight this season. When the annual media lists of coaches on the hot season in 2017 come out, Gruden is sure to be atop many of them. It’s simple math, really. In Gruden’s three seasons the team has gone 4-12, 9-7, and 8-7-1. A return to double-digit loss territory would be a regression and there would be legitimate concern over whether Gruden is the guy who can make progress and then maintain it and build on it.
Did Gruden get his first pick for the job? Probably not. It seems that Gus Bradley was the favorite, having built the aggressive Seattle defense and having ties with McCloughan from there and with Gruden and Allen from Tampa Bay. But he decided to head west and take over the Chargers’ defense, perhaps wondering about Gruden’s job security. If Bradley didn’t top the list, then Gruden’s top choice probably was Cincinnati defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But he is under contract and the Bengals denied permission for him to talk about making a lateral move.
More Redskins: Redskins stay in house
Wade Phillips decided to go to the Rams, who have decidedly better defensive personnel than the Redskins, before he had a chance to meet with Washington. We’re not sure how seriously Gruden pursued Phillips but it’s possible that he would have taken him over Manusky if he had the chance. That means that Manusky was at best Plan C or Plan D.
But that’s water under the bridge. Gruden’s fate now lies in the hands of Manusky and in the hands of McCloughan, who must set out to get the new defensive coordinator a significant talent upgrade. If Gruden gets a better defense and can maintain a top offensive attack (given Kirk Cousins’ contract status, he needs McCloughan’s help there, too) and the Redskins can take the next step he should be expecting to start serious extension talks in 2018.
If the Redskins spin their wheels and end up around .500 again or if they regress and post double-digit losses like they did for five out of six years from 2009-2014 they could be cleaning house and starting over again. That wouldn’t be a good scenario for anyone. The organization is counting on Manusky, who was Plan C, and McCloughan to help Gruden get things on track.
Tandler on Twitter
#Redskins Twitter in 3…2…1… "Why are they signing the long snapper when Cousins is the top priority?"— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) January 23, 2017
In case you missed it
- Kirk Cousins will make Pro Bowl, per report
- 3 potential concerns with Redskins promotion of Matt Cavanaugh
- Redskins promote Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator
- 3 potential concerns with Redskins' promotion of Manusky
- 3 reasons why promoting Matt Cavanaugh makes sense for Redskins
- Final Countdown: Punch to the gut floors Redskins in Arizona
- Redskins hire Tomsula for D-line, announce coordinators
- Redskins stay in house for coordinator hires
On Monday morning, the Redskins made several new coaching hires official, including Jim Tomsula as the new defensive line coach.
Tomsula was out of football in 2016 after serving as the 49ers head coach for the 2015 season in which the team finished 5-11.
Despite struggling as a head coach, Tomsula gained an odd, if not heavy cult following. It made little sense considering he has the look and demeanor of someone who was put on this earth to coach football and coach football only. But through the glories of the internet came this:
The Jimmy Tomsula rap song.
RELATED: MOST IMPORTANT REDSKINS' FREE AGENTS
It's just a demo, and I suppose the full version could be out there somewhere since this song is over a year old. But there's something hypnotizing about 60 consecutive seconds of "Open up my shirt like im Jimmy Tom-Sula."
How long before we begin hearing this song at FedEx Field on Sundays?