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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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Redskins 2019 7-round mock draft: #3 The 'Best Available' Scenario

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Redskins 2019 7-round mock draft: #3 The 'Best Available' Scenario

Time for the third and final look at the Redskins’ projected 7-round draft, each with a different approach but ultimately the same goal: Fill holes and upgrade the roster.

These choices are based on a combination of conversations with league sources, homework, intuition plus remaining needs. These different paths are akin to a “Choose your adventure” book. The Redskins have four of the top 97 selections and a lengthy needs list.  

We went “Living on the edge” in the first version and didn’t pass on the future in the second. Click here for the latest two-round NFL mock draft, but only after reading the second path.

PATH 3 -- Best available

First Round, Pick No. 15: Cody Ford, T/G, Oklahoma

Maybe we can quibble over the likely best offensive lineman if not player, but there's no denying the need and CBS Sports ranks Ford No. 16 overall. The buzz remains positive for the mauler who doubles as the top guard prospect and for some the third best tackle prospect. The Redskins should be desperate to fill their vacant left guard spot after the revolving door the prior two seasons.

Ford would also provide a tackle hedge should Trent Williams or Morgan Moses deal with injuries again. It’s also worth noting Brandon Scherff’s contract extension remains in limbo.

Second Round, Pick No. 46: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

The only thing larger than this massive 6-foot-5 target is his wide draft range. The Draft Network views the Baltimore native who averaged 22 yards on 60 receptions last season a top 20 selection. ESPN considers the same player, one with drop concerns, outside the top 75. What we know is the Redskins have stated publicly the need for size -- and production -- at receiver.

Third Round, Pick No. 77: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

Some believe that corner ranks among the Redskins' top concerns considering Quinton Dunbar's season-ending nerve injury, Josh Norman possibly turning into a cap casualty or not returning in 2020, and overall depth. Love played 38 games over his three seasons with the Fighting Irish.

The All-American corner was the rare defensive back not repeatedly tortured by Clemson passer Trevor Lawrence during the college football playoffs. His draft projected fits on the second/third round line.

Third Round, Pick No. 97: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

These first four selections in this path are with a BPA mindset. On Day 2 that strict approach could easily mean one of several running backs including this explosive game-breaker. The 5-foot-8, 208-pound Henderson averaged 8.9 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons while scoring a combined 31 touchdowns. While grabbing an RB seems highly unlikely, let’s remember that Adrian Peterson is now 34, Derrius Guice is coming off a torn ACL, and the shifty but injury-prone Chris Thompson enters free agency in 2020.

Fifth Round, Pick No. 154: Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Is it outrageous to think the Redskins could select two wide receivers in the draft? Go look at the depth chart before answering no. In this case, the target has skills worthy of first-round consideration, namely an impressive catch radius and willingness to fight for contested throws. Character red flags dropped Williams into the middle rounds if not off the board for some teams.

Fifth Round, Pick No. 174: Evan Worthington, S, Colorado.

The 6-foot-2 can play a variety of spots including the neede high safety. Nobody would expect a fifth-round pick to start, but that's possible simply considering the current uncertainty with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix joining the Bears. From NFL.com: "Worthington's value to teams could depend on where they project him since he's played all over the field. He has the size, athleticism and ball skills to handle a variety of man-cover targets from the slot or as a deep safety."

Sixth Round, Pick No. 208: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State

The East Carolina transfer piled up the stats in his one year running Mike Leach’s offense, finishing with 4,779 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is an accurate thrower, but his lack of size and fears of being a system QB work against him. Any quarterback drafted by the Redskins stands a chance at being the only healthy one on the roster entering next off-season.

Seventh Round, Pick No. 229: Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma

The 250-pound edge rusher had 10 sacks in 2018 yet consistently ranks in the 200’s among 2019 draft prospects. The Draft Network on Brailford: “Not very nimble, off balance and ending up on the ground on multiple occasions.”

Seventh Round, Pick No. 255:  Keenan Brown, TE, Texas State

Granted the idea of selecting two tight ends seems odd. Pro Football Focus selected Brown first-team All-American based primarily on his work after the catch. He forced more than 24 missed tackles, more than double the next closest TE.

UDFA: Josh Watson, ILB, Colorado State

The 240-pounder receives virtually no interest from the public big boards despite amassing 240 tackles combined the last two seasons. One league source calls Watson a “steal.”

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Ryan Kerrigan electrifies crowd, chugs beer through his shirt in nod to T.J. Oshie

Ryan Kerrigan electrifies crowd, chugs beer through his shirt in nod to T.J. Oshie

There was only one way for Redskins linebacker and Capitals fan Ryan Kerrigan to show his support for TJ Oshie and the Caps prior to Game 5 when he led fans in the "Let's Go Caps" chant at Capital One Arena. 

He chugged some beer through his shirt - a nod to the move Oshie introduced to Caps fans and the world during last summer's Stanley Cup celebration.

Kerrigan joined fans and the Capitals showing support for the Capitals forward heading into Game 5 of the series between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, following an injury he suffered in Game 4.

While Kerrigan will be spending Game 5 in the stands hoping to help the team through motivation, he was also prepared to take a much more hands-on approach in order to try and get a victory.

Ahead of Saturday's Game 5 matchup between the Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, Kerrigan stopped by NBC Sports Washington's Caps Pregame Live coverage to explain how he's ready to suit up and throw his body around on the ice if the Caps need him.

"I'm here, I got a jersey on. I'm ready to roll," Kerrigan said.

His services may be of interest to Washington, as the series has proven to be a physical one. However, there is one little piece of adversity both sides might have to overcome.

"I can't skate very well," Kerrigan admitted. "So that might be a little bit of a hiccup there."

So while Kerrigan may not be exactly what the Caps need, the Redskin's willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win is a testament to his fandom of Washington's hockey team. Since he became a part of the D.C. sports community 2011, he's grown fond of a sport he didn't follow much growing up.

"Growing up in Indiana, we don't have a team there, it was all basketball for us in Indiana," Kerrigan said. "Since I got here, everyone is so passionate about the Caps, it was easy to become a fan and really dive into hockey."

Now immersed in the sport, Kerrigan tried out his analyst skills as well prior to the matchup.

"I think they got to come out the gates hot, I think they got to come out physical," Kerrigan said. "They got to come out and be physical. I'm a defensive guy, you got to be physical."

He also predicted that Nicklas Backstrom would have an impact on the game, and with Backstrom opening up the scoring early on in the contest, it seems as if Kerrigan may have a profession to fall back on after football.

Yet when the puck drops, Kerrigan will act just like the thousands of other Caps fans packed into Capital One Arena. One the edge of his seat, living and dying with every second that ticks, Kerrigan is more into the game than ever before.

"Especially coming off the Stanley Cup last year, we're wanting to go back-to-back now," Kerrigan said. "My wife and I watched every game last year during the postseason run. We were yelling really loud when they were winning, we were really focused when things weren't going so well.  No different this postseason."

Speaking of his wife and family, Kerrigan also took some time to talk about his new life as a father following the birth of his daughter Lincoln last month. Just around 40 days into parenting, it's safe to say that the bruising linebacker has found a soft spot for his little girl.

"That's all I heard going up to it. Little girl will change your life, little girl will melt your heart and I'm like, 'yeah yeah whatever,'" Kerrigan said. "And then I held her for the first time and I'm crying, this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Though Kerrigan may have a soft spot there, opposing quarterbacks shouldn't get their hopes up. According to him, he's still ready to be as physical as ever when he hits the gridiron.

"Only she can get the soft dad," Kerrigan said with a smile.

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