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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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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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In case you missed it

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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