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Improved defensive line may lead to position shifts for Redskins

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Improved defensive line may lead to position shifts for Redskins

Scot McCloughan signed Stephen Paea away from the Bears to step in and play nose tackle for the Redskins this fall.

McCloughan's motivation to add Paea became clear as the Washington GM focused on improving a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league. Paea had the size and experience, and last season recorded a career high six sacks.

When Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton became available later in free agency, the Redskins pursuit seemed more of a fantasy than a reality. As things progressed, it became clear Knighton could actually land in D.C., and then it happened.

While the improvement on the Redskins defensive line with Paea and Knighton is obvious, it also creates a bit of a logjam at the nose tackle position. Paea showed well in 2014, but Knighton is a star at the position, he even has national commercials that poke fun at his "Pot roast" nickname.

So what will happen with the two men? Paea doesn't seem concerned.

"It's gonna be a big plus for our D-line," Paea said. "I'm excited for our scheme, our defense."

The NFL's best defenses have a deep defensive line, and by bringing in Paea and Knighton, not to mention Ricky Jean Francois, the Skins should be much deeper and better up front. Position wise, the suspicion would be Paea and incumbent starter Jason Hatcher line up at the tackle spots with Knighton in the middle, but the Skins have already shown some different looks during OTAs.

"It's just a scheme. When we go sub, we still have the package where I play nose," Paea explained. "Or I'm with TK [Knighton] and he plays nose. I like it, versatility like that."

New defensive coordinator Joe Barry has made clear he will play to his units strengths, and maximizing reps for his best players would be in that vein.

"We are very multiple," Barry said. "We’re going to give you a bunch of different looks."

The sheer bulk of Knighton would be a difficult matchup for any offensive lineman in a one-on-one battle, and that should be accelerated as Pot Roast moves around the defensive line.

"Terrance is more athletic than most people thing," Paea said. "I don't know how much he weighs but that's a big man right there."

At nose tackle, Knighton usually gets double teamed by the center and guard, or the guard at least chips down on Knighton. Lined up across the tackle or in the guard/tackle gap, doubling is trickier with a pass rusher coming from the edge.

"He's not just taking double teams, he can get to the quarterback," Paea said of Knighton.

With more talent up front, it's hard to imagine the Redskins defensive line will not improve. The unit will need to for Washington to become a better team in 2015. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Rookie camp report, Guice a fan favorite

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Rookie camp report, Guice a fan favorite

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 19, three days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

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

Five key upcoming free agent decisions for the Redskins—Some may say it’s too early to talk about 2019 free agents but the key to Redskins keeping their own players has been to lock them up before they hit free agency. It will be interesting to see what unfolds between now and the start of the season regarding Preston Smith, Jamison Crowder, and a few others. 

Redskins 2017 draft picks who must step up this season—While the focus is on the newly acquired draft picks and free agents if the Redskins are going to improve this year some of the players already on the team will need to contribute more. The bulk of the members of that club are from the 2017 draft class. Who will this year’s versions for Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis? 

A post-draft look at the possible Redskins defense three years from now—I was a little wary of posting a look three years down the road but after I wrote it I’m glad I did. And the posts did fairly well (you can find the post on the offense here) so that was a bonus. The best thing I found out while putting this together was the possible 2021 defensive; you can find it at the bottom of the post).

Redskins rookie camp practice report—The draft picks and other rookies get introduced to the NFL game, the rookies get introduced to the coaches, the media, and each other, and everybody (at least all of the draft picks) looks good. There are a few good takeaways to be had—Troy Apke’s makeup speed, Trey Quin’s ability to put a DB on the ground—the real action starts when they put the pads on down in Richmond. 

Tweet of the week

Perhaps I was late to the party. It looks like Guice already is a fan favorite and the hype train is starting to roll. He’s not anywhere near where RGIII was in 2012 but the dynamic is the same. 

It easy for everything to be great now. Guice is hustling and being a leader among the rookies and all is well. All of those red-hot draft day rumors about his character have vanished. The test will come if he fumbles at a key moment in a regular season game or if he has a three-week stretch where he averages 3.1 yards per carry. Then his upbeat personality might not play as well. Or it might not be as upbeat. And if he doesn’t take criticism well things could deteriorate further. 

This is not a prediction that things will not go well for Guice, just that the road could get bumpy. It often does for NFL rookies. 

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

Timeline  

Former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 25
—Training camp starts (7/26) 69
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 83

The Redskins last played a game 138 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 114 days. 

In case you missed it

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Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 7 and 12 vs Cowboys

Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 7 and 12 vs Cowboys

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

Week 7 October 21, FedEx Field

Week 12 Thanksgiving, November 22, AT&T Stadium

2017 Cowboys: 9-7, second in NFC East 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8.5

Early line: Week 7 Redskins -1, Week 12 Cowboys -6

Key additions: LB Leighton Vander Esch, WR Allen Hurns

Key losses: WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten, LB Anthony Hitchens, G Jonathan Cooper

Notable: Witten retired shortly after the draft to become the lead analyst on Monday night football and Bryant was cut a month after free agency started.

Biggest questions: 

  • How will quarterback Dak Prescott respond to the loss of his security blanket tight end Witten?
  • And regardless of the availability of his targets, is Prescott more like the QB he was his rookie year (7.3 adjusted net yard/attempt) or what he was last year (6.0 ANY/A)?
  • Was the 14.5-sack season by Demarcus Lawrence, who had nine sacks in his first three years on the league, a contract-year fluke or something he can produce consistently?

Series history

Cowboys lead all-time series 70-44-2; Dallas has won the last four in a row and six of the last seven.

Series notables

The first time: October 9, 1960, Griffith Stadium—Ralph Guglielmi completed just 10 passes, but they were good for 257 yards and a touchdown in the Redskins’ win. Bobby Khayat provided the margin of the 26-14 victory by kicking four field goals.

The last time: November 30, 2017, AT&T Stadium—The wheels were starting to fall off of the 2017 Redskins when they took the field for this Thursday night game. The Cowboys, who had scored a total of just 22 points in their previous three games, scored 17 unanswered in the second quarter to take command of the game. They were able to keep the Redskins at arm’s length the rest of the way thanks in no small part to old friend Alfred Morris rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown. The game was really as close as the 38-17 final indicated. 

The best time: NFC Championship Game, January 22, 1983, RFK Stadium—Looking to avenge their only defeat of the year and advance to Super Bowl XVII, the Redskins jumped out to a 14-3 halftime lead over the hated Cowboys on the strength of John Riggins’ running and Joe Theismann’s passing. Adding to the delight of the frenzied crowd was the fact that Dexter Manley had knocked Danny White, Dallas’ starting quarterback, out of the game and any Cowboy comeback would have to come from the arm of the untested Gary Hogeboom. 

There were echoes of Clint Longley as Hogeboom moved his team up and down the field and Dallas cut the home team’s lead to 21-17 going into the fourth quarter. It would take two key defensive plays put the Redskins in the Super Bowl.

The first, less remembered play was Mel Kauffman’s leaping, over-the-shoulder interception of a Hogeboom pass that set up a 29-yard Mark Moseley field goal. The seven-point lead was better, but the crowd was still uneasy. Relief—and ecstasy—would come on Dallas' next play from scrimmage.

From the Dallas 20, Darryl Grant sensed a screen pass, a play that had worked well for Dallas earlier in the game. He stopped rushing and drifted off to the right side, around the 10 yard line. Manley, sensing another quarterback kill, went right after Hogeboom and tipped his pass high in the air. Grant caught it and high-stepped the 10 yards into the end zone as a roar of sonic boom proportions exploded from the RFK stands. That made the final Redskins 31, Cowboys 14

The worst time: November 5, 1989, RFK Stadium—The Cowboys came into Washington winless in its previous eight games and they would not win another game the rest of the season. But the Redskins let Paul Palmer run wild as the Dallas back gained 110 yards on 18 carries, including a 47-yard jaunt to set up the game’s only touchdown in Dallas’ 13-3 win.

“It’s a real low point for us,” Joe Gibbs said afterward, speaking not only for himself and the team but Redskins fans everywhere. The loss turned out to be especially brutal as the Redskins finished the season 10-6 but out of the playoffs on tiebreakers. 

Redskins schedule series

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Three up, three down
- The draft: Grading the Redskins' draft
- The future: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- The buzz: Redskins part ways with long-time executive

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 @TandlerNBCS.