With the busy portion of the free agent signing period over, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft and, specifically, holes Redskins GM Scot McCloughan still must fill. (And, yes, there are many.) Over the next few weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine prospects that could be a fit in Washington.
Depth chart: Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois, Kendall Reyes, Kedric Golston, Ziggy Hood plus camp hopefuls Jerrell Powe, Corey Crawford, James Gayle, Christo Bilukidi, Anthony Johnson and Kamal Johnson.
Current situation: With defensive end Jason Hatcher retiring and nose tackle Terrance Knighton departing via free agency, the Redskins must fill two starting spots up front.
Baker returns and figures to be one of the two starters at end. At the other spot, they’ve got a strong in-house candidate to replace Hatcher in Paea, who’s aiming to establish himself after a so-so first season in Washington that was cut short by a toe injury. Paea's being paid like a starter, and I expect him to seize that job.
Assuming Baker and Paea are the starters at end, I’d expect Jean-Francois and Reyes to get significant snaps in the rotation. Hood could be in the mix, as well, and there's also been talk of transitioning outside linebacker Trent Murphy to end.
But who’s going to replace Knighton? Could it be Golston? That’s what Coach Jay Gruden hinted at the NFL owners meetings when he said of the Redskins' longest tenured player: “He’s a 12-to-15 play [per] game kind of guy. And when you’re in the base defense, really you’re looking at about 20-percent of the time nowadays, is all you are. So Kedric can do that.” Gruden also indicated that Baker and Jean-Francois are versatile enough to get some snaps at nose, as well.
Okay, but what about a year or two down the road? Both at end and nose tackle? Areas that aren’t a pressing need now can quickly become one in the NFL.
Here’s what we do know for sure as the draft approaches: this year’s class is deep with D-line talent and because of that, it would make a lot of sense for General Manager Scot McCloughan to bolster the unit early and perhaps late, too.
Three prospect possibilities:
- A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
A powerful, well-proportioned run stopper, Robinson (6 foot 4, 307-pounds) is position flexible and productive, having amassed 133 tackles, including 22 for loss, to go along with nine sacks in three seasons. Has work to do as a pass rusher, though. Tide teammate Jarran Reed could be on Washington’s radar as well. Redskins officials reportedly met with both at the Scouting Combine. Robinson and Reed are projected as first rounders.
- Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
Butler (6 foot 4, 323-pounds) as described by NFL.com: “Athletic interior lineman with long arms and outstanding athleticism that allows him to work on offensive linemen with a combination of power and quickness.” Yep. Sounds like the type of player the Redskins need to target early. Totaled 50 tackles, including 10 for loss, and three sacks as a senior. Butler is projected as a top-64 pick.
- Andrew Billings, Baylor
Listed at 6 foot 1, 311-pounds, Billings is an accomplished powerlifter who might be the strongest prospect in this year’s class. Says NFL.com: "Billings has a chance to become something we rarely see—a playmaking nose tackle with the ability to dominate the point of attack.” Produced 39 tackles, including 14 for loss, to go along with 5.5 sacks last season. Another projected top-64 pick.