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Who will be the Redskins' top players on defense in 2019?

Who will be the Redskins' top players on defense in 2019?

It is the season for looking into the future, both to the 2016 season and beyond.

Let’s look at the Redskins three years from now. Who will still be here? Which players will be top performers? Here’s a possible snapshot of the team going into training camp in the year 2019. Yesterday we looked at the offense and today it's the 2019 defense.

To define the terms here, a blue chip player is one who is one of the top four to six players in the league at his position, is a consistent Pro Bowl caliber performer and at least occasionally gets All-Pro consideration.

A solid starter is also known as a red chip player. The team is happy with his level of play and is not looking to upgrade, These players are below the elite level but firmly in the top 10 or 12 at their positions. These players perhaps make an occasional visit to the Pro Bowl.

Potential starters are exactly that, players who could be starting in three years or who could be on the bench or playing elsewhere. Even if they are starting in Washington the team may be on the lookout for an upgrade.

Potential blue chip players: Josh Norman, Preston Smith
Solid starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Potential starters: Kendall Fuller, Matt Ioannidis, Junior Galette, Will Compton

Norman and Smith are both projections. The cornerback seems to be more of a sure thing, although he has performed at a high level for only about a season and a half. We know how that past performances don’t guarantee future returns for Redskins free agents. Smith is more of a stretch but he has displayed the potential to be a star.

Kerrigan will be 31 by the time the 2019 season starts. There is no reason to think he will be washed up by then, although the team may start looking for an eventual replacement in the draft.

Breeland works hard and keeps improving. It looks like his ceiling will be as a consistent starter but perhaps he could break through to the next level like Norman did.

Cravens will have a lot to learn but once he gets established in a role he should be a valued member of the defense.

Fuller could turn out to be in essence a second first-round pick for the Redskins if he can stay healthy. With the defensive line in flux, Ioannidis will have a shot at establishing himself this year.

For the first time in his career Compton enters the season as the starter. He has been taking on a leadership role as the defensive signal caller. The third-year player had his ups and downs last year and the organization will need some more evidence to determine if he is the long-term answer at Mike linebacker.

Galette may be a near-blue chipper in 2019, when he will be 31, or he might not be on the team. He’s on a one-year contract and if he plays well will the Redskins be able to pay him the premium contract that a star pass rusher commands? Smith will need a new contract by 2019 and between him and Kerrigan there will be a lot of money tied up in pass rushers. If Galette plays just OK, will the Redskins want to move on?

Of the other key performers on defense now, the one I might have included as a potential starter is Chris Baker. He will turn 32 early in the 2019 season. But he didn’t play much early in his career and he could have a lot of miles left.

Contract status

Of the players listed above, Norman, Kerrigan, Cravens, Fuller, and Ioannidis currently are under contract through the 2019 season. Galette will be an unrestricted free agent and Compton will be a restricted free agent after the 2016 season. The contract of Breeland expires after 2017. Following the 2018 season the team will need a new deal for Smith.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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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!

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

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<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