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Gruden likes Spencer Long's versatility

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Gruden likes Spencer Long's versatility

Jay Gruden is continuing the process of transforming the Redskins’ offensive line. The Redskins were first and fifth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2012 and 2013, respectively but the line that opened the holes for Alfred Morris and protected Robert Griffin III and gave him some running room is mostly gone.

They took the next step in the line’s transformation last week when right guard Chris Chester, who played virtually every snap at right guard since the start of the 2011 season, was released. Spencer Long is lining up with the first team at Chester’s spot and Gruden is expecting the second-year player to start there this year and perhaps for a long time to come.

“He’s a big man. He’s tough and he’s smart,” said Gruden after Wednesday’s OTA session at Redskins Park.” I think he missed a lot of the season at the University of Nebraska his senior year. Coming back last year it was important for him to slowly get into it. I think having a year under his belt, knowing the system, I think the confidence coming into Year 2, we feel good about his progress.”

Gruden said on multiple occasions during the 2014 season that Long was close to pushing past Chester on the depth chart but as a rookie he never did break through. Perhaps the injury to which Gruden alluded, a torn ACL that ended his 2013 senior season at Nebraska in mid October, had something to do with it. But now they are going to entrust him with the position.

One of the things that the Redskins like about Long is that they believe he can be effective at both zone blocking and power blocking. Gruden said that the team will run a mix of both zone and power this season.

“Spencer is a very powerful man and very good for the power running game, the gap-style blocking, but he also has some great movement skills,” said Gruden. “That’s what drew us to him in the first place because when we drafted him, we were an outside zone team here in the past and we wanted to try to get to more gap-style, and we thought he could do both, which is what drew us to him.”

Gruden is under some pressure for his O-line changes to work. As noted, the Redskins ranked in the top five in rushing the two seasons prior Gruden’s arrival. They slipped to 19th in Gruden’s first season in Washington.

Quarterback sacks also increased under Gruden, from 43 in 2013 to 58. Some elementary film analysis shows that the sacks were not all the fault of the line, that the quarterbacks themselves and the other blockers were responsible for a share of them. That said, it was clear that the line could have done a better job protecting the passer.

This is the way that the NFL succession planning is supposed to work. Chester is 32 and had a salary cap number of well over $4 million. Long is younger (24) and cheaper ($673K cap number). He was drafted in the third round with the idea that he would be able to take Chester’s job sooner or later. We will see if the organization picked the right guy for the job.

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Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

Annually, Forbes releases the worth of all professional sports franchises in the world. Once again, the Washington Redskins are sitting near the top. 

This year the Redskins are ranked the fourth most valuable NFL franchise at $3.1 billion. 

That marks a five percent worth increase from a year ago. They leapfrogged the San Francisco 49ers for a spot in the top four after placing fifth in 2017. They still trail the Dallas Cowboys ($4.8 billion), the New England Patriots ($3.7 billion), and the New York Giants ($3.3 billion).

Compared to other leagues and franchises, the Redskins jumped into the top-10. They are tied for the tenth overall value with the Golden State Warriors who are coming off of their third NBA title in four years.

From year-to-year there is never much movement from the top of the ranking. Once again, the Cowboys are the top team in the world by over $600 million. They were followed by three European soccer teams. In total four NFL teams made up the top-10, the most of any sport. 

2018 Top-10 World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams according to Forbes:

1. Dallas Cowboys, $4.8 billion (NFL)

2. Manchester United, $4.123 billion ( Soccer)

3. Real Madrid, $4.09 billion (Soccer)

4. Barcelona, $4.064 billion (Soccer)

5. New York Yankees, $4 billion (MLB)

6. New England Patriots, $3.7 billion (NFL)

7. New York Knicks, $3.6 billion (NBA)

8. Los Angeles Lakers, $3.3 billion (NBA)

8. New York Giants, $3.3 billion (NFL)

T-10. Golden State Warriors, $3.1 billion (NBA)

T-10. Washington Redskins, $3.1 billion (NFL)

Next five NFL franchises:

13. San Francisco 49ers, $3.05 billion

T-14. Los Angeles Rams, $3 billion 

17. Chicago Bears, $2.85 billion 

T-19. Houston Texans, $2.8 billion

21. New York Jets, $2.75 billion

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series