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More talent and new coaches, but Jay Gruden knows challenges remain for Redskins defense

More talent and new coaches, but Jay Gruden knows challenges remain for Redskins defense

The Redskins defense struggled in 2016, especially on third downs.

The unit ranked dead last in the NFL allowing third down conversions, and that was one of many reasons the organization decided to overhaul their defensive coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry, secondary coach Perry Fewell and defensive line coach Robb Akey are all gone. Players liked Barry but often, mostly privately but at times publicly, disagreed with schematic decisions. Fewell had few fans among the Redskins secondary, and Akey's defensive line just did not perform. 

The moves all made sense, especially looking at defensive statistics from 2016. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

The hard part for Redskins fans to remember, however, is that new coaches will not necessarily deliver immediate results.

"It’s going to be a challenge. Anytime you have a new defensive staff, I don’t care how experienced you are, it’s your job to get the team to gel," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said during rookie camp. 

The changes start at the top, as Greg Manusky moves up from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Manusky is expected to deploy a more aggressive approach to the Washington defense, a move many players seem excited about. Players that worked under Manusky last season like Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy spoke highly of their position coach, which likely helped his candidacy for the coordinator spot. 

Replacing Fewell as secondary coach will be Torrian Gray, formerly of Virginia Tech. Gray has hands-on experience with second-year pro Kendall Fuller and knows DeAngelo Hall through Hokie connections. A fresh start will help in the secondary, where the unit often looked confused in 2016. More than one player would remarked last year that communicating with Fewell was never easy. That should be a first step for Gray.

On the defensive line, Gruden and 'Skins team president Bruce Allen think they got a star in coach Jim Tomsula. A powerful voice, Tomsula is known for developing strong players in the trenches, and he will be tasked with getting the most out of rookie Jonathan Allen as well as free agent additions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

"I think from a talent standpoint, we feel like we’ve done a good job in the offseason addressing some of our needs with the draft and free agency," Gruden said. "We lost a couple of good players, but we feel like we replaced them and upgraded our team with depth, which is very good."

Beyond McGee and McClain, the Redskins also added Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Brown and safety D.J. Swearinger. In the draft, they added Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson and UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau in the second and third rounds respectively.

One year after the Redskins spent nearly half of their salary cap allocation on defense as they did on offense, the team is trying to balance the ledger, particularly via the draft. It was the first time in 20 years the team used their first three draft picks exclusively on defense. 

Gruden believes in the players the team has acquired, and his defensive coaches now need to make it all work.

"I think we have a lot of depth on our defense right now as opposed to previous years, so it’s going to be their job and it’s a great challenge, that’s the challenge of all coaches is to get your team to gel defensively and play together. I feel like the talent is there for them to work with."

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

 

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Best 2017 Black Friday gift ideas for the Redskins fan in your life

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Amazon

Best 2017 Black Friday gift ideas for the Redskins fan in your life

Black Friday is nearly here, and in anticipation of the holiday, you're probably planning on buying that nice, new TV or laptop you've needed for a while. But in addition to those typical Black Friday items, it's also the perfect time to pick up something for that dedicated Redskins fan in your life.

Not sure what to get the Burgundy and Gold supporter, though? Look no further than the list of 10 things below.

We've done our part by creating this list for you, just like a quarterback who gives his receiver a chance with a great throw. Now it's up to you to finish the play.

1. Redskins PlayStation 4 Skin Set

Price: $14.99

Where to buy: Amazon

Why they'll love it: As someone who just bought a PlayStation 4, I'd be thrilled to be able to personalize it with this 'Skins Skin set. The only thing better than taking down a Cowboys fan online in Madden is taking down a Cowboys fan online in Madden with Redskins-themed controllers.

2. Redskins NFL Krazy Kover

Price: $10.02

Where to buy: Amazon

Why they'll love it: This is more than a koozie; it's a sweater for your beer. Why are you still reading and not buying?

3. Redskins infant bodysuit set

Price: $26.99

Where to buy: NFLShop.com

Why they'll love it: The other items on this list are all for the Redskins fan in your life. This one, on the other hand, is for the future Redskins fan in your life. Quick, give them this bodysuit set before your weird, Eagles-supporting aunt does the same.

4. Redskins light up sweater

Price: $79.99

Where to buy: NFLShop.com

Why they'll love it: It's just like the one you've seen in the commercials, except better, because it's Burgundy and Gold! There's one for men and one for women.

5. Redskins fidget spinner

Price: $3.99

Where to buy: NFLShop.com

Why they'll love it: The fidget spinner fad has died down a bit, but let's be honest: when you get one in your hand these days, you still spin the heck out of it. Give the gift of spinning to those you love most this Black Friday.

6. Redskins golf balls 

Price: $13.99

Where to buy: NFLShop.com

Why they'll love it: I'm addicted to golf and would cherish each of these Redskins balls right up to the moment I sliced them straight into the woods on the third tee.

7. Redskins lunch box/cooler

Price: $29.99

Where to buy: Fanatics.com

Why they'll love it: People have forgotten how important it is to have a useful lunch box in 2017. Remind them with this beautiful cooler, so they can then display their dedication to Washington's team inside of their office's overcrowded fridge.

8. Redskins platter

Price: $39.99

Where to buy: Fanatics.com

Why they'll love it: We're heading into the thick of the party-hosting section of the calendar. When you're serving up your guests your finest cheeses, do it on this Redskins platter.

9. Redskins full/queen comforter set

Price: $69.99

Where to buy: Fansedge.com

Why they'll love it: With a comforter this gorgeous, you may actually want to make your bed every morning.

10. Redskins license plate frame

Price: $19.99

Where to buy: Fansedge.com

Why they'll love it: Think of how many cars sit behind you on a daily basis. Then, think of how many of those people root for the other NFC East rivals. Buy this so you can taunt them without even knowing it.

11. fuboTV Subscription

Price: $19.99/month for 2 months

Where to buy: fubotv.com

Why they'll love it: What better gift than the games themselves? Perfect for the cord-cutting Redskins fan on your list, fuboTV offers 80 streaming channels from sports to news to movies and more. Watch on all of your favorite devices including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon FireTV and AndroidTV or take it anywhere with the fuboTV app, available for both Android and iOS. If you're on the go, take advantage of fuboTV's cloud-based DVR service to record your favorite programs and watch them wherever you'd like. Even better? There are no hidden fees or long-term contracts and you can cancel anytime. 

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Redskins will start their No. 3 center against the Giants

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins will start their No. 3 center against the Giants

Jay Gruden said during the offseason that the thing that scared him most was not having a good center and a backup available. The coach probably is terrified now.

Spencer Long, who started the season at center, is headed to injured reserve. He has been battling tendonitis in his knees for several weeks and, apparently, an injured quad muscle. Gruden said that Long will have surgery to fix the quad.

MORE REDSKINS: QUANTIFYING THE LATE-HALF DIFFICULTIES

Rookie Chase Roullier has been playing well in Long’s absence but he will be on the shelf at least this week. He broke a bone in his hand against the Saints and, according to a report, he has had surgery to repair it. While he has not been ruled out it seems likely that he will miss at least this game, if not more.

The Redskins’ third option is veteran journeyman Tony Bergstrom. It looks like he will start at center against the Giants on Thursday. The Redskins are Bergstrom’s fourth team in four seasons in the league. He has started four games, all for the Raiders in 2012 and 2015. Bergstrom signed with the Redskins about four weeks ago.

Bergstrom’s backup will be Demetrius Rhaney, who was just signed. He started one game for the Rams after they drafted him in the seventh round in 2014.

As expected, both Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor are headed to injured reserve. In addition to signing Rhaney, the team will promote LB Pete Robertson and RB LeShun Daniels from the practice squad. Earlier this week they re-signed DL A.J. Francis. They will have to drop one player from the 53-man roster before all of these moves are made official.

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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.