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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Defensive line

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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Defensive line

Bye week grades: Defensive line

Through seven games, the Redskins rank as one of the NFL’s most inconsistent teams—from week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, heck, play-to-play. But at 3-4, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.

El-Bashir: One of General Manager Scot McCloughan’s priorities last offseason was retooling an aging and increasing ineffective defensive line. Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield and Jarvis Jenkins were shown to the door, and free agents Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean-Francois were targeted to complement Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme. Thus far, each player has proven to be an upgrade. Interestingly, though, the linemen who’ve made the biggest impact, at least statistically, are holdovers: Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher. “Swaggy” has been a game-changer. He’s tied with Ryan Kerrigan for the team lead in sacks (3.5) and has produced five tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble. Hatcher, meantime, has only one sack but leads all 3-4 ends with 20 quarterback hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. All that said, there are some concerns. The biggest is the defense’s recent problem stopping the run and, specifically, preventing long runs. In fact, the past three opponents have rushed for an average of 196 yards. That’s not all on the linemen, of course. And, it should be noted that Devonta Freeman (Atlanta), Chris Ivory (Jets) and Doug Martin (Bucs) rank among the top-7 rushers in the league. But …reversing that trend begins with better discipline and sounder tackling up front.   

Grade: B-

Tandler: Certainly, the line has been upgraded with the free agency additions, although Paea has been something of a disappointment. Baker has taken over the starting spot on the left side, not what you expect when a free agent gets a four-year, $21 million contract as Paea did. Knighton is the true nose tackle that the team has lacked ever since they switched to the 3-4 defense in 2010. As Tarik noted, Hatcher has been providing a lot of pass pressure even though the sacks haven’t really been there. There is reason for legitimate concern over the veteran’s knee as he has had to sit out some practices lately but grading just on what he’s done so far he has been solid. The issue here is that the performance of the unit has been less than the sum of the parts. After a good start against the run the unit has sprung major leaks, leaving gaps open and missing tackles. To be sure, the linebackers and defensive backs have their fingerprints on problem stopping the run as well. But all of the linemen will tell you that it’s their primary job and they haven’t bee doing well lately.

Grade: C

Grading the Redskins at the bye:

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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USA TODAY Sports

As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

Tandler on Twitter

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