Quick Links

Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

In a week that saw the Washington Redskins dismiss their general manager, it would be entirely reasonable for the fan base to expect chaos. Especially if the general manager's dismissal came on the same day the NFL's free agency period opened. 

Yet, despite that exact scenario, chaos is not the current course at Redskins Park. In fact, the Burgundy and Gold is off to quite a strong start in the new league year.

By noon on Thursday, the situation for the 'Skins seemed dire. Reports showed that the team would lose two 1,000 yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon as well as their best defensive lineman in Chris Baker. Couple that with the unraveling of McCloughan's role amid talk of alcohol abuse and a power struggle with team president Bruce Allen.

At that moment, it seemed hope was lost for the Redskins. 

48 hours later, flip that script.

On the first day of free agency, Washington added defensive line help in Terrell McClain of the Cowboys and Stacy McGee from Oakland. Neither player is a star, but both can be productive. The Redskins needed increased depth on their D-line in 2017, and the team's first two moves of the new league year went directly towards that effort. Injuries have caused McClain and McGee to miss games, and there's little the 'Skins can do about that, but both are relatively young and capable. 

From there, the franchise added their first potential impact player in D.J. Swearinger. 

A second-round pick in 2013, Swearinger has a reputation of a big hitter and playmaker in the back of the secondary. Last year, playing in Arizona, Swearinger recorded three interceptions to go with eight passes defensed, two sacks and 64 tackles. 

Paired with Su'a Cravens in the back of the secondary, the Redskins might lack high-end speed, but they will have two players committed to the safety position. Last year, the team trotted out a career special teamer in David Bruton paired with a converted corner in DeAngelo Hall at the two safety spots. That plan didn't work. Further, both young players are difference makers - athletic and gifted. That duo immediately makes the Redskins better in 2017 than they were in 2016, and Swearinger's signing is the first time the Washington brass has truly invested at safety in many years. 

If you're scoring at home, the first three free agent signings directly responded to areas of need for the club. If the team was playing baseball, McGee and McClain got on base, then Swearinger moved all the runners over. The bases were now loaded.

And then came the home run.

Washington agreed to a one-year deal with Terrelle Pryor, a receiver from the Browns. As big as the loss of Jackson and Garçon is, offsetting that with Pryor provides the Redskins offense with a bigger, more athletic option.

At 6-foot-6 and 240 lbs., Pryor is one of the biggest receivers in the league. Last season, he caught 77 balls for more than 1,000 yards. Making those stats more impressive, the Browns collection of quarterbacks in the 2016 season was abysmal. Pryor was Cleveland's best option offensively, and defenses knew it. 

Want to go another step? Pryor remains raw as a wideout. He could get better, and maybe, much better.  A quarterback in college and his first two years in the NFL, Pryor only made the full-time switch to receiver in 2015. 

In Washington, Pryor will be part of an offense that features an emerging star in slot man Jamison Crowder, arguably the best pass catching tight end in the NFL in Jordan Reed, a veteran with plenty left in Vernon Davis, and, perhaps, the emergence of 2016 first-round draft pick Josh Doctson.

More importantly, Kirk Cousins signed his franchise tag. The quarterback is under contract for 2017, and though a trade certainly remains an option, on paper, the Redskins offense is again stacked. 

What Washington still needs to accomplish in free agency: An impact player on the defensive line. Swearinger is an impact guy in the secondary. Pryor is an impact guy at wideout. McClain and McGee, however, are not. 

The Redskins truly need to address a gaping hole at the nose tackle position. A hole that has largely existed since the team moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2010.

Bennie Logan, formerly of the Eagles, is set to visit the franchise's Ashburn offices. Logan could be the guy the team needs. 

A third-round pick in 2013 out of LSU, Logan has size (6-foot-2, 310 lbs.) and played his best football at the nose in the 3-4 scheme. 

None of this changes the sloppy way the team handled McCloughan. And none of this changes that Cousins could walk away next season without the club getting any compensation. Those two factors are real, and detrimental.

Still, Washington deserves commendation for a strong start to free agency. Bruce Allen has the team operating at a high level, executing well, and without offering massive contracts. 

It's wild to suggest, but on paper in early March, the 2017 Redskins might be better than the 2016 Redskins.

The offense will look very different, but the increased size could help solve some of the team's red zone woes that plagued the team throughout last season. 

The defense has already improved at the back end, and added help at the front end.

If Logan signs, and there is good reason to think he will, that will be three new, young defensive lineman to work with new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Losing Baker hurts, but the moves being made could offset that loss.

McClain. McGee. Pryor. Swearinger. And maybe Logan. Reports of the sky falling in Ashburn might have been premature. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!

Quick Links

'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

NFC East opponents don't challenge Josh Norman. Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Jr. are fake tough, no real threat to him. Not like some other receivers in the NFL. 

At least that's how the Redskins corner described them in a wide-ranging interview with Bleacher Report published on Thursday. 

The gist? The Cowboys and Giants stars get no respect from Norman, though both were involved in memorable feuds with him the past year. 

Norman got his first opportunity to talk trash when asked to do word association with the name "Dez Bryant." He took the opening and returned it for a touchdown. 

"That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy," Norman said.

"He doesn't 'wow' you. For me, he don't. For other guys, he probably will do the worst to them because he'll bully them. But you can't bully a bully. You know what I'm saying? That's why his game doesn't resonate to me."

To jog your memory, Norman and Bryant went at it after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving last year. Bryant said Washington should get a refund on Norman's contract. There was also drama about whether Norman falsely accused Bryant of threatening to "unload the clip" on him.

Real mature, substantive conflict. 

RELATED: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

The Redskins corner didn't go any easier on Beckham, who of all receivers in the league has had the most explosive run-ins with Norman. 

In fact, Beckham's helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman in a 2015 contest between the Giants and Panthers led the NFL to change rules for ejections. Beckham had racked up three unnecessary roughness penalties in that game. 

"[Beckham] tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other," Norman said, suggesting that he's able to push OBJ over the edge and out of control. 

"He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy."

"When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man," Norman concluded.

It must have been an exercise in restraint not to mention OBJ's kicking-net tantrum after losing to the Redskins last year. 

As the interview moved on, there wasn't a receiver that drew respect from Norman until the name Julio Jones came up. Norman got to see the Falcons receiver twice a year when he played for Carolina in the NFC South. 

"Now, that is the ultimate challenge. That's when I can do things in a split-second, a millisecond, just choo-choo-choo," Norman said of facing Jones. He said he's missed that challenge since moving to the NFC East. 

"It's the worst. Because I'm just battling 'guys.' I'm not battling against something I can call 'greatness.' I'm not enhancing my craft. Don't get me wrong. They're tough. But they're not [Jones]," he said. He also named Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey as other receivers who could provide a real test. 

But whether those matchups excite Norman or not, he knows they can't touch the hype of NFC East showdowns, especially ones involving Beckham. 

"That game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!"

The interview ended with Norman looking forward to playing with new Redskins safety DJ Swearinger, who has a reputation as a hard-hitting intimidator.

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year. You think the NFC East didn't like each other before? This year right here? There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't. And I know they don't have that many people on the offense who do on their side."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

MORE REDSKINS: Josh Doctson ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

Quick Links

Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

An Achilles injury robbed Josh Doctson of the bulk of his rookie season with the Redskins. After a strenuous offseason spent rehabbing and a clean bill of health, Doctson is ready to fight back.

"It feels good to be back out here with them and to be playing football again," Doctson said Wednesday at Redskins OTAs (full video above). "It's what I’ve been doing for a long time, it's why I’m here. I'm good at what I do."

Sure it's May and there was no contact, but Doctson showed how good he can look on Wednesday. He caught a number of balls throughout the two hour session and looked smooth in his routes. The second-year pro from TCU makes cuts while maintaining speed and balance, and the skills allowed him to get open a number of times to haul in passes using soft hands.

"Right now, so far, so good," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I like the way he looks, like the way he runs and love the way he catches."

Late in the OTA session, Colt McCoy found Doctson for a deep touchdown. While the sidelines erupted, Doctson just calmly jogged back to the line of scrimmage and talked with coaches. 

Doctson explained that to "show my teammates, coaches and myself again that I can play with these guys, play at this level, it feels real good."

The Redskins will need the 6-foot-2, 202 lbs. Doctson this fall. With the exit of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards left the Washington offense. Free agent addition Terrelle Pryor will be expected to pick up a large chunk of that yardage, but Doctson will need to offset that loss as well.

"He’s been impressive. I think the big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles and I think he’s got that right now. I saw him out there today and yesterday, the last two days he’s looked better and better. It looks like he can run down the field," Gruden said.

Doctson described the pain in his Achilles as "pretty much non-existent now."

Never a good place to look for nuanced analysis, last season some social media speculation suggested Doctson was homesick dealing with his injury. That theory seems foolish, as the receiver spent the entire offseason in Ashburn, working out and rehabbing.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling healthy," he said. "I got after it every day. It’s a tribute to my hard work why I'm feeling so feeling healthy."

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back