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Jay Gruden explains why Redskins didn't target a nose tackle in the 2017 draft

Jay Gruden explains why Redskins didn't target a nose tackle in the 2017 draft

After months of hand-wringing over the state of the defensive line, the Redskins certainly addressed the position group in the NFL Draft. The first two picks went to the front seven, first with Jonathan Allen to play defensive end and second with Ryan Anderson to play outside linebacker. 

The additions of Allen and Anderson will boost the D-line immediately. That's clear. 

Yet it's also clear that the Redskins did nothing to address the nose tackle position. Even with 10 picks, and four picks in the last two rounds, Washington chose to again ignore the middle point of the team's three-man front.

It doesn't sound like it was an accident either.

"I feel good," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of nose tackle after the draft. "I think a lot of people don’t know the guys we’ve had here or the guys there were on our practice squad."

The "guys that are here" include Matt Ioannadis and free agent Phil Taylor. The practice squad guys would be Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis.

RELATED: 2018 mock draft has Redskins taking a QB

It's entirely possible Mbu or Francis can develop into rotational pieces at the nose. Both undrafted, Francis goes 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, while Mbu stands 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds. They have good size and work hard, in the weight room and on the field. Still, neither player has a single start in two years in the league.

Ioannadis, who is 6-foot-3 and 309 pounds, did not make a start for the Redskins last season as a rookie. In fact, he was active for only 10 games and registered six tackles. For a fifth round pick, his impact was negligible. 

Then there is Taylor, the true wild card for Washington at nose tackle. A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor is a D.C. native looking to again prove he belongs in the NFL. He missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, and played just five games in 2014. Injuries derailed his career, but his first three seasons in the NFL, Taylor showed he could be a force.

At 6-foot-3 and 337 pounds, Taylor goes about 30 pounds more than the other possible Redskins nose tackles. And he's performed at a high level. As a rookie in 2012, he started 16 games, made 37 tackles and logged four sacks. 

"We added Phil Taylor. He’s an ex-first-round pick, had a couple of injuries but he’s looking good out here. He looks healthy and [he is] rolling," Gruden said. 

May is the time for optimism, and in Taylor's case, his return would be a boon for the 'Skins. He's signed to a minimal deal. If he can get back, and it's a huge if, could be true value for the defense.

Washington does not seem overly concerned about the nose tackle position. Remember Gruden explained at the NFL Owner's Meetings in March that he fully expects defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to "make" a nose tackle.

"If you look at his track record, you look at the nose guards he’s had, none of them have been priority first-round draft choices," Gruden said of Tomsula. "He’s made nose guards. He coaches that position extremely well, and I have faith that he’ll do that."

Beyond what Gruden said about Tomsula, the quotes might reveal an organizational mindset about the position. Fans might overestimate the importance of the nose, or at least what should be invested in the position.

RELATED: DB draft picks have an uphill battle for roster spots

Consider that nose tackle is one of the most physically demanding positions in football, and add in that playing nose requires serious size, particularly weight, and it can be hard for guys to maintain their endurance while carrying 325 lbs. or more year after year.

On most defenses, resources get spent in two main areas: sacking the quarterback and defending the pass. The big money goes to the edge, pass rushers and cornerbacks. Those two positions also tend to dominate draft capital. 

The Redskins are no different. The highest-paid players on Washington's defense are Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman. The team's first two draft picks will be expected to pressure opposing QBs, and their third-round pick is a cornerback. The team also added two safeties and another corner in the later rounds of the draft while not drafting a nose.

The lesson? Gruden's comments, and the team's action made it clear: Nose tackle just isn't the priority that some Redskins fans want it to be. 

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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