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Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 23 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.

T.J. Watt

Outside linebacker
Wisconsin

Height: 6-4
Weight: 252
40-yard dash: 4.69

Projected draft round: 1-2

What they’re saying

Uses his length and heavy hands to take on blocks, locking out to dictate the point of attack. Edge acceleration to threaten the corner. Natural balance and active feet to continue his momentum through contact. Attacks and disrupts the rhythm of blockers with his violence, rarely allowing himself to be locked up. Off-the-chart football instincts with an instant reactor. Senses what is about to happen and understands his surroundings.

Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The younger brother of three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt told NFL.com that he has a pre-draft visit scheduled with the Redskins. While a draft visit doesn’t necessarily indicate great interest in a player—each team can bring in as many as 30 players and the Redskins have only 10 picks—it does mean that the team has seen something in the player that they want to explore further.

The Redskins have four outside linebackers who have double-digit sack potential on the roster but question marks surround all but the steady Ryan Kerrigan. Trent Murphy is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Preston Smith has shown flashes of dominance surrounded by long stretches of near invisibility. Junior Galette has missed the last two years due to injuries and he is on a one-year deal.

Since you can’t have too many good pass rushers the Redskins are looking at more of them in the draft. Watt was a playmaker at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.

The arrow could be pointing up on Watt. He entered college as a tight end but he was moved to outside linebacker in 2015. A knee injury kept him out that year but he burst onto the scene as the starter last year. He is a meticulous worker who plays with a high motor. He could be headed straight up.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. Ohio State, vs. Minnesota

He switches from one side of the line to the other, usually on the edge but occasionally a few steps off the line.  

On a third and goal against Ohio State he showed his aggressiveness and recognition. He stormed in from the left edge and the pulling guard who was supposed to keep him from blowing up the play never had a chance to get him. QB J.T. Barrett tried a play action fake but Watt slammed into the running back right after the fake, allowing another player to come in a tackle Barrett for a loss.

Watt was not asked to do much in pass coverage. He usually just dropped into the flat in zone coverage.

You can see his high motor on display frequently as he chases down plays from the back side and keeps chasing the ball.

Watt can get pass pressure based on his hustle and quickness. But if he’s in a situation where he needs to overpower a blocker he’s in trouble. He might have to bulk up from his current weight of 252.

In the fourth quarter of a tight game against Minnesota he had a sack and three pressures that led to three Badger interceptions.

Potential issues:

As noted, Watt has just the one season of experience playing outside linebacker. While that leaves room to grow and improve, it also leaves room for the possibility that his strong performance last year was that of a one-year wonder.

In Brugler’s analysis on CBS Sports, he said that Watt “needs to mature his pass rush arsenal.” In the two games I watched he didn’t have enough moves to be considered “an arsenal”. It goes back to his lack of experience and it remains to be seen how much he can develop.

And, again, his size makes him kind of a tweener. He should be able to pack some more pounds onto his 6-4 frame and maintain his hustle.

Bottom line:

Watt seems to be a tweener in more ways than one. He would be a reach with the Redskins’ pick at No. 17 but he could well be gone when their second-round picks rolls around. Should the Redskins look to add some extra picks by trading back to a spot later in the first, somewhere in the late 20’s perhaps, they could find Watt to be a good value.

In his own words:

Watt on his potential:

"I’m only scratching the surface. I've only played defense for 18 or 20 months. If I can do all the things I did this last year what can I do when I'm under the tutelage of an NFL coach? Obviously lack of film lack of experience point that's come across I think it's not a problem with my work ethic and my bloodlines and stuff like that."

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

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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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Kirk Cousins is real nice - and 3 other things we learned from the 49ers game

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Kirk Cousins is real nice - and 3 other things we learned from the 49ers game

Kirk Cousins got mic'd up during the Redskins win over the 49ers last Sunday, and well, it confirmed a few things Washington fans already knew about their quarterback. 

For starters, Cousins is a nice guy. A real nice guy.

On one play, Cousins completes a pass downfield while facing a bit of pressure. As soon as he throws the ball, he starts shouting to his offensive line, "Good pocket! Great pocket!"

He keeps going, "Hey that was you guys. I took forever, I took forever. Hey nice job."

NFL quarterbacks like to thank their offensive lines, but not always immediately, even while the play is going on. Kirk is a nice guy.

Some other things learned from the mic'd up session:

  • Josh Doctson has a nickname. It's "Papa Doc." No idea if that's an 8 Mile reference. 
  • Trent Williams believes Kirk Cousins' shoulder is worth $200 million. And he might be right. 
  • Kirk Cousins wants to stay aggresive. He laid it out to QB coach Kevin O'Connell. Cousins explained during the Redskins early lead:

"Sometimes I get in a weird place, you get a lead like this. Where you start playing conservative, not to lose. It’s smart to do that but it also kinda hinders your ability to just go play."

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