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Three-way battle looms at tackle

Three-way battle looms at tackle

The hay is in the barn for the Washington Redskins.

Free agency essentially is over and the draft is done. They went into the process with holes a defensive tackle, defensive end, guard, linebacker, and right offensive tackle. The hole at offensive tackle remains.

They could have chosen Michael Oher of Mississippi with their first pick in the draft to plug that hole but instead they chose Brian Orakpo. He actually will be used to fill two of those needs, defensive end and linebacker, so it's hard to argue against that selection.

However, that means that an aging veteran, a third-year player who hasn't been able to hold on to the job, and a former top-five draft pick who hasn't played a snap since 2005 will be battling it out for the starting job.

The aging vet is Jon Jansen, 33. The Redskins took him in the second round in 1999 and plugged him in at right tackle from Day One. He didn't miss a start for five years, gaining the nickname The Rock. Then an Achilles' tear cost him the entire 2004 season and in '06 a broken ankle knocked him for the season before halftime of the season opener.

Jansen lost the starting right tackle job before the season opener, gained it back due to an injury, and kept a tenuous hold on it the rest of the year. His play against the run was passable but speed rushers went by him like cars through the EZ-Pass lane at rush hour. There was talk of cutting him during the offseason but the $5 million cap hit for doing so was prohibitive. He lives to fight another year.

Stephon Heyer, 25, is in his third year after making the Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland. As a rookie he found himself pressed into action much sooner than he or anyone else thought after Jansen went down early in the year. His performance in 2006 was good enough to earn him a hard look last year and Jim Zorn named him the starter over Jansen at right tackle just before the season opener. A shoulder injury knocked Heyer out of the lineup, however, and he was in and out of the lineup the rest of the year.

If you tried to predict Mike Williams' career path when he was drafted fourth overall out of Texas in 2002 you probably would have guessed that in 2009 he'd be a perennial Pro Bowl performer working on a lucrative contract. Instead, he finds himself in a battle just to make a team and get a veteran minimum deal. After getting cut by Jacksonville early in the 2006 season, Williams, 29, was unable to latch on with another team. His weight ballooned well north of 400 pounds.

Earlier this year he began to work out with fellow Longhorn alumnus Derrick Dockery. As Williams shed the pounds, he began to get the itch to play again. Dockery recommended him to the Redskins and he signed just before the draft.

Williams has a shot at making the team as a reserve but he won't be the starter unless disaster strikes in the form of injuries or utter ineffectiveness on the part of Jansen and Heyer. The former is a matter of luck; it isn't completely out of the question that the latter situation will happen.

Since the Redskins want to get younger on the offensive line Heyer goes into camp as the favorite. But if Jansen is fully healthy, his pride will make him push Heyer hard.

The most likely scenario is that the two of them will end up splitting the starts. And if you have two—or three—starting right tackles, well, you don't have a right tackle.

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

In case you missed it