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Skins’ D-Line a blue-collar group

Skins’ D-Line a blue-collar group

Many have questioned the Washington Redskins' "failure" to address the defensive line in the recent draft. They did not draft a defensive lineman until taking Rob Jackson out of Kansas State in the seventh round. Jackson is a prospect but for 2008 he'll be, at best, a long-term project.

Even without the addition of a high draft pick, however, there will be some lively completion for jobs along the defensive line. To say that it's a star-studded group would be giving them too much credit, but it's not a rag-tag unit by any stretch, either.

Andre Carter is the closest thing to a star player the unit has. While he did not have what I would call a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2007, I will say that any player who wore a star on the side of his helmet and who posted 10.5 sacks and four forced fumbles would have been flying to Hawaii in February.

Phillip Daniels will start at the other end position. He's been a warrior for the Skins and for a few other teams and he's a leader in the locker room. He stayed healthy in '07 and he's was involved in competitive power lifting over the offseason. The 35-year-old, however, is the player with the target on his back, the one that everyone wanted to replace with Calais Campbell or Quentin Groves.

In choosing to upgrade the offense in the second round and by staying away from taking a D-lineman until almost everyone at Radio City Music Hall had gone home, the Redskins expressed confidence in Daniels' ability to get the job done this year. We'll see how well-founded that confidence is. He might have another good year or two left, but 35 is 35.

Plan B here could be Erasmus James. The Redskins took a flyer on him and, if he can regain his health, he could be the long-term answer as Daniels' replacement. The health is a big if, however. Since his freshman year at Wisconsin, he's been dogged by hip, ankle, and knee injuries. Jim Zorn had him on the list of injured players who may not be ready for the start of training camp.

James almost certainly makes the team if he can get back into playing shape. Demetric Evans will be back as a solid backup. As the Skins will keep four or five ends, that leaves at most one more DE spot available. Chris Wilson had four sacks last year, including two in the playoff-clinching win over the Cowboys and the team likes his potential. Ditto for Alex Buzbee, who was on the practice squad last year. Unless James winds up on the PUP list or on IR, Jackson will be joining Buzbee on the PS.

On the inside, Cornelius Griffin hasn't been the force he was in 2004, when he was the MVP of the defense and was robbed of a Pro Bowl berth. Injuries have taken their toll. At 31, it's unlikely that he has another monster season left in him, but he can be more than adequate.

At the other tackle spot, Anthony Montgomery beat out '06 starter Kedric Golston and started 15 games last year. He could continue the improvement and become a stud DT, but it's more likely that he'll continue to be more steady than star.

Who else besides those three will stick may depend on how the Skins count two-way player Lorenzo Alexander. He played the Jumbo package as a sixth lineman on offense and he got some action as a defensive tackle as well. It's possible that he'll setting into one position or the other or he may continue to go both ways.

The only other DT's on the roster are Ryan Boschetti, who keeps on getting cut and keeps on getting asked back, and Matthias Askew, a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in 2004. If Greg Blache and company keep four ends and Alexander is counted in his own category (perhaps using a slot that some other teams use for a kick returner), all of them could make it.

That's unlikely, though. Daniels is capable of moving inside and, in fact, he did so last year in some passing situations when Marcus Washington moved up into a three-point stance to rush the passer. Evans also can hold his own at tackle. It would make more sense to keep an extra end and cover any injury situations that may pop up during the season by moving someone inside. That's good news for Wilson and Buzbee, bad news for Askew and/or Boschetti.

No matter who stays or goes, there is a decided lack of sizzle about the unit. Somehow, some way, however, the Redskins finished the 2007 season fourth in the NFL against the rush with most of those same guys on the front line. It should be a solid, blue-collar unit again this year.

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The Final Countdown: Redskins 8th worst play came from a big hit in Arizona

The Final Countdown: Redskins 8th worst play came from a big hit in Arizona

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 8 worst play of 2016

Redskins at Cardinals Week 13

5:13 left in Q3, Redskins ball 2nd and 8 at their own 29, Redskins leading 13-10

Kirk Cousins sacked at WAS 36 for -9 yards (Calais Campbell). FUMBLES (Calais Campbell) [Calais Campbell], RECOVERED by ARZ- Markus Golden at WAS 30. Markus Golden to WAS 10 for 20 yards (Chris Thompson).

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Tandler: The Redskins had survived a rocky start and they were in position to take control of the game after the Cardinals missed a long field goal attempt. But the situation turned abruptly when Campbell blew over guard Shawn Lauvao and hit Cousins, sending the ball flying. Golden scooped it up and returned it to the 10. Three plays later Carson Palmer threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd. That was the beginning of the end of the Redskins’ chances to get a road win that they desperately had to have.

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

Finlay: When the Cowboys opened the game by marching right down the field against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, nobody blinked, as Dallas' offense had been superb all season. When Arizona did the same thing the following week, there was reason for concern. The 'Skins were able to stem the Cards early, and even took a lead, before Campbell bull-rushed his way into the Washington backfield and blasted Cousins. The Cardinals defensive line was hitting Cousins all game, and this play almost seemed inevitable. It would later come out Lauvao was playing through injury, but bigger picture, the Cardinals loss was the first game the 'Skins truly needed and the team couldn't win. The loss dropped Jay Gruden's squad out of a playoff spot, and though the team would eventually inch their way back into contention, in hindsight, losing in Arizona was the first real indicator that the 2016 Redskins would not make the postseason. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Dennis Thurman

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Dennis Thurman

The Redskins are set to interview Dennis Thurman for their vacant offensive coordinator position. Here is a look at Thurman’s qualifications for the job.

Before becoming a coordinator: Thurman played in the NFL for the Cowboys from 1978-1985. Redskins fans may best remember him for trying to break up the “Fun Bunch” celebration in a 1983 game. He played for the Cardinals the last season of his career. He coached the secondary for the Cardinals for two years before going to USC and holding the same job there from 1993-2000. Thurman then returned to the NFL as a Ravens defensive assistant and secondary coach. He moved to the Jets to coach the secondary there before getting promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012.

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Note: If you want more complete stats on Thurman’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2013 Jets (8-8)

Rankings: Yards 5,359 (11th), points 387 (19th), takeaways 15 (31st), 3rd down 38.8% (13th), DVOA -5.6% (12th)
Notable players: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Antonio Cromartie*, S Ed Reed

The Jets traded away their best defender, Darrelle Revis, during the offseason. Wilkerson led a good pass rush as he racked up 10.5 sacks and LB Calvin Pace had 10. It should be noted that head coach Rex Ryan is a defensive-minded head coach and he certainly had influence in what went right and what went wrong on that side of the ball.

2014 Jets (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,235 (6th), points 401 (24th), takeaways 13 (32nd), 3rd down 45.2% (30th), DVOA 3.5% (21st)
Notable players: DT Sheldon Richardson*, DE Quinton Cooples

If you want to know how a team can finish in the top six in yards and in the bottom 10 in points allowed just look at the lack of takeaways and the porous third-down defense. An offense with Geno Smith at quarterback couldn’t keep thinks afloat and Thurman was fired along with Ryan after the season.

More Redskins: Setting the odds on what will happen with Cousins

2015 Bills (8-8)

Rankings: Yards 5,702 (19th), points 359 (15th), takeaways 25 (12th), 3rd down 40.5%, DVOA 8.6% (24th)
Notable players: DE Mario Williams, DE Jerry Hughes

Ryan and Thurman both moved to upstate New York when they were hired by the Bills. This unit ranked fourth in both yards and points the year before Ryan and Thurman arrived and they obviously didn’t maintain that. It didn’t help that 2014 first-team All-Pro Marcell Dareus got into some legal trouble during the offseason and his production plummeted from 10 sacks in 2014 to two.

2016 Bills (7-9)

Rankings: Yards 5,712 (19th), points 378 (16th), takeaways 18 (23rd), 3rd down 40.0%, DVOA 8.0 (26th)
Notable players: LB Lorenzo Alexander*, CB Stephon Gilmore

Former Redskin Alexander had a good year, racking up 12 sacks and making the Pro Bowl but there wasn’t much else to talk about on defense. They essentially spun their wheels and Ryan was fired with a game left and Thurman soon followed him out the door.

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.