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Redskins' rushing defense has issues beyond explosive plays

Redskins' rushing defense has issues beyond explosive plays

The Redskins were 26th in the league in overall rushing defense in 2015, allowing an averaged of 122.6 yards per game and 31st in terms of average, giving up 4.8 yards per carry. As one might imagine, one of the team’s big goals this offseason is to try to figure out how to do better stopping the run.

One of them is obvious; they need to tackle better. “In this league, if you look around the league, teams that play really, really good defense, especially good run defense, they tackle,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said recently on Inside the Locker Room on ESPN 980.

According to Pro Football Focus the Redskins missed 136 tackles in 2015, up from 116 the year before. By comparison, the Seahawks, the league’s best rushing defense, missed just 101 tackles (it should be noted that PFFs missed tackle stats include both rushing and passing plays but it’s still a valid comparison).

Missed tackles lead to big plays or, as Barry calls them, explosion plays.

“I think, nothing’s more frustrating to a coach than when you get done with a game and you have 30 runs and 27 of them you play really well,” said Barry. “And three of them you give up a 30-yard run, you give up a 40-yard run, you give up a 50-yard run . . . What limits explosion plays is tackling, bottom line.”

A look at the numbers reveals that the Redskins were more in the middle of the pack than awful in terms of explosive runs allowed. They gave up 11 runs of 20 yards or longer, which was more than 17 other teams gave up, making more middle of the pack than awful in that category.

And giving up that many big plays does not automatically lead to having a poor rushing defense. The Bengals also gave up 11 explosive rushing plays and they ranked seventh in rushing defense.

The Redskins gave up 21 percent of their rushing yards on explosive plays. The league’s defenses as a whole gave up 19 percent of rushing yards on such plays. Going back to the Seahawks comparison, they gave up 11 percent of their total rushing yards on big plays.

There’s no question that limiting explosive plays would help the Redskins’ rushing defense. But there is more to be done than that. Smaller plays, the death by a thousand paper cuts, also hurt them. Only four teams gave up more runs of five yards or longer. Success on shorter runs gives the opposition incentive to keep on handing it off and eventually a worn down defense will give up an explosive run. If they turn six- and seven-yard runs into two- and three-yard gains, the opposition eventually will abandon the run. 

The Redskins did not do much to bolster their defensive line during the offseason, adding lower-level free agent Kendall Reyes and drafting Matt Ioannidis in the fifth round. Perhaps a year in Barry’s defense will help the holdovers perform better but skepticism that the rushing defense will improve significantly is warranted until we see the defense in action.

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Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

In some circles of modern culture, producing shocking commentary or content seems like the top goal. Being shocking gets clicks, gets attention, and in turn, gets dollars. 

On NFL Draft night, nothing should be shocking. Remember, last season there was no way Jonathan Allen would fall to the Redskins at 17. There was no way Kansas City would trade up for QB Patrick Maholmes. There was no way Chicago would trade up for Mitchell Trubisky. But all those things happened.

Sure, for months draft experts have expounded about what will happen, but the truth is, once the Browns are on the clock, nobody actually knows anything. 

With that in mind, let's look at a bunch of options that should not shock Redskins fans. 

  • Don't be shocked if Washington takes Minkah Fitzpatrick. They want him.
  • Don't be shocked if the Redskins draft Da'Ron Payne over Vita Vea. Washington loves Payne's potential to be a disruptor in the pass game and his incredible strength. 
  • Then again, don't be shocked if the 'Skins take Vita. Plenty of folks like him too. 
  • Don't be shocked if a team makes a move for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. That could happen after the Redskins pick at 13, but Washington's pick could also prove important in the race for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
  • Derwin James will be on the 'Skins list, but don't be shocked if he goes off the board before the Redskins pick. 
  • Don't be shocked with a trade back, but remember that isn't the goal. With four QBs expected in the Top 10, an elite talent should make it to Washington at 13. If that happens, the Redskins should take advantage of adding a blue chip to their squad. 
  • Don't be shocked if Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds ends up wearing the Redskins draft hat. Also, don't be shocked if he plays some outside linebacker in the Washington 3-4 scheme, not just the inside LB role most project for Edmunds. 
  • Don't be shocked if a seemingly sure thing slips all the way to 13. Perhaps that's Quenton Nelson? Or Denzel Ward? Remember, there was no way Jon Allen was supposed to fall to 17 last year.

There are some things Redskins fans should be shocked by. 

  • Washington should not trade up. 
  • Washington should not draft a running back at 13 unless Saquon Barley is available. He won't be.
  • Washington should not draft a wide receiver at 13. 
  • If one of the top four QBs is available at 13, Washington should vigorously work the phones to move the pick. Move down a few spots and get Payne should be the exact plan in that scenario. Arizona at 15 needs a QB. 

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2018 NFL Draft Predictions: Where will the Edmunds brothers go?

2018 NFL Draft Predictions: Where will the Edmunds brothers go?

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the fourth episode above and more here.

After this weekend's NFL Draft, the Edmunds family will go from having one son in the league to three. 

Trey is already on the Saints, but Tremaine and Terrell aren't pros just yet. So, when will they be taken? Here's a collection of predictions from NBC Sports Washington's NFL crew regarding the middle and youngest Edmunds brothers.

TREMAINE

JP Finlay: The Niners at nine. John Lynch won't be able to get past Edmunds' combination of size and speed, and the elite potential of the just 19-year-old. Remember, too, San Francisco might not have Reuben Foster this fall.

Rich Tandler:  Eighth to the Bears. Physically, he is a double for Brian Urlacher and he worked out well enough for the Bears that he is headed for the Hall of Fame this year.

Mitch Tischler: No. 9 to the San Francisco 49ers.  We all know Kyle Shannahan loves him some offensive threats but getting an edge rusher that could tally double digit sacks and play both inside and out is going to be too tough to pass up at nine.

Pete Hailey: No. 10 and the Raiders. Jon Gruden won't let the dynamic Edmunds fall any further.

TERRELL

JP Finlay: Kansas City in Round 3. They could use additional depth in the secondary and that franchise knows value when they see it.

Mitch Tischler: The Steelers in Round 3. He fits their scheme, has an nfl body and measured very well at the Combine.

Pete Hailey: Round 3 to the Cardinals. Terrell can learn from Antoine Bethea then fill in for him once Bethea moves on.