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Jay Gruden explains why Redskins didn't target a nose tackle in the 2017 draft

Jay Gruden explains why Redskins didn't target a nose tackle in the 2017 draft

After months of hand-wringing over the state of the defensive line, the Redskins certainly addressed the position group in the NFL Draft. The first two picks went to the front seven, first with Jonathan Allen to play defensive end and second with Ryan Anderson to play outside linebacker. 

The additions of Allen and Anderson will boost the D-line immediately. That's clear. 

Yet it's also clear that the Redskins did nothing to address the nose tackle position. Even with 10 picks, and four picks in the last two rounds, Washington chose to again ignore the middle point of the team's three-man front.

It doesn't sound like it was an accident either.

"I feel good," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of nose tackle after the draft. "I think a lot of people don’t know the guys we’ve had here or the guys there were on our practice squad."

The "guys that are here" include Matt Ioannadis and free agent Phil Taylor. The practice squad guys would be Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis.

RELATED: 2018 mock draft has Redskins taking a QB

It's entirely possible Mbu or Francis can develop into rotational pieces at the nose. Both undrafted, Francis goes 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, while Mbu stands 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds. They have good size and work hard, in the weight room and on the field. Still, neither player has a single start in two years in the league.

Ioannadis, who is 6-foot-3 and 309 pounds, did not make a start for the Redskins last season as a rookie. In fact, he was active for only 10 games and registered six tackles. For a fifth round pick, his impact was negligible. 

Then there is Taylor, the true wild card for Washington at nose tackle. A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor is a D.C. native looking to again prove he belongs in the NFL. He missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, and played just five games in 2014. Injuries derailed his career, but his first three seasons in the NFL, Taylor showed he could be a force.

At 6-foot-3 and 337 pounds, Taylor goes about 30 pounds more than the other possible Redskins nose tackles. And he's performed at a high level. As a rookie in 2012, he started 16 games, made 37 tackles and logged four sacks. 

"We added Phil Taylor. He’s an ex-first-round pick, had a couple of injuries but he’s looking good out here. He looks healthy and [he is] rolling," Gruden said. 

May is the time for optimism, and in Taylor's case, his return would be a boon for the 'Skins. He's signed to a minimal deal. If he can get back, and it's a huge if, could be true value for the defense.

Washington does not seem overly concerned about the nose tackle position. Remember Gruden explained at the NFL Owner's Meetings in March that he fully expects defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to "make" a nose tackle.

"If you look at his track record, you look at the nose guards he’s had, none of them have been priority first-round draft choices," Gruden said of Tomsula. "He’s made nose guards. He coaches that position extremely well, and I have faith that he’ll do that."

Beyond what Gruden said about Tomsula, the quotes might reveal an organizational mindset about the position. Fans might overestimate the importance of the nose, or at least what should be invested in the position.

RELATED: DB draft picks have an uphill battle for roster spots

Consider that nose tackle is one of the most physically demanding positions in football, and add in that playing nose requires serious size, particularly weight, and it can be hard for guys to maintain their endurance while carrying 325 lbs. or more year after year.

On most defenses, resources get spent in two main areas: sacking the quarterback and defending the pass. The big money goes to the edge, pass rushers and cornerbacks. Those two positions also tend to dominate draft capital. 

The Redskins are no different. The highest-paid players on Washington's defense are Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman. The team's first two draft picks will be expected to pressure opposing QBs, and their third-round pick is a cornerback. The team also added two safeties and another corner in the later rounds of the draft while not drafting a nose.

The lesson? Gruden's comments, and the team's action made it clear: Nose tackle just isn't the priority that some Redskins fans want it to be. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201