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Redskins depth chart preview: More questions than answers along D-line

Redskins depth chart preview: More questions than answers along D-line

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.     

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Defensive starters

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Defensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 22, 35 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—defense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one. Yesterday it was the offense, now the defense is up.  

DE Jonathan Allen—He was close to being ready to practice during the last couple of weeks of the season so his Lisfranc rehab is going well. Anticipation will be high when he takes the field in Week 1.

DE Stacy McGee—From looking at my social media timelines I can conclude that many Redskins fans hear “free agent D-lineman” and automatically say “bust”. That’s not the case with McGee. Last year he was the Redskins’ most consistent defensive lineman.

NT Ziggy Hood—I’ve said this before and it still holds true—Hood should not be a starting nose tackle. He would be very good as a rotational defensive lineman.

OLB Preston Smith—Sure, he’s inconsistent. But he’s on often enough to be a very valuable player. He lacks eye-popping sack totals but since he came into the league in 2015, only Smith has at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and four forced fumbles.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan—He will turn 30 during training camp but he shows no signs of slowing down.

ILB Zach Brown—The Redskins needed to bring him back and they got it done. He does struggle in coverage at times, but the defense is much better with him than without him.

ILB Mason Foster—He and Allen saw their seasons end due to injuries at about the same time and the defense wasn’t the same after that. Foster brings experience and toughness to the defense that is hard to replace.

CB Quinton Dunbar—It’s possible that Fabian Moreau will beat him out for the starting job before the season starts. But Dunbar has come a long way since the former wide receiver volunteered to help out at cornerback when a rash of injuries hit during his rookie season. I wouldn’t bet against him.

CB Josh Norman—He certainly didn’t play poorly last year but the goose egg in the interceptions column is a black mark. The thing is, with quarterbacks like to test Dunbar and Moreau playing on the other side, he might not get many opportunities to pick off passes this year, either.

S D.J. Swearinger—After signing as a free agent, he put himself on the line, saying he was the leader of a defense before he had even played a snap with the group he wanted to lead. He walked the walk, filling both the leadership vacuum and the lack of quality safety play.

S Montae Nicholson—Jay Gruden said that Nicholson was the defensive version of Jordan Reed, a player who changes what the unit can do when he is on the field. High praise, but also a lot of pressure to stay on the field.

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.

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 26
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 128
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 172

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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