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Redskins draft countdown: If they draft S Derwin James, the Redskins will have to alter their defense

Redskins draft countdown: If they draft S Derwin James, the Redskins will have to alter their defense

Redskins draft countdown

Derwin James

Safety
Florida State

He lines up deep, pressed up against the line of scrimmage, and everywhere else in between. Derwin James not only sets the tone for games defensively, he changes outcomes. Just line him up wherever you need him. He will find the ball. James can quickly become a major presence in an NFL locker room. 

Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
40-yard dash:4.47

Projected draft round:1

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have their two starting safeties in D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. But Nicholson’s ability to stay on the field for the entire season is in question. James would be high-quality depth. 

On a broader level, the Redskins lack impact players, especially on defense. A lineman like Da’Ron Payne or Vita Vea would fill a more urgent need in a specific spot. But would either player be able to lift the whole defense and give the opposing offense a player they have to account for on every snap? James has that potential and that could fill a greater need than more beef on the D-line. 

Film review: vs. Florida, vs. Clemson

—James does line up everywhere. He lined up as the deep single safety, as one of two deep safeties, at inside linebacker and pressed up against the line in the middle and on the edge. 

 —His mobility is tremendous. A few times he was backing up out of the picture before the snap and then he shot to the line to help make a run stop or assist on the tackle after a short pass.

—James has great anticipation, but he doesn’t always make the play. Against Florida, he was able to sniff out a swing pass but after he flew to the receiver he missed the tackle in the backfield. 

—That play was one of few where James seemed to be out of control. On most plays when he was lined up at safety he took his responsibility as the last line of defense seriously. He doesn’t go for the big hit; he makes sure the ball carrier gets to the ground. Sometimes this makes him appear to be overly cautious but it’s better than overrunning and allowing the big play. 

—If you want to find the ball, find James. If you want to find James, find the ball. 

—The Redskins want to improve their rushing defense. Adding a lineman isn’t the only way to do that. Against Clemson, the defensive front was tiring in the fourth quarter and James made tackle after tackle on running plays. 

Potential issues: Despite his presence around the ball, James did not make many big plays. In 26 games with the Seminoles, he had just three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Teams generally look for more takeaways from highly-drafted safeties. Eric Berry, to whom James has been compared, picked off 14 passes in three years at Tennessee. 

James suffered a torn meniscus in his sophomore year that ended his season after two games. Such injuries don’t tend to have lingering problems but it’s certainly something to check out. 

Bottom line: The team that drafts James won’t have to completely revamp its defense but the coordinator will have to be creative to make him worth a top-15 pick. Just lining him up at free safety will get you a good player but not an impact player. 

If James is still on the board along with Payne and/or Vea, the Redskins will need to make the classic choice between filling a need and taking the best available player. The organization will need to decide how to utilize James if they are going to take him. If they just want him to “fit in” they should pass and take the lineman. If they are willing to make him a centerpiece in their defense and use him in an active, attacking “robber” role from Day One, they should go ahead and take him. 

Redskins draft countdown

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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The Redskins finally have a fullback again, and he's ready to pave the way in the run game

The Redskins finally have a fullback again, and he's ready to pave the way in the run game

For the first time since Darrel Young was contributing in the backfield from 2010-2015, the Redskins have a legitimate fullback on their active roster.

Michael Burton got the call from Washington on Sunday night in which they said they were interested in adding him, caught a flight on Monday, worked out for the team on Tuesday and, after signing his contract, took the field for his first practice on Wednesday. He's been a busy man lately, but in a conversation following that Wednesday practice, he used the word "excited" a handful of times to describe his current mood.

He should be feeling that way, too.

Burton's arrival is yet another commitment to running the football by interim coach Bill Callahan. The Redskins have been using Ryan Anderson in a pinch in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations as a lead blocker, but now, they have someone who's played the position in the NFL for multiple seasons. 

Under Callahan, Burton could very well have a role. 

"I think it can give the defense different looks," Burton said of fullbacks. "I think they can do a lot of different things, whether you start us out wide and you bring us in, that can kind of be a tell to what the defense is doing. It just adds another blocker from the backfield. It makes it a little more difficult for the linebackers to fit. We can create more creases. Obviously, I'm a big fullback fan."

Jay Gruden often spoke about how he'd like to keep one on his final rosters, yet he never found room in recent seasons. But when backup tight end Jerome Cunningham was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, Burton was chosen to take his place.

Of course, a huge chunk of the league continues to emphasize the spread and speedy skill-players and attacking defenses in the air. 6-foot, 240-pounders aren't exactly in high-demand.

That is precisely why Burton feels like he can be a sneaky asset for the Redskins.

"They don't see it in practice all the time," he explained. "When you play that team that hasn't seen it, it's difficult to prepare for that in a week... I think it just adds another element to the offense."

Now, it remains to be seen whether Burton is long for the Burgundy and Gold. These kinds of mid-season acquisitions are often gone before their lockers are fully set up. 

However, with Callahan in charge and Adrian Peterson being a featured piece again, perhaps Burton can become effective and beloved like Young and Mike Sellers were for the organization. He's not worried about that, though. He's instead focused on much simpler goals.

"If Coach Callahan wants to get the run game going, I take pride in that," he said. "I'm going to put that on my shoulders every single day to make sure we have a successful run game."

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Here's who is on the DC Defenders roster, alongside Cardale Jones

matt-elam-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Here's who is on the DC Defenders roster, alongside Cardale Jones

The next step in the XFL's 2020 relaunch was completed on Wednesday, as each team completed the five-phase open draft.

The DC Defenders, one of the eight teams in the revamped football league, pulled in quite the haul.

While he wasn't a draft pick, former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was assigned to the Defenders on Tuesday. He joins the Redskins' Dwayne Haskins as former Buckeye QBs playing in the nation's capital.

Here's a look at their full roster, with the names and important notes to know.

Skill Positions:

Rashard Davis, WR, James Madison
Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
Jhurell Pressley RB, New Mexico
DeAndre Thompkins, WR, Penn State
Khari Lee, TE, Bowie State
Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Max McCaffrey, WR, Duke
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati

Offensive Lineman:

Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
Logan Tuley-Tillman, OT, Michigan
De'Ondre Wesley, OT, Brigham Young
Jon Toth, OC, Kentucky
Rishard Cook, OG, Alabama-Birmingham
Chris Brown, OG, Southern California
Toby Weathersby, OT, Louisiana State
James O'Hagan, OC, Buffalo
Chase Farris, OG, Ohio State
Casey Tucker, OT, Arizona State

Defensive Front Seven:

James Vaughters, LB, Stanford
Charles Harris, DE, Buffalo
Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Tracy Sprinkle, DT, Ohio State
Jameer Thurman, LB, Indiana State
Sam Montgomery, DE, Louisiana State
Jonathan Celestin, LB, Minnesota
KeShun Freeman, DE, Georgia Tech
Daryle Banfield, DT, Brown

Defensive Backs:

Elijah Campbell, CB, Northern Iowa
Desmond Lawrence, CB, North Carolina
Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Sylve, CB, Alabama
Reggie Cole, CB, Mary Hardin Baylor
Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA
Tyree Kinnel, Safety, Michigan
Carlos Merritt, Safety, Campbell
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (FL)

Phase 1: Open Draft

Terrence Lee-Alls, WR, James Madison
Dimitrios Tsesmetzis, TE, Western Connecticut State
Duvonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
Tavaris Barnes, DE, Clemson
Jake Ceresna, DE, Cortland
Brian Khoury, DE, Carnegie Mellon
A.J. Tarpley, LB, Stanford
Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Tre Sullivan, Safety, Shepherd
Hunter Niswander, Punter, Northwestern

Phase 2: Open Draft

Khalid Abdullah, RB, James Madison
Ryan Yurachek, RB, Marshall
Levern Jacobs III, WR, Maryland
Richard Mullaney, WR, Alabama
Ronald Patrick, OC, South Carolina
Cole Boozer, OT, Temple
Randall Harris, OT, Towson
Siupeli Anau, DT, Northern Arizona
Koa Farmer, LB, Penn State
Max Redfield, Safety, Indiana (PA)

Open Draft: Phase 3

John Thomas, RB, Penn State
Jamal Custis, WR, Syracuse
Deion Holliman, WR, Missouri State
Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville
Justin Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Terron Prescod, OG, North Carolina State
Trae Moxley, OT, Colorado State
Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri
Kristjan Sokoli, DT, Buffalo
Jordan Jones, LB, Kentucky

NOTES:

  • One name that is familiar to many college football fans is running back Donnel Pumphrey. He left San Diego State the NCAA's all-time leading rusher. Prior to the XFL, Pumphrey was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2017, but multiple injuries prevented him from making an impact on the field.
     
  • Linebacker Scooby Wright should make an immediate impact for the Defenders. At Arizona State, he won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. After bouncing around multiple NFL teams, Wright will sue the XFL as hopefully a form of stability in his NFL career.
     
  • Cardale Jones will take the QB headlines, but Tyree Jackson is no slouch, either. Just 21 years old, Jackson went undrafted in 2019 and was released by the Bills during final roster cuts. He was one of the more intriguing prospects coming out and his slip was surprising to many. Expect Jackson to compete with Jones for snaps at the very minimum.
     
  • Maryland's own Levern Jacobs will stay local, as the Defenders selected the former Terrapin in the open draft phase. Jackson spent time with the Redskins during training camp in 2017 but was released during final roster cuts. 
     
  • The older brother of NFL MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey was selected by the Defenders as well. Wide receiver Max McCaffrey had a stellar career at Duke but was unable to find footing in the NFL after going undrafted in 2016. He'll look to revamp his football career with the Defenders.
     
  • One player with significant NFL experience is cornerback LaDarius Gunter. In 2016, he was a full-time starter for the Packers opposite of Damarius Randall. He was released in 2017 and appeared in four games with the Carolina Panthers in 2017. His most recent football came from the AAF, where he was a member of the Orlando Apollos.
     
  • If you want to talk about athleticism, one Defenders' wide receiver is as good as they come. Deion Holliman and his 65-inch vertical will be on display for D.C.
     
  • Former Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam brings incredible experience to the Defenders as well. He spent four years with Baltimore, and off the field issues derailed his NFL career. Expect Elam to use the XFL as a way to catch attention from other NFL teams.