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OPEN THREAD: Do the Redskins need to adjust the defensive scheme?


OPEN THREAD: Do the Redskins need to adjust the defensive scheme?

When the Redskins surrendered 35 points to Green Bay in a playoff loss last Sunday, after a stout first quarter, the Washington defense never seemed able to slow or rattle the Packers offense. At one point Aaron Rodgers and the Pack scored on five straight possessions, effectively ending the game.

One loss in the Wild Card round cannot serve as an indictment to the whole Redskins defense, but it does magnify some issues that popped up throughout the year. The team ranked 28th out of 32 teams in yards allowed for the season, and against Green Bay, the run defense gave up 141 yards to a team that had previously struggled on the ground. 


Despite those stats, Jay Gruden said he expects few if any changes to the Redskins defensive scheme or coaching staff for next season.

"I think schematically I feel good about where our defense is at," Gruden said Monday.

Washington plays a 3-4 scheme, and has since the early days of Mike Shanahan. This season saw the arrival of Joe Barry as defensive coordinator, replacing the embattled Jim Haslett. The talk was that Barry would deploy a more aggressive attack than Haslett had before him, but perhaps as a result of injury, that did not exactly materialize. The Skins finished the season with 38 sacks, ranked in the middle of the league, and in the bottom half of the NFL in interceptions. 

One area the Washington D excelled: fumble recoveries. They tied the Panthers for first place among NFL defenses with 15 fumble grabs. Unfortunately, fumble recoveries are a hard stat to predict year to year, so it's unlikely to expect the same success next season. 

While the numbers may not illustrate the prettiest scenario for the 'Skins defense, the unit had new faces emerge throughout the season as injuries forced Barry and GM Scot McCloughan to scramble. Much of the secondary was rebuilt on the fly, and linebacker/defensive end Preston Smith looks like he could be a breakout force next season after finishing his rookie year with eight sacks. 

"I think moving forward, when we get our guys back off of IR –some key players there and we’ll add to our depth with the draft and maybe free agency – I think we have a strong unit in place," Gruden said. 

In the secondary alone Washington lost two starters in Duke Ihenacho and Chris Culliver, and who knows what impact Junior Galette might have had up front for Washington had he not been injured for the whole season. Like any offseason, however, Gruden plans to look at what worked and what didn't. 

"There’s some things we need to address obviously schematically and player-wise. We will address that, but I think overall I feel good about where the defense was and how they played."

Looks like the scheme will stay the same, but with better health, new free agents and another draft cycle, the personnel could improve. Is that enough? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on and

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page

and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS