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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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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

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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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.