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Redskins draft countdown: Will some red flags push Alabama LB Reuben Foster to pick No. 17?

Redskins draft countdown: Will some red flags push Alabama LB Reuben Foster to pick No. 17?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 28 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Rueben Foster

Inside linebacker
Alabama

Height: 6-0
Weight: 229
40-yard dash: 4.72

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

At a rock solid 6-1, 240 pounds with broad shoulders, a trim middle and well-built limbs, Foster offers prototypical size for an inside linebacker role. His greatest attribute, however, is his pure explosiveness. Whether it be his outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed or the impact he generates with his collisions, Foster is a heat-seeking missile hell-bent on destruction. Just as aggressive as he is athletic, Foster attacks would-be blockers in the running game, jolting opponents with a powerful punch that can leave them staggering.

Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: There have been some fan favorites at inside/middle linebacker for the Redskins over the years, guys like Neal Olkewicz and Kurt Gouveia. London Fletcher was excellent but not feared. The last intimidating linebacker the Redskins had in the middle of their defense was Sam Huff and he was on the back end of his Hall of Fame career by the time he arrived in Washington back in 1964.

Foster could be the next one. He’s a sideline to sideline defender who delivers rattling hits and can rush the passer and cover. The Alabama product could instantly make the Redskins’ defense better.

They currently have Mason Foster and Will Compton as the starters at inside linebacker. Both have their positive attributes but neither is a threat to make multiple Pro Bowl visits. Foster is.

Film review: vs. USC, vs. LSU

Foster is a bit over aggressive at times. On the first play of the second half vs. LSU he came flying in on a blitz and had a open path to the quarterback. But he overran him. Foster did, however, force the QB to step up and one of his teammates got the sack.

On one play against USC his sideline to sideline ability was on display as he tracked the runner on a sweep and at just the right moment exploded and knocked the runner down for a minimal gain. Jonathan Allen got the call on TV but it was Foster who blasted the runner.

And don’t stop the video there. On the next play the showed, Foster recognized something, communicated with the other inside linebacker, and shot into the backfield to make a tackle for a loss.

Played a lot of zone, effective tracking receivers running shallow crossing routes.

The Alabama front was very dominant at times and often kept blocks off Foster. But when linemen did get to them he showed a very good ability to shed them and stay in the play.  

Potential issues: As noted above, Foster is over aggressive at times. He relies on his speed and strength over instincts.

Some consider him to be an injury risk. Foster had rotator cuff surgery after Alabama’s season ended. He didn’t miss a game the last two seasons despite a concussion and a couple of stingers but the concern is that his style of play and unpolished tackling technique make him prone to such issues.

Then there was the incident where he was sent home from the combine after getting into a verbal altercation while waiting for a medical test. His agent sent out a letter to all 32 teams explaining the incident and he made himself available to teams who wanted to ask him questions about it. The consensus is that the confrontation was out of character for Foster.

At least one team drafting before the Redskins do, however, has taken Foster off its draft board.

“He already had immaturity, issues with life skills. This is the same guy,” an evaluator for the team told the MMQB. “We’re not in the market.”

Bottom line: There are two things to look at to see if Foster would be a realistic pick for the Redskins. Will he be there when pick No. 17 comes around? He’s Mike Mayock’s top inside linebacker and many mock drafts have him going in the top 10. But there is talk that some teams are concerned about the injury problems and the combine incident. It could only take a few downgrades to push him down the board to where he would be in the Redskins’ reach.

But if he does fall, will the Redskins have him on their board? Although it would be an exaggeration to think of Foster as fragile, the Redskins just went through the 2016 season with injury problems plaguing Josh Doctson, their top pick from a year ago. They don’t want to go two years in a row with minimal contributions from their first-round pick.

And then there is the fact that the organization just doesn’t seem to value the inside linebacker position very highly. They have not spent a first-round pick there at any time during the common draft era, going back to 1966.

The need for the Redskins defense is more urgent up front; Compton and Mason Foster could be adequate if the line can keep blockers off them. But if there isn’t one worthy of the No. 17 pick, Foster could be a solid option.

In his own words:

No setup needed for this quote, via The MMQB:

“There’s that moment,” Foster says though a smile, “when you first hit somebody and you get chills. You hear the crowd say Ooooh. And before that, when you put on your suit and you transform and you become a dog; you’re a beast. Just seeing all the other guys become a dog with you. No stress.”

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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

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Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.

You can listen to Gruden’s full comments on Scherff in the video above.

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially one like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

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

 

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Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

ertz_vs_redskins_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Redskins to face Eagles’ clutch Carson Wentz, productive Zach Ertz

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 20, three days before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences, open locker room, after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 9
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 16
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 34

Injuries of note:
Not practicing
: OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Ty Nsekhe (core muscle)
Limited: CB Josh Norman (rib), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle), OLB Ryan Anderson (back), S Stefan McClure (knee). OL Tyler Catalina (concussion protocol).
It was encouraging that Breeland and Norman practiced although Jay Gruden noted that they both took place only in individual drills. See the full injury report here.  

First look at Redskins vs Eagles

Number that pops out—LeGarrette Blount, who had a career average of 4.4 yards per carry coming into the year, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, fourth in the NFL. Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be a lumbering power back. The key to stopping him is the same as it always has been, getting the north-south runner to go east-west. The Redskins did a solid job against him in Week 1, limiting him to a 3.3-yard average on his 14 carries.

The clutch gene?—Carson Wentz is the MVP favorite right now and the thing is that his stats are very good but not very impressive. He ranks 10th in net yards per attempt, 25th in completion percentage, eighth in yards per game, and seventh in passer rating. But he gets it done when it counts. Seven of his 16 touchdown passes have come on third down. His passer rating of 130 on third down is 10 points better than the second-best in that category, a guy named Tom Brady. As a result, the Eagles get first downs on 53 percent of their third-down passes, also best in the league.

Third down passing the key—The Redskins allow conversions on 35.7 percent of third-down passes, 16th in the NFL. If this game ends up with third downs near the Redskins’ season performance they will be in good shape. If the Eagles convert half of their third downs or more, the visitors will be in trouble.

Protecting Kirk Cousins—The Eagles have 14 sacks on the year. They got four against the Redskins in the season opener so they have 10 in their five games since. Their leading sacker is Brandon Graham, who has four on the season. Two of those came in the opener so he has two in the other five games. He will again be lined up against Morgan Moses, who had one of his worst games since becoming a starter against Philly. If Moses plays as well as he has since Week 1 Cousins could have time to have one of his usual big games against the Eagles.

Yes, Ertz is a pain— This is kind of hard to believe but Zach Ertz, who has been in the league since 2013, is third all-time in tight end receptions against the Redskins with 54. He’s behind only Jason Witten and Jackie Smith and ahead of Jeremy Shockey, Mark Bavaro, and Jay Novaeck. Ertz has played nine games against Washington; Witten has played 28 and Smith played 27. So if it seems like Ertz is always a thorn in the Redskins’ side, it’s because he is.

Potpourri: Wentz is the Eagles’ second-leading rusher with 133 yards on 32 carries . . . The Eagles have the third-best special teams DVOA in the league. On punt returns, they are averaging 16 yards per and giving up an average of 5.6 yards. That’s a lot of hidden field position.

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

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From the locker room

Josh Norman talking about how it felt when he put some stress on his broken rib during practice on Thursday.

Posted by Rich Tandler on Thursday, October 19, 2017

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