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Need to Know: A post-draft look at the possible 2021 Redskins defense

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Need to Know: A post-draft look at the possible 2021 Redskins defense

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 16, six days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Looking ahead—The Redskins core defensive players in 2021

Earlier this year, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2021 (offensedefense). That was before free agency and the draft. Now that the Redskins have their personnel mostly set, let’s revisit that look and see how much the picture has changed. The defense is up today; I looked at the offense yesterday

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory; if you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.   

Ages are as of Week 1 in 2021

Potential blue-chip players: Jonathan Allen (26), Daron Payne (24), Montae Nicholson (25)
Changes from last projectionAdded Payne, Nicholson

I get that Nicholson is a bit of a stretch. OK, a major stretch. But I’m going on the basis of Jay Gruden saying that, when healthy, Nicholson is the equivalent of a defensive version of Jordan Reed. If he has that kind of impact he could be a blue chipper. Health is the key and it’s fair to say that at this point that is more of a concern for him than for the average player. 

If Payne can develop a consistent pass rush and if he stops the run as well as everyone thinks he will, he has blue-chip written all over him. So does Allen assuming he stays on the field.

Solid starters:Ryan Kerrigan (33), D. J. Swearinger (30), Preston Smith (28), Matt Ioannidis (27), Anthony Lanier (28), Tim Settle (24)
Changes:Removed Kendall Fuller (traded), added Settle

Kerrigan keeps himself in great shape and it’s easy to see him signing another contract with the Redskins when his current deal is up after the 2020 season and playing for a couple more years. Smith's contract is up after this year, and looking at what a competent pass rusher makes around the league, it won’t be cheap to keep him around. If he is with the Redskins, he will be in his prime in 2021. 

Lanier and Ioannidis also would need to be on second contracts. Along with Settle, Payne and Allen the team could have a very good defensive line that still would be young. 

Potential starters: Quinton Dunbar (29), Fabian Moreau (27), Ryan Anderson (27), Shaun Dion Hamilton (25), Zach Vigil (30)
Changes:Removed Trent Murphy (left as free agent), Nicholson, added Anderson, Hamilton

Anderson needs to bounce back from his zero-sack rookie year; he could go into one of the outside linebacker spots if Smith leaves as a free agent or if Kerrigan doesn’t re-sign. Hamilton is a projection based on how he performed at Alabama when healthy (a big if, see Nicholson). 

We will know a lot more about Moreau after this season and he could take a step up when I do this assessment early next year. Dunbar probably won’t make any Pro Bowls but he will be reliable. By the way, Josh Norman’s contract will be up after 2020 and he will be 33, so it’s hard to see him back in 2021. 

It’s too soon to tell about the other Redskins’ 2018 draft picks, so time will tell on Troy Apke and Greg Stroman. 

A potential 2021 defensive starting lineup:

NTSettle
DE Payne
DE Allen
OLB Kerrigan
OLB Smith
ILB Hamilton
ILB Vigil
CB Dunbar
CB Moreau
Swearinger
Nicholson

That’s a starting defense composed of players all currently on the team and with only Kerrigan over the age of 30 in Week 1. 

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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A quick, initial take on the news that Arie Kouandjio will undergo surgery on his injured quad and be out “several months”: 

Timeline 

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 27
—Training camp starts (7/26) 71
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 85

The Redskins last played a game 136 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 116 days. 

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. There was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown fewer interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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