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2017 Redskins Depth Chart Preview: Defensive line desperate for improvement

2017 Redskins Depth Chart Preview: Defensive line desperate for improvement

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster.

While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp.

They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27.

In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

We’ll start with the defensive line.

2016 final game starters: Chris Baker, Ziggy Hood (NT)

Ricky Jean Francois was the third starter but he started many games on the bench when the Redskins opened up in a nickel defense.

RELATED: UPDATED NFL MOCK DRAFT 7.0

Departures: Francois (released), Baker (free agent), Cullen Jenkins (unsigned), Kedric Golston (unsigned)

Projected 2017 starters: Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Hood (NT)

McClain and McGee came in as free agents. Injuries have hampered them at various times during their careers. Both are coming off career-best seasons so the Redskins hope that the two players are on the upswing.

2017 reserves: A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu, Phil Taylor, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier

Ioannidis was a fifth-round pick last year who didn’t make the 53-man roster and spent two weeks on the practice squad. Lanier took Ioannidis’ spot on the 53 as a development project. He played in four games before a leg injury sent him to injured reserve.

Francis spent time on the practice squad and was on the 53-man roster for one game. Mbu was a Week 6 practice squad signee. Taylor is a former first-round draft pick who hasn’t played since 2015.

Where can the D-line find improvement?

If you have been paying any attention at all you know that the Redskins will need to bolster their defensive line in the draft. Ideally, they would like to add a nose tackle but finding one can be tricky since the need to defend spread offenses in college has brought lighter, quicker linemen into the pipeline. But even adding a young end like Malik McDowell or Caleb Brantley sometime in the first two days of the draft would give a needed talent boost to the group.

Jay Gruden is very high on the potential of Lanier to be a pass rushing presence. He has the most potential of the young players on the line. Last year as an undrafted free agent he was just battling to get a spot on the team. This year as a lock to make it he will be able work on refining his game.

RELATED: A RUN-FIRST PHILOSOPHY?

It seemed like the team gave up on Ioannidis last year, cutting him in the final roster reduction and then putting him on the inactive list for four midseason games, preferring to dress the 35-year-old Jenkins instead. He is in a situation where he needs to improve or he could well get waived and not return.

Locks and Bubble Players

They have carried six or seven DL most of the time the last two seasons. The locks are McGee, McClain, Lanier, and the guy they draft in the first three or four rounds. Hood probably is the fifth lock unless they draft multiple linemen.

That leaves Ioannidis, Francis, Mbu, and Taylor on the bubble competing for one or perhaps two roster spots.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.