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Redskins offseason Q&A: Will Jason Hatcher live up to his contract?

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Redskins offseason Q&A: Will Jason Hatcher live up to his contract?

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.

Will Jason Hatcher live up to his contract?

Last year the Redskins signed 32-year-old Jason Hatcher to a four-year, $27 million contract. The deal included $10 million guaranteed. They paid him in hopes that he would replicate the 11-sack season he had in Dallas the year before. But Hatcher was sidelined with injuries during parts the offseason program and training camp and he sat out the last three games of the season as well. He had just 5.5 sacks, a far cry from what the Redskins were looking for. This year, he carries a $5.2 million salary cap number, the sixth highest on the team. Will his performance in 2015 live up to his pay grade?

Tandler: It would be a mistake to judge Hatcher’s 2014 season by his sack total alone. According to ProFootballFocus.com he was the team’s second most effective defensive player and he was second on the team with 40 quarterback pressures. It’s easy to see several of those pressures turning into sacks with some improved coverage in the secondary making the opposing quarterbacks hesitate for the additional fraction of a second it would take Hatcher to get there.

Certainly Hatcher’s age is a concern. But since the NFL starting tracking sacks as a stat in 1982, a player aged 33 or older has hit double digits in sacks 40 times. Some of them were Hall of Fame types like Reggie White and Michael Strahan. But others were just solid players like Rob Burnett of the 2000 Ravens or Trace Armstrong of the 2000 Dolphins.

But on the other side of the coin, it’s very possible that Hatcher’s 2013 in Dallas was just a well-timed outlier in a contract year. He never had more than 4.5 sacks in his seven NFL season prior to that. It would be tough to argue with anyone who says that 2014 was simply a case of Hatcher regressing back to his career mean.

So will Hatcher end up being worth the $5.2 million? I doubt it. I’m going to go with the regressing to career mean theory. Although I won’t rule out the possibility that he will surprise, I think he winds up with about half a dozen sacks. I’ll view anything more than that as a bonus.  

El-Bashir: Hatcher’s first season in Washington got off to a difficult start, no doubt. He began experiencing swelling and discomfort in his left knee early in OTAs, had it scoped in late June and ended up on the PUP list to begin training camp.

Hatcher was able to suit up for Week 1, but I’m not sure he was 100-percent at any point during the 2014 campaign. In addition to lingering knee soreness, he struggled with a balky hamstring, as well. I also got the sense as the season wore on that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with how he was being used, either. Added all together, the sum was a season that left the Redskins (and Hatcher) wanting more.

Fast forward a few months. Hatcher is now healthy and, just as important, excited about how he’ll be utilized in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme.

“I can get back to being ‘Big Daddy’, [getting] upfield making plays and not just holding up blockers," Hatcher said earlier this offseason. "They can kinda turn me loose and I can go upfield and do what I do. Hopefully Big Daddy will be back in the building.” 

If Hatcher can stay healthy, and Barry plays to his strengths, I don’t see any reason why 'Big Daddy' can’t produce 8.5-10 sacks this season.

Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:

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The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

With the NFL schedule dropped last week, many fans and media types went through and predicted wins and losses for the teams they follow, just for fun. But others predict the records of teams and it’s not for laughs, it’s for very high stakes.

The betting houses in Las Vegas and offshore have established their lines for over/under in wins. They then take this a step further and go through the playoffs to establish the odds of winning the Super Bowl. 

Over the weekend, BetOnline published one of each and let’s just say that they do not like what the Redskins have done this offseason. Or, more accurately, they think that the public perception is that the Redskins will not be a very good team this year. 

Their over/under for wins is 5.5. They won seven games last year so the under would represent a decline of at least two wins. This line seems to be low. The Redskins won seven games last year with the worst injury situation in the league, per the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders. They also faced one of the toughest schedules in the league in terms of opponent winning percentages. 

Yes, they did lose Kirk Cousins to free agency but they replaced him with Alex Smith, who, like Cousins, is not elite or even in the top 10 but in the category of solid, reliable quarterbacks. The QB exchange was close to a wash. But despite the fact that the chances are they will suffer fewer injuries and face a schedule that isn’t as much of a meat grinder, this over/under has the Redskins producing double-digit losses. They have managed to stay out of 10-plus loss territory for three straight years. 

There are more reasons to think that they will win at least as many games as they did last year than there are to think that they will win fewer. If I’m betting, which I’m not, I’d be tempted to hit the over on that pretty hard. 

I would keep my money in my pocket when it comes to betting on the Redskins’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’re close, but I think they’re much closer than the Browns but BetOnline has Cleveland and Washington with the same odds of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Redskins, Browns, and Bucs are at +6600 to win it all. The Redskins odds are worse than all but six other teams. 

Again, I don’t think that the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl. Winning a playoff game would be quite an accomplishment for them. But same could be said of the Colts, Giants, Chargers, and 49ers, but they all have considerably better odds than the Redskins. 

In fact, there may be some irrational exuberance with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo. They have the seventh-best odds at +1600. Sure, Jimmy G was very good in five meaningless games at the end of last season. Let’s see how he does with some pressure on and after defensive coaches have had a chance to study how to take away his strengths. It just goes to show you how little real analysis goes into this. 

I get a little annoyed when teams play the disrespect card, especially when they have to look too hard to find it. But if the Redskins look at this, they certainly can embrace the underdog role if they want to. What they do with it, we will find out starting September 9. 

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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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5 draft scenarios that make sense for the Redskins in the 1st round

5 draft scenarios that make sense for the Redskins in the 1st round

As NFL Draft Week starts in earnest, a million scenarios will get presented. Hypothetical trades, absurd reaches and nonsenical slips will get discussed, most likely to not happen. 

For the Redskins, the team could go a number of different ways, and plenty of them make sense. Let's take a look at those options.

  • Draft Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne- The Redskins had the worst run defense in the NFL in 2017, and defending the run has been a problem for Washington for some time. Vea would help, immediately, both on the front line and the linebackers making tackles. Washington could make this pick at 13 and nobody would question it. Drafting Payne would be a move for higher potential, rather than immediate performance. Vea has been the more impressive college defensive lineman, but that doesn't mean Payne couldn't be the better professional. Payne could develop pass rushing skills, becoming a valuable interior pass rush disruptor. Vea seems a longer shot to do so. 
  • Draft Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James - Neither of these players should last to 13, but because of the expected run on quarterbacks, it's entirely possible James or Fitzpatrick last until the Redskins' pick. Both players are versatile and highly capable, both could help the Redskins in 2018, and maybe more in the years following their rookie season. Position questions will get sorted out, whether it's at safety or corner or some hybrid of roles. Listen to the folks from Tallahassee or Tuscaloosa, and the word on these two secondary players is elite potential. 
  • Go linebacker - Roquan Smith seems undersized for the NFL, but he will help an NFL team. He is a high floor, low ceiling player. Tremaine Edmunds could be much more. He has outrageous measurables and is only 19 years old (see video above). Smith is an interior linebacker that will make a ton of tackles; Edmunds can rush the passer and be disruptive in pass coverage. It's entirely possible neither make it to Washington at 13, but if either do, that would mark a good option for the Redskins. 
  • Trade down - Bruce Allen made clear speaking with NBC Sports Washington in March that the organization would look for opportunities to trade down, and it would be a wise strategy. Most top draft analysts believe the value in this draft comes from the 30th to 100th best players, not necessarily the Top 30. Washington gave up its third-round pick in the trade to acquire QB Alex Smith. If an opportunity presents itself to move back in the first round and gain additional picks the team needs to give that offer strong consideration. A player like Payne might be had around the 20th pick in the first round, or there are other defensive linemen available. The Redskins also need interior offensive line help, and a number of quality candidates will likely get picked in the bottom third of the first round.
  • Catch a falling star - This plan worked great for the Redskins in 2017. Nobody expected Alabama DL Jonathan Allen to slip to the 17th pick, but sure enough, he did. All Washington had to do was wait for their pick and take easily the best player available. That could happen again. The expected early run on QBs will drive top talent down the board, and if one or two teams make surprise, reach picks, the Redskins could again win out. It seems unlikely, but if a talent like Denzel Ward or Quenton Nelson falls to 13, the Redskins should pounce. 

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