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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive Line

Additions: Daron Payne (drafted in first round), Tim Settle (drafted in fifth round)
Departures: Terrell McClain (released)

Starters: Payne (NT), Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis
Other roster locks: Stacy McGee, Anthony Lanier, Settle
On the bubble: Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor

How the defensive line compares

To the rest of the NFL: We are going to have to see about this. Over the last couple of years the D-line has been transformed from an aging group into one where youth is in good supply. Ioannidis is the oldest of the starters at age 24. Allen is 23 and Payne just turned 21 in May. It looks like there is great potential there but we haven’t seen enough of it on the field to make solid comparisons to other lines around the league. Allen missed 10 games of his rookie year with an injury and Ioannidis missed two and was hampered in a few more with a broken hand. Payne, of course, is a rookie. Let’s check back in late October and see how things are going then. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  The primary reason that the line should be significantly better this year is the presence of Payne and Settle on the roster. That means that it is very unlikely that Hood will have to play nose tackle. He has been the starter there for the past two years, forced there by injuries. Jim Tomsula that Hood is not well suited to play the nose. So they have an improvement there. If they get a mostly healthy season out of Allen and if Ioannidis continue to improve this will be the best defensive line they have had since moving to the 3-4 defensive in 2010. 

2018 defensive line outlook

Biggest upside: As noted, Payne just turned 21. He seems to have a rare understanding of the game for a rookie. You often see rookies just trying to survive on physical ability early one. Payne has plenty of that, but he also seems to realize that strength and ability alone won’t let him thrive at this level. He pays close attention to his technique during drills, making sure he does things the right way the first time. If he builds on this for the next year or so the Redskins could have a legitimate star. 

Most to prove: Since so many Redskins fans are accustomed to seeing veteran defensive linemen the team signs as free agents play poorly, they automatically put McGee in the “bust” category. But many of his teammates said he was the most consistent player on the line last year. It’s safe to say that he played better than the popular perception. Next year, he will carry a $4.8 million salary cap number and like most players who are not starters but making good salaries, he will need to play well enough to justify that cap number.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins did not expect Settle to be available in the fifth round and he was too good to pass up when he was still on the board. He should get some opportunity as a rookie. He is likely to be the only other nose tackle on the roster besides Payne (sorry, but the numbers make it unlikely that Phil Taylor will make the roster). That could have him active on many game days and that usually means getting some snaps in the rotation. We will see what he can do with his chances. 

Bottom line: The Redskins were last in the league in rushing defense in 2017. It wasn’t all on the line—in particular, injuries to the inside linebackers hurt a lot—but the simple fact is that the organization long neglected the line. The philosophy was to create a patchwork unit from aging free agents. That has changed now with three homegrown players set to start and Settle and 2016 undrafted free agent find Anthony Lanier providing reserve help. It’s going to be a better unit, no question. But the improvement over the last several years is a low bar and we’ll find out if this develops into a quality line over the next few months. 

Quote-unquote

Greg Manusky on Payne: "Payne is doing a great job. He’s trying to get acclimated to some of the calls, hasn’t had a lot of mental errors. He’s done a great job. Physical player."

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series

 

 

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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

Too much attention gets paid to roster construction during training camp. Projecting the 53-man roster has become its own August cottage industry, much like Bracketology flourishes in March.

The truth of the matter is regardless of projections, more than anything else, injuries dictate what players ultimately land on the Week 1 roster. 

Right now, that is apparent with the Redskins' running back position. Derrius Guice headlined the group after Washington grabbed him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. After injuring his knee in the first preseason game, however, Guice won't play in 2018. 

That means the other five guys battling for a spot now move up in the pecking order. Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson will make the team, even though Thompson is yet to play in the preseason and is still battling back from a broken leg last November. 

Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall and Kapri Bibbs played with the 'Skins last season and were locked in a tense battle for spots. Then, Perine and Marshall got hurt Thursday night. Perine is expected to miss a week, while Marshall could miss up to four weeks. 

Can both Perine and Marshall still make the Redskins 53-man roster? 

Of course. 

Is that a certainty? Definitely not. 

Bibbs gets a major opportunity now, and he has looked good so far in camp and preseason games. Additionally for Bibbs, it often gets lost that he actually played well in Washington last season. In three games he had more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

If Marshall truly needs a month to get his lower leg injury settled, that won't be until after the deadline to trim rosters. The Redskins could move him to the injured reserve/PUP list before then, but that would mean Marshall would not be eligible to play for the Burgundy and Gold until Week 7.

This situation might seem far fetched, but consider the 'Skins could move Marshall to the IR/PUP list without having to put him on waivers and possibly let another team claim him. And the ugly truth is, by the time Marshall could come back to the 53 in Week 7, the Redskins might need a new, healthy RB.

Perine's injury situation seems less severe, and barring a setback or further injury, will be on the roster. 

That means Thompson, Kelley, Perine and Bibbs. Maybe Marshall too, but that will be determined by his rehab schedule. 

Martez Carter made impressive runs against the Jets, and while it seems easy to dismiss his roster candidacy, remember Rob Kelley was an undrafted free agent out of a small Louisiana school just a few years ago.

Complicating matters is the reality that Washington's front office is absolutely going to be watching what other NFL teams do at roster cut time. Other running backs could emerge, especially from teams like Detroit that already had a crowded running back room and added more players via the draft. 

Coaches like to say competition on the field is what makes roster decisions. And yes, that's a big part of it. The violent nature of the NFL, the ultimate Next Man Up league, plays a huge factor as well. 

Trimming a roster because of injuries doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. It sure looks like Washington screwed up last year by cutting QB Nate Sudfeld, even though the team felt compelled to keep extra offensive linemen. 

It might be trite, but the NFL is a long, grueling season. The Redskins know that. The team lost more players to injury than any other NFL squad last season. 

So when looking at 53-man roster projections, know there are two more preseason games left, and sad but likely, more injuries to come. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

SPREAD THE WEALTH: 'SKINS FINE WITHOUT A TOP W.R.?

BATTLE IT OUT: R.B. IS A SPOT TO WATCH

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—The brawl, the flinch, and following the money

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—The brawl, the flinch, and following the money

Here is what you need to know on Saturday, August 17, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

The Redskins week that was: A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskinsand NBC Sports Washington.

The 'Skins and Jets got into a brawl an hour into practice—I was about 10 yards away from where the fight took place, but I was only a few yards from where Morgan Moses hit the ground after taking what the Redskins interpreted to be a cheap shot. I can attest that the earth moves when Moses hits the ground. As to the dustup itself, I wouldn’t have cared at all if it had taken place in the middle of the field. But the fight spilling over into the spectator area made it a very dangerous incident. They need to do better. 

Redskins release CB Orlando Scandrick—When an out-of-the-blue move like this takes place, follow the money. If Scandrick had sustained an injury during the preseason that was serious enough to put him on injured reserve, the Redskins would have been on the hook for his entire 2018 salary of $1.72 million. In addition, his salary would become fully guaranteed if he had been on the roster in Week 1. The Redskins decided to cut their losses, which was his signing bonus of a cool $1 million. 

How Davis' injury affects the Redskins' WR depth chart—Robert Davis was not a lock to make the Redskins’ roster, but he certainly was a contender. But that all changed in an instant a week ago when he got tangled up with cornerback Danny Johnson during practice. Johnson bounced right up, Davis did not, having sustained a broken leg and knee ligament damage. Davis spent most of last year on the practice squad so this will be a second straight season without game action for the 2017 sixth-round pick. 

Redskins starters training camp one-liners, offense—You hear plenty of talk about the backups and bubble players during training camp and often the front-line players get overlooked. So there is your look at how the offensive starters fared in camp, one-liners style. You can find the defense here

Tweet of the week

We didn’t expect him to say anything but we had to ask Terrelle Pryor if he had any comment after the “flinching” incident with D.J. Swearinger. This was all he was willing to say as he jogged towards the locker room with a smile on his face. 

It would be inaccurate to say that Pryor is a polarizing figure among Redskins fans because that would mean that he had an equal number of supporters and detractors. It’s pretty much all haters. And it’s probably not fair.

From my point of view, I don’t have a problem with Pryor. He was always a stand-up guy when dealing with us. And while he was a free agent bust with the Redskins he didn’t cost a ton of money. Besides, he is hardly unique in that regard. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 2; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:30

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 6 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 14 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 22 days

In case you missed it

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