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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 66 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Robert Nkemdiche
Defensive end
Ole Miss

Height: 6-4
Weight: 296

What they’re saying
Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents.
Josh Norris, Rotoworld

How he fits the Redskins: It’s no secret that the Redskins want to start to rebuild their defensive line. In the past they have done so mostly through free agency; the last defensive lineman they took in the first round was end Kenard Lang in 1997. Scot McCloughan believes that the draft is the lifeblood of the organization and there’s no doubt that he will look to build the defensive line there. This year’s first-round pibk would be a good place to start.

Is Nkemdiche (pronounced kim-DEE-chee) the guy McCloughan wants to be the cornerstone of the line? He certainly has the physical tools to do so. He has the athleticism and quickness of an outside player but the size and toughness to play inside. He received second-team All-American honors from multiple media outlets as both a junior and as a senior.

Potential issues: Although he looks good both getting off of the bus and when he gets in his stance on the line he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of numbers. Last year as he was earning those All American honors he posted just three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Those are not the gaudy stats you might want from a top draft pick.

And there is the little matter of the end of his career at Ole Miss. A about 10 days before the Rebels were schedule to play in the Sugar Bowl, Nkemdiche fell out of the window of an Atlanta hotel and suffered mild injuries. That was not a big issue; the marijuana found in the room was a problem. Nkemdiche was arrested for possession and was suspended from the Sugar Bowl. After that he decided to enter the draft.

Bottom line: The on-field numbers won’t make McCloughan pause if he likes what he sees on tape. But the arrest in Atlanta raise questions about how important football is to him.

If the Redskins find Nkemdiche’s on-field talent to be good enough to pursue then they will start looking into his background to see if the incident in Atlanta was an aberration or part of a pattern.

If I had to guess, I’d say that if the Redskins had, say, the No. 10 overall pick they wouldn’t consider Nkemdiche very strongly. There could be better options that have fewer question marks. But if he slides in the draft due to the production stats and the arrest in Atlanta McCloughan could find himself looking at a top-10 talent at pick No. 21. If character concerns are minimal might McCloughan overlook his weak statistical output and make his pick based on Nkemdiche’s high ceiling and can do in the future? We could find out.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

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

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

In case you missed it

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”