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Up-front defense could be the strength of the Redskins


Up-front defense could be the strength of the Redskins

Now that the Redskins have set their 53-man roster and the season is less than a week away, it’s time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Where are they better? Where will they still have issues? The series started with the offensive line and the offensive skill positions. Now we look at the defensive front seven.

Defensive front seven

Starters: DEs Jason Hatcher, Stephen Paea; NT Terrance Knighton; OLBs Trent Murphy, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley

The Redskins want to put more pressure on the quarterback and part of that will be getting more pass rush from the defensive line. If they can get the six sacks from Paea that he had with the Bears last year and have Hatcher flirt with double digits the will be happy.

Knighton’s role in the pass rush primarily will be to shove blockers back into the pocket, making it hard for the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly. But his main responsibility will be to clog up the middle and reduce the running room available to the offense. He could be the biggest upgrade to the defense since last year.

Kerrigan got the big contract just before training camp started and now he needs to make his best year (13.5 sacks last year) his typical year. A lot will depend on Murphy and/or Preston Smith providing enough pressure to draw some attention away from him. If the offense can get a good working lead to force the other team into more passing situations he will be able to pile up some stats.

During the preseason, Murphy did a lot of what he did last year—he got pressure, got close to the quarterback but was unable to finish off the sack. He continues to work to gain that extra half step he needs.

With Kerrigan and Trent Williams now signed to extensions, Robinson is among the most important Redskins going into his contract year. He stepped in for the retired London Fletcher last year and played very well. Robinson could help his case by making a few more impact plays; he had just 1.5 sacks and forced no fumbles in 2014.

Riley is good against the run but he has issues in coverage. Former defensive coordinator Jim Haslett kept him in the game virtually every snap. It will be interesting to see if Joe Barry subs for him in nickel situations.

Reserves: DLs Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois, Kedric Golston, Frank Kearse; OLBs Preston Smith, Jackson Jeffcoat; ILBs Will Compton, Martrell Spaight

In Baker and Jean Francois, the Redskins have two linemen who are good enough to start coming off of the bench. Baker plays with a lot of energy and the change to a more aggressive one-gap scheme plays to his strengths. Between Golston and Kearse, one will be inactive on game days and the other will play 15 snaps or so in the rotation.

A lot is expected of Smith, the team’s second-round draft pick. He had two sacks in the preseason, albeit against backup players. Few would be surprised if he grabbed the starting job by midseason. Jeffcoat flashed some ability after he made the 53-man roster after injuries thinned out the linebackers. We will see what he can contribute over the course of a full season.

Compton filled in well when Riley and then Robinson missed games due to injuries. Spaight’s role this year will most likely focus on special teams. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 24, 33 days before the 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.

Free agency update: What's next for the Redskins on the D-line? The Redskins have been casting out lines for defensive linemen since before free agency officially started but they haven’t been able to reel one in. Part of the issue might be that they know that Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are likely to be available in the draft. They have to balance spending big on a lineman vs. being able to get one pretty cheap for the next five years.

Redskins make a D-line contract change, gain roster flexibility—Speaking of the D-line, the team negotiated the removal of a salary guarantee for one player to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 in September. See the post for details.

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract—In the words of Joe Biden, this is a big f-----g deal. It showed that the Redskins aren’t afraid to pay a quarterback big money if they think it’s the right guy. It should be noted that whether or not they chose the right guy is something that remains to be seen. Although the post shows that it’s plausible for the Redskins to terminate the deal after three years, I anticipate Smith playing out at least four if not all five years of the contract.

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign Scandrick—Orlando Scandrick has struggled with injuries the past few years and Redskins fans did not greet the news of his signing with great enthusiasm, to say the least. To point out the bright side, his contract is not pricey by NFL terms ($2.6 million cap hit this year, no guaranteed money beyond a $1 million signing bonus) and from what I have been able to gather it’s possible that change of scenery might give him a boost for a year or two.

Tweet of the week

Well before free agency started, I wrote that the Redskins’ top priorities in free agency should be to get extensions done for Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Jamison Crowder. They should have about $15 million to work with after a few more free agent signings and that would be plenty to get all of those extensions done. And if they do score a big free agent signing, it would be worth it to restructure the contract of someone like Ryan Kerrigan to get them done.

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


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 23
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 124
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 169

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy.