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Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 44 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.

Zach Cunningham

Inside linebacker
Vanderbilt

Height: 6-3
Weight: 234
40-yard dash: 4.67

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Cunningham sports a long-levered frame with broad shoulders, a tapered middle and plenty of room for additional muscle mass without significantly impacting his impressive quickness, agility and speed. He attacks oncoming blockers with an aggressive and powerful initial punch, quickly disengaging on his way to the ball. Unlike most linebackers with his length, Cunningham shows good recognition and body control to slip cut blocks, as well, sprawling to maintain his balance and rarely losing sight of the ball. 

Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins start a pair of inside linebackers who are smart players and great teammates but Will Compton and Mason Foster are limited athletically. If the Redskins want to upgrade here, Cunningham would be a good place to start. He is a playmaking machine, fast and aggressive.

He led the SEC in tackling, although some are concerned that his tackling technique needs some work. His pad level tends to be too high but that is something that can be corrected by coaches.  

Potential issues: He is tall and angular and he has issues fighting off blockers, especially if they go low in him. Having a good defensive line in front of him will help mitigate that and, as of now, that is not an asset that the Redskins possess at the moment.

Although he played on the inside at Vanderbilt, many draft analysts think that he would be better suited to playing a weakside linebacker in a 4-3. But the Redskins are in 4-3 often enough that he could play inside in base and then go outside when the OLBs put their hands in the dirt on passing downs. Still, a first-round linebacker has to be a three-down player and the Redskins would have to be convinced that he can play inside in base defense.

Cunningham is a much better value later in the first round and he could be a reach at No. 17. It seems like they are always open to trading back so perhaps they could do that and snag him somewhere in the twenties.

Bottom line: The Redskins have never use major assets for the inside or middle linebacker positions. Since the merger, they have not spent a first- or second-round draft pick on the position. The only major free agent acquisition there was London Fletcher and the contract he signed with Washington in 2007 was not a blockbuster. Their primary philosophy has been to draft in the middle rounds (Perry Riley) or not draft at all (Compton) and develop.

So, will the Redskins change a philosophy that stretches back for decades? You never know but it would be a surprise if they take a player like Cunningham in the first even though he could provide an instant boost to the offense.

In his own words:

When asked for a self-scouting report:

I have a great work ethic. Passion for the game. Passion for what I do. A hard player. A team player. Always putting the team first. But is going to sell himself out for his teammates as much as my teammates would see themselves out for me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Maybe the Redskins aren't as banged up on defense as we thought they were

norman_vs._raiders_ap.jpg
Associated Press

Maybe the Redskins aren't as banged up on defense as we thought they were

The Redskins’ defense may not be as banged up as we thought it was.

On Thursday, the first day of serious preparation for their Monday night game in Philadelphia, injured defenders CB Josh Norman (rib), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), and S Deshazor Everett (hamstring) all practiced on a limited basis.

Norman was inactive against the 49ers after suffering a broken rib against the Chiefs on October 2. Breeland injured his knee against San Francisco. They are the starters, and if they both can play against the 5-1 Eagles it would be a huge boost to the defense.

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

It should be noted that both cornerbacks only took part in individual drills, so it is no sure thing that either will be ready to play in Philadelphia. But having them at practice was a good start.

Everett is a reserve safety and a key special teams contributor. His presence in the latter area could be important as the Eagles’ performance on special teams is among the best in the league.

LB Ryan Anderson (back) and S Stefan McClure (knee) both practiced on a limited basis.

Also practicing was S DeAngelo Hall. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered in 2016. The team now has a 21-day window during which they can activate him. However, he must sit out at least one more game.

On offense, Trent Williams (knee) did not practice. That is not ideal but he was able to play last Sunday after being out of practice all last week.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Jay Gruden announced roster moves that had been reported previously, with K Dustin Hopkins (hip) and DE Jonathan Allen (foot) going on injured reserve. First-year player Nick Rose will handle the place kicking duties and A.J. Francis will take Allen’s roster spot.

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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A.J. Francis promoted to Redskins' 53-man roster

A.J. Francis promoted to Redskins' 53-man roster

The Redskins put Jonathan Allen on injured reserve and brought in a familiar face to replace him on the roster.

Jay Gruden announced that the team has signed former practice squad member A.J. Francis to take the place of Allen, who suffered a Lisfranc injury last Sunday in the game against the 49ers. Francis spent part of last season on the Redskins practice squad and he was on the 53-man roster for a couple of weeks, although he did not appear in a game. Francis also was on the team this year before being released in the cut to 53 on September 2.  

The former Maryland standout has played in three NFL games, all in 2015, appearing in two for the Seahawks and one for the Dolphins.

RELATED: MORE ON ALLEN'S INJURY

In all, Francis has been a part of 22 transactions, starting when he signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Allen has undergone surgery to repair the foot already. The normal schedule for a Lisfranc calls for a player to stay off of the foot for 6-8 weeks and then start rehabbing, which can take a month or possibly a lot longer.

He would be eligible to be activated off of injured reserve after missing eight games, which means he technically could play in Week 15 against the Cardinals. But that would be an extremely optimistic timetable for such an injury.

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

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.