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Need to Know: Will the Redskins go offensive line in round one?

Need to Know: Will the Redskins go offensive line in round one?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 5, 22 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 12
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 37
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 49
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 149

Will the Redskins go for an offensive lineman in the first round?

The Redskins will have some interesting options with the 17th overall pick. They could justify drafting at just about any position on defense. We all know about the line, where holes abound despite the signing of two free agents. The top three inside linebackers are all likely to be free agents in 2018. You can’t have too many good edge rushers and you can say the same about cornerbacks. Nobody is sure if the Redskins have a free safety on the roster, with both D.J. Swearinger and Su’a Cravens both possibly better suited to strong.

On the other side of the ball there has been plenty of chatter about taking a running back in the first, some of it coming from the head coach. With Terrelle Pryor on a one-year deal a wide receiver could be under consideration. And if the Redskins are certain that Kirk Cousins won’t be back in 2018 they have to look hard at a first-round quarterback.

The offensive line is another story. The tackle spots are set with Morgan Moses and Trent Williams with Ty Nsekhe as the swing backup. Brandon Scherff may not miss a snap at right guard for the next five years. They seem to like Spencer Long at center.

And while I could see the Redskins using a draft pick on someone to be Shawn Lauvao’s successor at left guard I strongly doubt it will be the first-round pick.

There are a few reasons why. For one, Jay Gruden might punch someone if the Redskins take a guard in the first round. The day after last season ended, Gruden lamented the lack of impact the team has received from first-round picks in his tenure in Washington.

"We’re getting there, but we’ve had, what, two first-round picks since I’ve been here? One of them hasn’t played a down, or played one game, and the other one is a guard," he said. "We have got to utilize our picks."

The word “guard” was said rather dismissively, almost disdainfully. He certainly likes Scherff but guard is simply not a high-impact position. Of the eight guards who were picked for the Pro Bowl last year, two of them, Scherff and Zach Martin of the Cowboys, were taken in the first round. The other six were taken, on average, in the third.

If you can get a good guard either late on Friday night or on Saturday, why take one in the first?

You mention Lauvao’s salary as a factor in taking Forrest Lamp. But the No. 17 pick in the draft will get a deal that has a $2.1 million cap hit in 2017. Cutting Lauvao would save $4 million so you’re saving just $1.9 million this year. That’s not insignificant but it’s only about 1.1 percent of the $167 million cap.

Over the course of the four years that first-round pick’s contract will rise to a $3.7 million cap hit. On the other hand, a third-round guard will carry a $670,000 cap hit as a rookie and the entire value of his deal over four years will be $3.2 million with the cap hit never going over $1 million in any season.

The better course of action would be to find a mid-round guard who can take over for Lauvao in a year. I have to think that this would be Gruden’s preferred course of action and he has a loud voice in the draft room.

With all of this said, I also was dubious that they would take Scherff fifth overall two years ago. Perhaps I am making the mistake that many analysts make in assuming the organization views my way of thinking is common sense, so why would they do otherwise? But the way Gruden said “guard” in that press conference gives me some confidence that I will be right this time around.

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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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, 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.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series

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10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

The Redskins had to improve the defensive line this offseason. The defense ranked dead last against the run in 2017, and without improvement up front defensively, the playoffs would again be out of reach in 2018. 

And for the second straight season, Washington tried. 

The team selected Daron Payne out of Alabama with their first-round pick and Tim Settle out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round. The front office also waived under-performing Terrell McClain in the offseason and moved on from veteran A.J. Francis.

Perhaps most important, the team should have 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Allen completely healthy this fall. He and Matt Ioannidis looked like a strong front in 2017 before a foot injury shut down Allen for the year in Week 5. Add in Anthony Lanier, who flashed big-time sack potential, and the Redskins have a strong, young nucleus.  

But how does it all work?

In the base 3-4 scheme, Payne might have the strength to play nose tackle. Settle definitely has the size for the nose. Both are rookies, however, and will need to learn a lot, and fast, to start Week 1. Veteran Stacy McGee, coming off groin surgery, might be able to hold off the rookies if he is fully healthy. When a nose is on the field, expect Allen and Ioannidis to line up at the defensive tackle spots. If he's not playing nose, Payne will rotate in at tackle as well. Another veteran, Ziggy Hood, will provide depth at tackle, if he makes the team. 

In the nickel package, which the team deploys more than half of their snaps, expect to see a healthy rotation of Allen, Payne, Ioannidis and Lanier. Keeping those players fresh should allow interior pocket pressure, and that could be great news for Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith

With Payne and Allen the headliners, and Ioannidis and Lanier valuable, and Settle capable at the nose, the Redskins have five D-line roster spots about locked down. 

Last year, the team kept six defensive linemen coming out of camp. If McGee is healthy, that spot will be his. If he's not, Hood likely hangs on. It's also possible the team keeps seven D-linemen, particularly as they monitor McGee's groin injury. 

The good news is last year, due to injuries and the talent on the roster, a number of players were forced into spots they didn't truly belong. Hood doesn't have the true size to play nose, but he was forced into the position. Lanier is best served as an interior pass rusher, but was forced to be a run stuffer. 

With more investments on the line, and better luck in the training room, the 2018 Redskins D-line should have more people playing where they belong. And that could go a long way. 

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