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Need to Know: Redskins starting defense nearly set after Goldson deal

Need to Know: Redskins starting defense nearly set after Goldson deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 4, 26 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Redskins’ 2015 starting defense is mostly set

There could be some changes if jobs are truly open to competition or if there is a surprise draft pick but for the most part the Redskins’ 2015 starting defense is set with the possible exception of one position.

When the Redskins open the season, which will happen on September 13 assuming they start with a Sunday game, Terrance Knighton will be lined up at nose tackle, flanked by Jason Hatcher on the right side and Stephen Paea on the left. Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois will get plenty of snaps in the rotation.

At left outside linebacker will be Ryan Kerrigan. Keenan Robinson is set at the Mike inside linebacker spot and Perry Riley is likely to be the Jack, unless Will Compton, who played well when Riley was out injured last year, can push him out. If the Redskins don’t draft an edge rusher in the first round later this month Trent Murphy will be the right outside linebacker. And even if they do take, say, Dante Fowler or Vic Beasley, Murphy could still start for the first month or so of the season while the rookie gets his feet under him.

The Redskins finally got the last piece of the defensive puzzle yesterday with the Dashon Goldson trade. He will start at free safety with Jeron Johnson at strong. The cornerbacks will be Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland with DeAngelo Hall and/or David Amerson coming in for nickel and dime situation.

A few quick thoughts on this group:

—Goldson did not play well in his two years with the Bucs and Johnson has one NFL start on his ledger. Safety will still be a weak spot in the defense.

—For that reason, the defensive front needs to get pressure on the quarterback and pile up some sacks. Paea will need to match the six he got last year, Hatcher needs to be near the double-digit total that earned him his contract, Kerrigan needs to have another big year and the right side needs to chip in with a dozen or so. It’s a tall order but the chances of it happening are better than those of the safeties holding up if quarterbacks have all day to throw against them.

—This doesn’t look like a bad defense on paper but the depth is suspect (some depth will come via the draft) and it’s likely that there will need to be some more retooling in 2016. They will have to re-sign Kerrigan, Knighton, and Robinson and probably replace Goldson, Hatcher, and possibly Hall.

Timeline

—It’s been 97 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 162 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 16; 2015 NFL Draft 26; Redskins training camp starts 117

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

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!