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After the draft, how much improvement should we expect out of the Redskins defense?

After the draft, how much improvement should we expect out of the Redskins defense?

The Redskins went heavily for defense in the NFL draft last month. The raw numbers show a slight tilt towards the defense, with six of the 10 picks going on that side of the ball. But the value of the picks they used on defense really tells the story. As valued by the Jimmy Johnson draft pick trade chart, the Redskins used picks worth 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

And that’s good because the Redskins defense needed a lot of help. You can pick almost any key defensive stat and the Redskins’ performance in 2016 generally ranged from mediocre to awful. They couldn’t stop the pass (opp. 7.4 yards/pass attempt, 21st in NFL) or the run (4.5 yards/attempt, 26th) or opponents on third down (36.6%, 32nd).

RELATED: Will the Redskins go running back by committee?

How good could the Redskins’ record have been with even an average or slight above-average defense. Certainly, they would have recorded the one additional win they needed to make the playoffs. But it goes deeper than that. Better defensive play could have meant wins over the Cowboys (2 times), Lions, Bengals, and Cardinals.

That’s enough lamenting the past. How much better can the Redskins defense be after the draft and after bringing in four key free agents on defense?

The likely answer is better, but it is not reasonable to expect the defense to morph into a dominant unit, or even a top-10 group.

Looking at the free agents in isolation, their net effect was just a little better than break even. Defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should be competent. But the Redskins lost Chris Baker to free agency and they cut Ricky Jean Francois so the two free agents need to replace their top two defensive linemen. That is about a wash.  

Even if D.J. Swearinger is not a natural free safety he should be a moderate upgrade over David Bruton and the others who tried to man the position last year.

MORE REDSKINS: Defensive depth chart has lots of moving parts 

The wild card is inside linebacker Zach Brown. The Redskins have not had a player with his speed and athleticism at the position in the seven seasons they have been running the 3-4 defense. If they can figure out how to utilize him he could have a substantial impact. If they plug him in and have him do what they’re always had the inside backers have done, his influence will be minimal.

Before moving on from free agents it’s appropriate to mention OLB Junior Galette, who has not played a snap since signing in August of 2015. He is the ultimate wild card; the Redskins could get a dozen sacks from him or he may have little to no impact.

The bottom line on the free agents is that fans should know better than to expect much out of an influx of defensive free agents. If you have any questions, just Google Albert Haynesworth or Adam Archuleta.

As far as the draft, it is reasonable to expect first-round pick Jonathan Allen to have an immediate impact on the line? Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Allen will inject youth and athleticism to a line on a team that has not invested a first-round pick in the position since 1997.

Second-round pick OLB Ryan Anderson can help but don’t expect him to explode onto the scene. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982 only seven players who were drafted in the second round or later got double-digit sacks as a rookie. It hasn’t been done since Mark Anderson of the Bears got 12 sacks in 2006 after Chicago drafted him in the fifth round.

No doubt, Anderson can give the pass rush a boost and he should get better over the next couple of seasons. The same can be said of Fabian Moreau, who may not be ready to fully practice until well into training camp. His 2017 impact is likely to be minimal. Fourth-round safety Montae Nicholson and seventh-round defensive backs Josh-Harvey-Clemons and Joshua Holsey are going to have to compete to make the team and their biggest impact could be felt on special teams.

This all should add up to improvement for the defense in 2017. That’s improved, not transformed or dominant. That still may be enough to put an extra win or two on the board.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

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

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

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 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

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