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Redskins hope Da'Ron Payne will be able to solidify a porous run defense

Redskins hope Da'Ron Payne will be able to solidify a porous run defense

Doug Williams said that the Redskins would draft the best available player when they were on the clock. 

“It’s always going to be the best player available,” said the team’s senior vice president of player personnel during the team’s pre-draft press conference earlier this week

After their selection, it appears that they took a pick that was more for need. They picked defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne with safety Derwin James and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds still on the board, Jay Gruden said that there was some discussion. 

“There were quite a few guys were worthy of that pick, quite frankly,” said Gruden. “But for what we were looking for, with the fit, I think Da’Ron was perfect for us.”

The words “for what we were looking for” seem to indicate that they took Payne because they thought they needed someone at that position. 

While Payne is unlikely to be a pick that the Redskins will regret, they may look at what James and Edmunds, both players that most analysts had ranked considerably higher than Payne, accomplish during their careers and wonder what could have been. 

Then again, Payne is a pick that is about eight years overdue. The Redskins have been running the 3-4 defense since 2010 and they have never drafted a good nose tackle. Others they have tried, like Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, have been short-term solutions. For the past two years, the position has been manned by veteran Ziggy Hood, who is more suited to playing the end position. 

The result of the nose tackle situation in particular and neglect of the defensive line, in general, has been a rushing defense that has consistently in the lower half of the league, bottoming out at No. 32 in rushing yards allowed in 2017. The need to stop the run took a step up in importance earlier in the draft when the Giants selected running back Saquan Barkley with the second pick in the draft, a factor that Gruden cited when talking to the media after the pick. They already had twice-yearly dates with the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott at running back and the Eagles, who have a stable of effective running backs. 

Although at 311 pounds Payne may be considered a bit on the light side for a traditional nose tackle, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said in the past that a lighter player can be effective in that role in the team’s defense. 

The main concern about Payne is if he can rush the passer. In his three seasons at Alabama, he compiled just three sacks. Gruden said that that number doesn’t tell the whole story. 

“He can, he can get back there,” said Gruden. “A lot of times, the sacks that don’t show up on the stat board, he enabled other guys to get them, because push from the pocket forces the quarterback outside. I think that [Redskins edge rushers] Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson will be very happy to have Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne in the middle pushing that pocket.”

Gruden also expressed confidence Tomsula will be able to coach Payne into being an effective NFL pass rusher. 

We will see what Tomsula and the rest of the coaches can do with Payne. If they can get some pressures and sacks out of him and the ability to stop the run translates to the NFL, the Redskins will have received good value for the No. 13 pick, even if James and Edmonds go on to be stars. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

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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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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