With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.
Which free agent addition will make the biggest impact for the Redskins?
First year Redskins GM Scot McCloughan resisted the urge to throw money at his team’s problems this offseason. He did, however, target a handful of quality free agents to fill specific, pressing needs. All of the signees are in their prime years. And most of them have already been penciled into the starting lineup. But who's going to make the biggest impact? Chris Culliver? Stephen Paea? Terrance Knighton? Jeron Johnson? Join the conversation in the comments section below the article.
El-Bashir: I didn't have to think about this one for very long. My pick is Culliver, the new No. 1 corner in a secondary that surrendered a league-worst 35 passing touchdowns in 2014.
The 26-year-old was ranked by ProFootballFocus.com last season as the 15th best corner in football. For comparison’s sake, the first Redskins corner in PFF’s ranking was Bashaud Breeland at No. 71 (out of 108 qualified players).
In addition to being fundamentally sound and committing few mental errors, Culliver is capable of making plays. Last season in San Francisco, he had four interceptions and 15 defended passes. Breeland led the Redskins in both categories with two and 13, respectively.
So, yeah, Culliver is an instant upgrade. And with him as the centerpiece of a revamped secondary, plus two new safeties, an improved pass rush and a new defensive backs coach, I expect the pass defense to take the biggest leap of any unit on the Redskins in 2015.
Tandler: I like the Culliver acquisition a lot but I’m going to get down into the trenches for the acquisition I think will have most impact. That would be nose tackle Terrance Knighton.
He is a major upgrade over what they had at the position last year, which was a combination of an injured Barry Cofield, an out-of-position Chris Baker, and a game but aging Kedric Golston. None of them is the 350-pound (at least) athlete that Knighton is.
How much can Knighton help the interior defense? Teams ran up the middle and over the guard spots 171 times last year against the Redskins and they allowed 4.3 yards per carry. With Knighton manning the middle of Denver’s line last year, teams averaged 3.7 yards per attempt. Those half yards per try add up and you end up with more second and third and long situations.
Knighton will help against the passing game two. The Redskins got virtually no pressure on the quarterback from their defensive line outside of end Jason Hatcher. Knighton had two sacks and 14 QB pressures last year.
On overriding reason I think that Knighton will have a big impact is that he is on a one-year contract. Sometimes big men have a tendency to take it easy after they have hit on a big payday (see Haynesworth, Albert for an extreme example). Knight will spend the season hungry for a new deal with a big signing bonus. That is good news for Joe Barry and company and bad news for the centers on the Redskins’ schedule.
Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A: