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Need to Know: Has the Redskins' defense improved enough?

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Need to Know: Has the Redskins' defense improved enough?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 24, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 135 days ago. It will be 111 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 65; Preseason opener @ Falcons 79; Final roster cut 102

Question of the day

I’ll combine these two into on answer since the two inquiries are closely related. Let’s take a look at the major players they have added and lost on defense on defense this offseason:

  • On DL, added Kendell Reyes (FA), Matt Ioannidis (D-5), Trent Murphy (position change). Subtracted Terrance Knighton, Jason Hatcher.
  • At LB, added Junior Galette (injury return), Su’a Cravens (D-2). Subtracted LB Keenan Robinson, Murphy
  • At DB, added Josh Norman (FA), Kendall Fuller (D-3), David Bruton (FA), Duke Ihenacho (injury return). Subtracted Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson, Jeron Johnson. Possibly losing Kyshoen Jarrett due to injury.

To address Jonathan’s question about the D-line first, I think that you have to say yes, it does look like a weak spot. It wasn’t very good last year (26th vs. the run) and although Hatcher and Knighton had their issues you can’t really look at Reyes, a lower-level free agent signee, and Ioannidis, a fifth-round pick, as upgrades. Murphy could help out but we’ll have to see. Perhaps he will come through, Stephen Paea will stay healthy and catch on in his second year in the defense and Ioannidis will be a fast learner and contribute right away. Still, it’s hard to see the unit being substantially better than it was last year.

But I think that the rest of the defense has been upgraded significantly. Assuming Galette is healthy—he will have had nearly 13 months to rehab his Achilles by the time the season opens—he will be a major upgrade over Murphy. Cravens will play all over the defense and as he learns more as the year goes on he should get better and better. Fuller and Norman join Bashaud Breeland to give the Redskins one of the better sets of cornerbacks in the league, a weakness turned into a strength. Safety remains something of a question mark but with DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon working at the position full time it is less shaky than it was last year.

In fact, “less shaky” cold probably describe the entire defense. I think they’ll be better but it’s hard to see them cracking the top 10. The top half is a more realistic goal and maybe that is a touch too ambitious. So, Randy, to answer your question, I don’t think they will be able to ride their defense to the NFC championship game. They could contribute more takeaways, particularly interceptions, and sacks than they did last year but they will give up a lot of yards, particularly on the ground. When it's over, they will go as far as Kirk Cousins, his receivers, and whatever sort of rushing game they can cobble together will take them.

Tweet of the day

They’ve hired three new game officials. But none of them will replace Redskins fans’ least favorite referee. Unfortunately, Football Zebra's answer to my query was no, there are no new referees. Incompetence continues.

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Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown may want to power through his myriad of injuries but he won’t be able to do it this week.

Brown is one of two Redskins who have been declared out for the game against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden listed his injuries as toe/ankle/Achilles/hip. This will be the first game that Brown has missed with the Redskins and his first since he was with the Titans in 2014.

Also out is safety Montae Nicholson, who will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion.

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

Listed as questionable are OT Morgan Moses (ankle), OT Trent Williams (knee), OLB Ryan Anderson (ankle), WR Ryan Grant (ankle), WR Maurice Harris (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), and C Chase Roullier (hand).

Williams’ status for Sunday is very much in doubt. His usual pattern since sustaining a knee injury in Week 4 has been to sit out the first two days of practice and then participate in the third. However, he was not on the field on Friday during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Jay Gruden said that he did join the team at some point but he didn’t indicate that he took part in any football activity.

He has missed three games and it would not be surprising if he missed a fourth on Sunday. If Williams can’t go, Ty Nsekhe will start at left tackle.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Roullier has been out the last three games with a broken right (snapping) hand. He has had the cast off of it for a couple of weeks now and he could be ready to go on Sunday.

Harris was out of the game against the Chargers last Sunday with a concussion. He has been practicing on a limited basis all week. The chances that he can pass the concussion protocol seem good, although with concussions it is always difficult to know for sure.

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.

  

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Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

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USA Today Sports Images

Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday, putting doubt into his availability for the game against the Cardinals.

Brown is leading the league in combined tackles and, probably, in injuries.

The team’s injury report says that he is dealing with four of them—toe, Achilles, and ankle with an illness piled on top of those.

“They’re hindering him quite a bit,” Jay Gruden said of Brown’s laundry list of ailments.

“Sickness is starting to clear up a little bit but he’s still a little sore. We’ll see if he makes any progress tomorrow. It’d have to be pretty significant, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

The illness might clear up but the other injuries are unlikely to go away until a few weeks into the offseason. He is getting treatments that include massage, laser, and acupuncture but rest is the only thing that will get rid of the problems.

Some have wondered why Brown persists with multiple injuries and the team now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. For one thing, playing is what he does.

“I like to play the game,” said Brown last week.

RELATED: WEEK 15 POWER RANKINGS

“I like to play the game with passion and I hate to lose. I try my best to help people do better, just trying to help some of the young guys. At the end of the day, you rest when the season’s over.”

There are financial considerations as well, on a couple of different fronts. Brown will be a free agent in 2018 and he is risking further injury that could lower his value on the market. He says that does not factor into is thinking.

“Last two years I was on the free agent market, it’s the way I play,” he said. “If that was the case I would have just shut it down already.”

There are other, more immediate financial considerations as well. Brown has per-game roster bonuses of $15,625 that are paid if he is on the list of 46 active players. And he has incentive bonuses of up to $2.3 million according to Over the Cap. It’s safe to say that at least some of those bonuses will be attainable only if Brown is able to play effectively in all or nearly all of the scheduled 16 games.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Brown hasn’t spoken about the incentive bonus money being important and, given his answer to the free agency question, he probably wouldn’t. But this is not a player who has made a ton of money in his career. According to Spotrac, if he hits on his roster bonuses and on his likely to be earned incentives this year he will have about $7.7 million in career earnings. That’s a good chunk of money but once you take away taxes, a cut to his agent and other various and sundry expenses it’s not “set for life” money. It’s likely that his bank account would notice whatever he can collect in incentives.

Gruden has said that Brown is a player who could go on Sunday even with only one practice under his belt. We will know a lot more about his status this afternoon when his practice status for Friday and his game status for Sunday will be announced on the injury report.