The Redskins have a few players on their defense with at least one Pro Bowl on their resumes. Ryan Kerrigan has been once, as has Josh Norman. DeAngelo Hall leads the team with three Pro Bowls appearances. Will another member of the defense break through and get to his first Pro Bowl in 2016? Tandler and Tarik make their picks.
Tandler: Preston Smith
There are a few possibilities here but what it takes to make the Pro Bowl makes it tough to predict. It’s not merely a matter of the best players at each position getting invited. The fan vote, which can be woefully uninformed, is one element in the selection. Many players and coaches who vote don’t take time to carefully consider all of the viable candidates at all 22 positions. So just having a stellar season isn’t necessarily good enough to get an invitation to Orlando (yes, they moved it from Hawaii this year).
Then there is the matter of competition. Let’s say that Bashaud Breeland picks off eight passes this year. To make the Pro Bowl, however, he would have to make it past Norman, Patrick Peterson, and Richard Sherman to get Pro Bowl honors (they are going back to making selections by conference this year). That would be difficult for him to do.
But we’re on the right track with Breeland in that it helps to play a position that has a key stat to look at. For defensive backs it’s picks; for the front seven it’s sacks. Only two of the 16 players who posted double-digit sack totals failed to make the Pro Bowl. Besides Kerrigan, the two main candidates to get 10 sacks or more are Preston Smith and Junior Galette. I’m going to put my money on Smith. I think he’s ready to blow up this year and I’m not 100 percent sold on Galette being fully recovered from his Achilles injury.
El-Bashir: Chris Baker
Very little has come easily for seventh-year defensive lineman Chris Baker, who took the circuitous route to the NFL, ascending from Hampton to undrafted free agent to the UFL to the Redskins' practice squad and, now, to a full-time starting role on Washington's up-and-coming defense. In fact, I consider Baker to be the most underrated player on the unit.
Last season represented a breakout year for Baker, who recorded career highs in tackles (53), sacks (6), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (2). According to ProFootballFocus.com, he also notched highs in quarterback pressures (25) and hits (11) as well as stops (34), which PFF defines as “solo defensive tackles made which constitute an offensive failure (including sacks).” Overall, the analytics website ranked Baker as the game’s 11th most effective 3-4 end last season.
It’s my belief that Baker will take the next step in ’16. Sure, he’s no longer playing beside his childhood buddy, Terrance Knighton. But Baker still has plenty of motivation. Not only is he playing on the best defense he’s been a part of in Washington, he’s got a young family and an expiring contract. Set turn to 29 in October, Baker has one more opportunity to land a big contract. And, if you follow Baker on Instagram, then you know he’s been putting in work this offseason as he seeks the next level.