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Need to Know: What will Ziggy Hood's role with the Redskins be?

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Need to Know: What will Ziggy Hood's role with the Redskins be?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 3, 21 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

What role will Ziggy Hood play on the Redskins’ defense?

The Redskins signed DE Ziggy Hood, a 2009 first-round draft pick of the Steelers, to a one-year contract. What role will Hood, who will turn 29 later this month and has played in 98 NFL games with 46 starts, play on the Redskins’ defensive line.

On the base level, Hood provides the line with another body. They could lose as many as four defensive linemen from last year’s 53-man roster. NT Terrance Knighton is a free agent and the buzz that he may not be re-signed is growing louder. Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston well on the far side of 30 and the Redskins may look to go younger and, in Hatcher’s case, cheaper. Frank Kearse is under contract but the team could look to upgrade his spot.

Hood was signed now because he was available, eligible to sign with a team because he wasn’t on a team’s roster when the season ended. His acquisition is only the beginning of the Redskins’ defensive line rebuilding project. If things work out as they should, Hood should be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.

What is “things working out as they should”? Stephen Paea comes back fully healthy after a disappointing 2015 season that ended with him on the shelf with a toe injury. Scot McCloughan needs to invest two draft picks in the position, at least one of them in the first or second rounds (assuming a player fits the best-available requirement, of course). Assuming Knighton is gone, if one of those draft picks is not a nose tackle who is ready to contribute immediately that position needs to be addressed in free agency.

Nose tackle is important because it keeps Chris Baker at end, where he had his best season in 2015. He could play nose if necessary but McCloughan needs to try to make sure that it’s not.

That would leave Paea or Ricky Jean Francois and Baker as the starting ends and the draft pick or free agent pickup at nose. Hood, another draft pick, Kearse, 2015 practice squad player Cory Crawford and perhaps another low-priced free agent pickup or two would be fighting for the last few jobs and position on the depth chart.

It’s good that Hood has starting experience because you never know what will happen during a 16-game season. But if he is penciled in to be the Week 1 starter that is a sign that things did not go well along the line during the offseason when it comes to bolstering the defensive line. And the best case will be if Hood gets let go at the final roster cut because McCloughan has found enough younger talent to effectively fill out the depth chart.

The likely scenario is somewhere in between. Hood probably makes the roster and plays 20 or so snaps per game as part of the defensive line rotation.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 24 days ago. It will be about 221 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 21; NFL free agency starts 35; 2016 NFL draft 85

In case you missed it

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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!