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Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 23, 37 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 45
—NFL Draft 94
First Sunday of 2017 season 230

Staying in house

­There are reasons to dislike the hire of Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator but the notion that he got the job because he is buddies with Jay Gruden really doesn’t hold water. They had no connection prior to last year and with them working on opposite sides of the ball they didn’t work side by side. I’ve heard the two have a friendly relationship but it’s not like he’s out of the Tampa Bay Yacht Club or anything.

I know that everyone is obsessed with yardage rankings, which is a pretty weak indicator of the quality of a defense. Since you want to know, in Manusky’s nine seasons as a defensive coordinator his defenses have finished ranked 18th in yards allowed on average. In reality, Football Outsiders’  DVOA is a more accurate measure of the effectiveness of a defense since it takes the strength of the opponents into account. There isn’t much difference there, Manusky’s average DVOA ranking was about 17. In other words, he’s run middle of the pack defenses. Sure, you'd like them to do better but having a defense that's around average would represent an improvement over most of the last seven seasons.

How has his talent been? Three different players have been first-team All-Pro selections. LB Patrick Willis made it three times, S Eric Weddle and DE Robert Mathis once each. Players under him made the Pro Bowl 13 times with Willis (3), Mathis (2), and DE Justin Smith (2) making it more than once. His defenses had three Pro Bowlers on one occasion when LB D’Qwell Jackson, CB Vonta Davis, and S Mike Adams all made it. That year the Colts defense was ranked 11th in yards and 13th in DVOA.

It remains to be seen how much the Redskins will change schematically. Manusky has run both 4-3 fronts and 3-4’s so the Redskins could make a switch. Even if they go with a 3-4 base the unit is likely to be more aggressive than it was under Joe Barry. Some fans seem to be worried that promoting an assistant coach means that things will be done the same. Let me ask you this: If your boss was fired for not getting the job done and you were promoted into his position, would you do things the same way he did? I didn’t think so.

­There will be continuity on the offensive side of the ball as Matt Cavanaugh is going to get moved into the offensive coordinator job. It’s Gruden’s offense anyway so there would not have been much change even if they had brought someone in from the outside. It seems likely that Gruden will call the plays, although we won’t know for sure for a while. The only immediate question on that side of the ball is if Wes Phillips will stay on as the tight ends coach or if he will follow Sean McVay to Los Angeles. That should be resolved over the next several days.

Tandler on Twitter

This was in response to a tweet saying that Kyle Shanahan is likely to get roster and personnel control when he becomes the head coach of the 49ers.

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

Training camp opens in three days, 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.

Safeties

Additions: Troy Apke (drafted in the fourth round)
Departures: DeAngelo Hall (not re-signed)

Starters: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson
Other roster locks: Apke
On the bubble: Deshazor Everett, Fish Smithson

How the safeties compare

To the rest of the NFL: The Redskins’ safeties have been a sore spot ever since the tragic loss of Sean Taylor in 2007, continually ranking as the worst units in the league year after year. That started to change last year with the signing of Swearinger and the drafting of Nicholson. They were major contributors to one of the league’s better defenses until injuries struck. Their depth is questionable as will be discussed below but the Redskins have a solid safety tandem at the top of the depth chart if they stay healthy. 

To the 2017 Redskins: This depends on Nicholson’s health and how quickly Apke can get ready to contribute. The rookie’s speed could add a dimension that the defensive backfield doesn’t have but he has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. If he can round into form and play in some three-safety formations, the unit could be notably better than last year’s. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: By now, most of you have heard of Jay Gruden saying that Nicholson is the defensive equivalent of Jordan Reed because he changes what they can do when he is out there. His speed and tackling set him apart when he is out there. But there are legitimate concerns about his ability to stay on the field after a shoulder injury and a concussion kept him out of half of the games last year. If he can play, Nicholson has Pro Bowl potential. 

Most to prove: The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth NFL team in five years in the NFL. He was cut by the Texans and the Bucs. The Cardinals put him on their practice squad for a week during the season before promoting him to the 53-man roster. Arizona made little effort to retain him when he became a free agent last year. Swearinger played well in Washington last year but he didn’t get much recognition. He wants to take the next step and show the teams that let him go that they made a big mistake. 

Rookie watch: We touched on Apke above. Some questioned the draft pick, which seemed to be based on the combine stopwatch that measured his 4.34 time in the 40. If Nicholson is healthy, Apke’s development will be an interesting side story. Should one of the starters miss multiple games, his ability to perform in the NFL will be critical. 

Bottom line:  There will be a lot of competition behind the starters. Apke seems safe because of his status as a fourth-round pick. The team values Everett as a special teams contributor and he started eight games last year. They also like Smithson and they brought him up to the 53-man roster late last year to make sure they could retain his rights. And Quin Blanding, an undrafted rookie who had a stellar career at Virginia, could work himself into the conversation for a roster spot if he performs in Richmond. If Nicholson plays, the outlook at safety could be much better in 2018 than it has been in over a decade. 

Quote-unquote

Gruden’s quote on Nicholson’s effect on the defense:

Montae I think is really an important piece. Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on offense, Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground.

2018 position outlook series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

 

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Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith

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USA TODAY Sports

Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith

Pro tip: If you see new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith in a restaurant, try to sit close by.

Talk to teammates and media from San Francisco or Kansas City, the two cities Smith played in before coming to Washington, and stories like this emerge. His reputation for generosity and random kindness is as consistent as his ability to move the football with his legs and not throw many interceptions.

His foundation is heralded as one of the best in the NFL, where more than 90 percent of funds raised actually go towards charity, significantly higher than the national average. Once traded from Kansas City, Smith wrote a letter on The Player's Tribune thanking fans:

Thank you to the Chiefs Kingdom for being some of the craziest, most dedicated fans in the country. And thank you to the Kansas City community and all the friends my family and I have made during our time with you. To see all the farewell donations that have been made to the Alex Smith Foundation — all in increments of 11 — has been really special. It’s a tremendous gesture that my family and I have been very touched by. We appreciate you. We’re better people because we were fortunate enough to spend the last five years with you.

So what might have Smith ordered at Bareburger DC? Let's take a guess from their online menu. 

  • The Buckaroo - Beef, aged cheddar, smoked brisket, wild mushrooms, smoke sauce, brioche bun - After spending a few years in Kansas City, Smith might have acquired the taste for brisket on burgers. Who knows.

  • El Matador - Beef, queso fresco, guacamole, spicy pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, green leaf, brioche bun - Smith is a SoCal kid, so maybe he needed the guac and bold flavors of his youth. 

  • Impossible Burger - American cheese, caramelized onions, dill pickles, green leaf, special sauce, brioche bun -The Redskins mission is getting to the playoffs, and many oddsmakers view that as impossible. Maybe Alex wanted to embrace it?

  • So Cal - Turkey, aged cheddar, guacamole, pickled red onions, alfalfa, sprout bun - Again, Smith is from Southern California, and this burger sounds pretty healthy. You don't get to look like this picture below by eating too many Buckaroos. 


Here's the truth: Smith is cool and bought a bunch of random people dinner. What's cooler: He doesn't have or use social media to broadcast when he does random nice acts. 

This week he and the Redskins travel to Richmond for training camp, and things will get serious about football and the 2018 season. Enjoy the fun stuff for now. 

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