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Rookie preview: inside linebacker D.J. Holt

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Rookie preview: inside linebacker D.J. Holt

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."

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Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day

Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early. 

Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.

Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl. 

At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.

Tandler: 

Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.

There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.

Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.

So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: How many Redskins roster spots are up for grabs in 2017?

Need to Know: How many Redskins roster spots are up for grabs in 2017?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 19, 18 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 10
—NFL Combine (3/2) 11
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 57
—NFL Draft (4/27) 67
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 203

Sunday morning quick hitters

How many spots up for grabs? A quick mid-February look down the final 2016 53-man roster shows about 20 players who may not be on the roster for Week 1 this year. This includes players who may depart as free agents and others who just won’t make the team. They probably won’t turn over that many spots but it does show that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - It's tag day

How many draft picks? The Redskins have nine draft picks, their own in rounds 1-6 and extra picks in rounds 4, 5, and 6. It’s easy to say that Scot McCloughan may turn that into as many as a dozen picks, especially with all the roster spots that may be open. But remember that last year the Redskins wound up with just seven picks with no pick in the fourth and two in the seventh. McCloughan may intend to stockpile more picks but it depends on how the draft unfolds.

1st-round RB a bad idea: Yesterday JP and I posted on the topic of Rob Kelley as the Redskins’ prime running back this season and it drew quite a bit of discussion on Twitter and on Facebook. I think that they should try to get an upgrade over Kelley but I don’t think they should use their first-round pick to do it. There are just too many other, higher priority needs.

More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0

A turnaround for Matt Jones? Last year Trent Murphy broke out after two mediocre seasons to register nine sacks. Can Jones do the something similar in this, his third season? The rough equivalent of Murphy’s performance would be Jones rushing for 800 yards. It’s as much a matter of him holding on to the ball as anything. Jones was on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards before losing his grip on the starting job, literally and figuratively.

Tandler on Twitter

Posted by Rich Tandler on Saturday, February 18, 2017

In case you missed it

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.