Over the past month, the Redskins’ depth chart has undergone a minor makeover as seven draft picks and more than a dozen college free agents have been welcomed into the fold. In the coming days, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will break down the revamped roster, position-by-position, and set up the key battles as OTAs ramp up.
Position: Defensive line.
On the roster: DEs—Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois, Trent Murphy, Kendall Reyes, Matt Ioannidis, Ziggy Hood, Corey Crawford and Anthony Lanier; NTs—Kedric Golston and Jerrell Powe.
Likely to make the 53: Baker, Paea, Jean-Francois, Murphy, Reyes, Ioannidis and Golston.
Comment: Well, we can be sure of this much: after a breakout year in 2015, Baker is going to start at one of the end positions.
After that? It’s mostly ‘TBD’ following an offseason shakeup underscored by Terrence Knighton’s departure via free agency and Jason Hatcher’s decision to retire.
The Redskins entered the draft hoping to bolster this unit with a top prospect. But as GM Scot McCloughan later acknowledged, “it didn’t work out that way.” Instead, McCloughan stayed true to his best-played-available philosophy and took Matt Ioannidis, a versatile lineman out of Temple, in the fifth round.
Ioannidis joins Reyes, Hood and Murphy, who has officially transitioned from outside linebacker to end, as the newcomers to the group this spring.
At this early stage of the offseason program, you’d have to put Baker and Paea as the starting ends in the base 3-4 and 32-year-old Golston as the nose tackle. But any predictions should also come with the disclaimer, ‘Subject to change’, in all bold.
Among the questions facing the group:
- Can Paea rebound from a quiet, injury-plagued 2015? To put it bluntly: the Redskins need more from a player who carries a cap hit of $4.6 million.
- How about Reyes and Hood? Both are on one year deals and are looking to reignite their careers. Reyes received a $1 million signing bonus; Hood got $20,000.
- How much of an impact will Murphy make at his new position? Murphy has packed on 20 pounds since the playoffs; coaches hope the switch better suits his strengths.
- And what about Golston, the team’s longest tenured player who is now listed solely as a nose tackle? How much does he have left? Will Ioannidis eventually get a crack at the position, as McCloughan initially indicated following the draft?
As you can see, there’s a lot that must be sorted out between now and Week 1. But this much we know: the Redskins’ D-line didn’t receive the infusion of talent most expected it to get and, thus, the unit has to rely on the holdovers to be better in 2016.
Battling for a job: Hood, Crawford, Lanier and Powe.
Comment: Coaches hope that Hood, Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2009, can rediscover his form after a couple of rough years. The 29-year-old was released by the Jaguars last October, just one season into a four-year, $16 million deal. Then, after recovering from a foot injury, he played sparingly in two games for the Bears. Joe Barry says he believes Hood has “got a lot of good tread left on the tire.” If he in fact does, that could force Barry to make some difficult choices come late August.
The Redskins see potential in Crawford, but he spent the 2015 season on the practice squad and will likely need to knock off a more experienced player to earn a spot on the 53.
Lanier, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama A&M, and Powe, who spent the offseason with the Redskins in 2015 before being released at final cuts, appear to be facing an uphill climb as they attempt to secure a spot on the 53.