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Assessing the Redskins' needs on defense

Assessing the Redskins' needs on defense

Everyone knows the Redskins have plenty of personnel needs on both sides of the ball and the temptation is to say that they just need everything. And while there isn’t a position on the field where they can’t use some help, some areas are in more dire need than others.

In an attempt to quantify that, let’s put each position group on a needs meter. The scale is 1-10 and here’s the scale:

1—The depth chart at the position is completely set with players entering prime ages with market value contracts.
5—The team has enough NFL-caliber players under contract at the position but it could use quality depth and some replacement planning for aging players.
10—There are no players under contract who could reasonably be expected to start 16 games.

We looked at the offensive side of the ball earlier, today it’s the defense.

Defensive line—As many as four players who were on the depth chart in 2015 could be gone. NT Terrance Knighton is slated to be a free agent, Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston will be 34 and 33, respectively, when the season starts and an upgrade could be found for Frank Kearse.

Need Meter: 8 Assuming that at least three of the four possible roster openings are there, the Redskins will have to be aggressive both in free agency and in the draft to fill in the holes.

Outside linebacker—If we take Junior Galette’s vow that he will return to the Redskins at face value, they are in pretty good shape here with him, Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy.

Need meter: 3 You can’t have too many good pass rushers so if one pops up on the draft board Scot McCloughan may pounce. But other than that they should be in good shape, perhaps looking at someone who could fill the last spot on the depth chart.

Inside linebacker—This is a tough one. Can the Redskins start the season with Will Compton, Perry Riley and, if the re-signs, Mason Foster at the top of the depth chart and 2015 draft pick Martrell Spaight as a backup? Sure, they could. But the defense could be helped greatly by the addition of an impact player in the middle? Absolutely.

Need meter: 5 If that impact player is there on the draft board they should strongly consider pulling the trigger. And they might do some succession preparation as Riley is in the last year of his contract.

Cornerback—Beyond Bashaud Breeland there are a bunch of question marks here. Will Chris Culliver be recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered on Thanksgiving Day by the time to season starts? Is it worth continuing to develop Quinton Dunbar as the nickel back? Are reserves like Dashaun Phillips and Deshazor Everett, both of whom played well on special teams, good enough to win with?

Need meter: 7 Cornerbacks are like pass rushers; with teams lining up in multiple receiver sets so frequently you really can’t have too many. They don’t need to go out and get an upper-echelon free agent like Culliver again. But they could justify going for a cornerback in any round of the draft including the first.

Safety—The Redskins’ perpetual problem area got a little better with the rapid development of sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett as a viable option at safety. The other side of the coin is that Dashon Goldson turns 32 early in the season and carries an $8 million cap number and DeAngelo Hall is 32 and will count $5 million against the cap. At the very least the Redskins need eventual replacements for those two players.

Need meter: 8 The need is higher than it might be otherwise because good safeties are hard to find. The draft is perpetually thin as the better athletes at defensive back want to play cornerback. That scarcity works its way through to the free agent market. If they can find a good safety in the draft they need to grab him.

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

In case you missed it