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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).

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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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Report: Months after major leg injury, Reuben Foster regains feeling in toes

Report: Months after major leg injury, Reuben Foster regains feeling in toes

The Redskins signed linebacker Reuben Foster late in the 2018 season after his release from San Francisco amid domestic violence allegations. The signing caused tremendous backlash towards the organization, but in the end, it was supposed to be worth it for what Foster could do on the field. 

Eventually, charges against Foster got dropped and he wasn't suspended by the NFL. Unfortunately for him and for the Redskins, Foster got injured in his first snap of offseason team activities in May 2019, and it was a major injury. 

The scene on the field that day was traumatic as Foster was visibly in intense pain. In the news that emerged after the injury, Foster had torn multiple ligaments in his knee and NBC Sports Washington reported there was nerve damage in the leg as well. 

Now, it seems like there is finally some positive momentum for Foster's injury. His agent Malki Kawa spoke to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "He's got feeling in his toes, the underside of his foot, the side of his foot. The nerve is starting to fire again."

The alarming part here is that Foster had lost feeling in his toes, and for a long period of time too. Foster's injury happened last May. 

Rehabbing a knee is one thing, football players do that all the time. But nerves operate almost on their own, and some nerve damage is irreperable. 

"He's regaining feeling and power," Kawa said. "It shows the nerve is firing. When he moves his leg upward, he can feel around the ankle and the top part of the foot. That's a new thing. The next 60 days are going to be big as far as getting back to normal."

The Redskins know about scary nerve injuries. Promising rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett sustained nerve damage in his arm in Week 17 of the 2015 season, and never played again. Two years ago, cornerback Quinton Dunbar dealt with a nerve issue in his leg and was basically lost for the year. 

What happens next for Foster will be interesting to watch. 

Kawa said the next 60 days will be important, and that timeline also coincides with more Redskins offseason work. After such a significant injury, it would be premature to make any assumptions about Foster's return to the field, and if/when that happens, his level of play. 

Foster has been seen around the Redskins training facility at times since he was signed in 2018. At various points he was using a scooter and then walking on his own with a significant brace.

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Report: Jay Gruden interviewing for Jaguars offensive coordinator job

Report: Jay Gruden interviewing for Jaguars offensive coordinator job

Jay Gruden’s absence from football might only last a few months. 

The former Redskins head coach is reportedly interviewing for the Jacksonville Jaguars vacant offensive coordinator position, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Jacksonville parted ways with John DeFlippo last Monday after just one season with the team. 
 

The few times Gruden has spoken since being fired by Washington in October, the former head coach has expressed a strong desire to get back into coaching. Gruden recently told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport he’s been “itching to do something” and “would like an office to go to,” according to Garafolo. 

Interviewing for an offensive coordinator position is not unfamiliar territory for Gruden. He spent the past six years as the head coach in the nation’s capital, but perhaps his most success in the NFL was when the 52-year-old was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Behind the solid play of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, the Gruden-led offense in Cincinnati resulted in three straight playoff appearances. 

Should be be hired in Jacksonville, Gruden would have some promising pieces to work with. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew showed plenty of hope in the 12 games he started, and second-year wideout D.J. Chark enjoyed a breakout season in 2019. Additionally, running back Leonard Fournette finished with a career-high 1,152 rushing yards last season. 

Former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and former Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have reportedly interviewed for the gig as well. 

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