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25 Redskins questions: A focus on offense or defense in the draft?

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25 Redskins questions: A focus on offense or defense in the draft?

Since General Manager Scot McCloughan was hired in early January, he’s been busy retooling the Redskins’ roster via free agency and preparing for the 2015 draft. So far, he’s received mostly positive reviews. But his work is far from done. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine 25 issues that must be addressed as the offseason kicks into high gear.

Should the Redskins focus on offense or defense in the draft?

Since 2010, the Redskins have drafted 42 players, and the overwhelming majority of them played on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, 25 were offensive players, 16 were defensive and there was one specialist. Will that balance change now that Scot McCloughan is in charge? History suggests it might. During McCloughan’s two-year stint as San Francisco’s general manager, the 49ers drafted 13 players—7 on defense, 6 on offense. Sure that’s a smaller sample size, but it could mean McCloughan will be less concerned about stacking the offensive cupboard and more focused on taking the best player, regardless of the side of the ball he lines up on.

El-Bashir: McCloughan has said over and again that he strongly believes in drafting the best player available with each pick. And I think he’ll adhere to that philosophy—to a certain extent. Need will play some role, particularly in the first round. To that end, I think the Redskins will draft a pass rusher with the No. 5 overall pick (as long as they don’t trade back, of course). I also think positional need will be used as a tiebreaker between two similarly ranked prospects in the later rounds. One thing I don’t think you’ll see is the Redskins loading up on offensive players as they did during the Shanahan-era and Jay Gruden’s first year. As I pointed out in the intro, during McCloughan’s tenure as the general manager in San Francisco, the 49ers picked only one more player on offense than on defense. I also went back a little further. During McCloughan’s stint as vice president of player personal in San Fran (2005-07), the 49ers drafted 29 players—15 played on offense, 14 on defense. When I look at the current Redskins roster, I see significant holes on offense and defense, both short and long term. If McCloughan stays true to his philosophy, I suspect he’ll trade back at least once and end up with pretty close to a 50-50 split in terms of offensive and defensive players.

Tandler: The conventional wisdom among fans and many in the media is that since the Redskins loaded up on the defensive side of the ball in free agency they will focus on the offensive side of the ball during the draft. And indeed, they did go exclusively on defense during free agency, signing three linemen, a cornerback, and two safeties while signing no offensive players. But it’s not as simple as that. As Tarik noted, McCloughan’s basic philosophy is to take the best player available. All indications are that the best on the board when pick No. 5 rolls around will be a defensive player, like an edge rusher like Dante Fowler or Vic Beasley. And, as Tarik also said, need will guide the picks to an extent. The Redskins need depth at safety and at inside linebacker. On offense, Washington probably would like to pick up a right tackle and a third-down running back at a minimum. The truth is, however, that he might not be able to fulfill his shopping list. The draft rarely goes as planned. Perhaps McCloughan would like to fill the needs listed above. But right before they plan to take, say, a tackle, there’s a run on them and nobody they want is left on the board. Or maybe there is a cornerback sitting there who is head and shoulders above not only the tackles but also everyone else available. The plan goes out the window and a new strategy is formulated while waiting for the next pick. So while McCloughan may be going in with a preference for taking players on offense, but only 1/32 of the process is under his control.

25 questions series

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'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

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Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

This Sunday, for the 117th time, the Redskins and Cowboys will meet. 

Dallas will bring its 3-3 record into FedEx Field and face off with a 3-2 Washington squad. The winner of the contest will guarantee themselves a share of the NFC East lead heading into Week 8.

Here's a storyline, stat and player to watch for the next installment of this rivalry. Once you're done reading those, you can officially start preparing yourself for some sketchy fourth down decisions by Jason Garrett. 

Biggest storyline

Since his tidy but effective game vs. the Packers, Alex Smith turned in a disconcerting performance in New Orleans and a lukewarm effort (albeit a winning one) against the Panthers. Overall, Smith has looked very in control at times but also uneasy and ineffective at others so far in 2018.

So, the biggest storyline in this edition of the series has to do with Smith. If this game calls for it, can he lead the 'Skins to a victory?

That could be difficult vs. the Cowboys. The QB will be without Jamison Crowder again, and on Friday, Jay Gruden listed Paul Richardson as doubtful. Chris Thompson, meanwhile, is questionable.

So, it's likely Smith will be without two of his most talented weapons and possible that he'll be missing three. And on top of that, he'll be operating behind an offensive line that's had issues, which is contributing to his sometimes shaky feet in the pocket.  

To make things even harder, the Dallas defense allows the second-fewest points-per-game in the league and boasts a defensive line that Gruden is very worried about because it employs a scheme that involves a lot of movement. The Colts D-line uses a lot of stunts and movement, too, and they held the 'Skins to just 9 points in Week 2.

Smith has yet to top 300 yards this season or throw for more than two touchdowns in a single outing. He's had no problem winning when the team jumps to an early lead and the running game is going, sure, but he can't count on that each time he starts. 

At some point, his right arm is going to have to be mainly responsible for a Redskins W. And there'd be no better time for that to happen than in his first shot against his new franchise's most-hated opponent.

One key stat

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott don't know what it's like to play an NFL game vs. Washington and leave that game as the loser. Prescott is 4-0 in his four starts, while Elliott suited up in three of those triumphs. 

Elliott has been a big-time problem for the Redskins in their run-ins. The RB has scored five times against the burgundy and gold and averages 110 yards per appearance. 

Come Sunday around 7:30 or 8 p.m., when Elliott's day is done, odds are you'll be able to look at his stat line and judge the outcome of the game solely based on it.

If Greg Manusky and his defense, particularly his young stars up front, are able to bottle up Zeke, you have to like the Redskins' chances of beating the Cowboys for the first time since the 2015 season finale.

The Redskin to watch

Charley Casserly identified Fabian Moreau as a key Redskin for Week 7 (full video above). Another one worth watching is DJ Swearinger.

Swearinger terrorized Cam Newton last week and really flew around the entire field. He'll need to be as active against the Cowboys and, most importantly, be a sure tackler.

Elliott is going to churn out a few seven- and eight-yard runs. It'll be on Swearinger, plus fellow safety Montae Nicholson, to not let those become 20- or 30-yard gains. 

A lot of the attention, and deservedly so, will go toward what Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are doing on Sunday. But if Swearinger can take smart angles, get Elliott to the ground and make a few plays in pass coverage, that'll go a long way vs. a limited Dallas offense.

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