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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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How's the knee? Trent Williams looks beyond ready in workout videos

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USA TODAY Sports

How's the knee? Trent Williams looks beyond ready in workout videos

Trent Williams went under the knife for his first-ever knee surgery about seven months ago.

Plenty of Redskins fans worried that the Pro Bowl left tackle might not be ready to go when the 2018 season starts.

Worry no more. 

Yes, that is Williams working out with veteran running back Adrian Peterson. And by the looks of it, Williams' knee looks just fine. 

Williams tore his right patella tendon last fall, but continued to play through the pain while the Redskins chances of a playoff bid remained. Once that window got firmly closed after an ugly Thursday night loss in Dallas, Williams contemplated sitting out, but other injuries on the line had already decimated the Redskins. Eventually, Williams shut down his season after a blowout loss in Los Angeles to open December. 

This offseason, Williams got the knee repaired. Washington coach Jay Gruden said repeatedly during the offseason that he expected Williams ready to go for training camp, and the workout videos suggest that to be the case.

This is great news for the Redskins offense, and for new quarterback Alex Smith. Expect Washington to be cautious with Williams, particularly in the early going of training camp in Richmond, but like Trent tweeted, "the walk says it all."

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Ranking the 2018 Redskins Roster: Revealing 31-53

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Various sources

Ranking the 2018 Redskins Roster: Revealing 31-53

At NBCSportsWashington.com, we projected the Redskins’ 53-man roster (offensedefense) right after minicamp.

Now we are taking it one step further and ranking the 53 players we think will make the team.

The rankings are determined by who we think will have the most impact on the 2018 Redskins.

No consideration was given for past performance or for what a particular player might do down the road. We’ll be revealing the rankings between now and the start of training camp. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR OUR 2018 REDSKINS RANKINGS, PLAYERS 53-31>>

Today we’re starting up the list with the players we ranked from 31-53, Here are some of the players in our latest update:

— Seven of the team’s draft picks, including the pick they made last week.     

— All three specialists.

— The team’s leading rusher from 2017.   

<<CLICK HERE FOR OUR 2018 REDSKINS RANKINGS, PLAYERS 53-31>> 

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