Less than a month into the 2017 league year, the Redskins overhauled their defense from the version that struggled in 2016. Gone are defensive linemen Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-François, and a number of new faces will play in Washington this fall.
The latest signing could be the biggest impact player, as the 'Skins inked Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Brown to a one-year deal. Brown's immediate role will bring some question, as Mason Foster remains under contract and restricted free agent Will Compton has been tendered by Washington. Whether it's replacing Compton or Foster, Brown will push for playing time quickly, and seems likely to unseat one of the starters in the middle of the defense.
Brown made nearly 150 tackles last season, so he deserves to hit the field for Washington. But in front of the linebackers, and behind them, will be new players as well.
Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee will end up starting on the defensive line, likely at the defensive end spots. McGee could end up at nose tackle, but that job could stay with Ziggy Hood, who the 'Skins brought back after a solid 2016 campain. Don't count out Phil Taylor at nose either. A former first-round pick, if Taylor can get healthy, he might push for the job too.
Behind Brown and the linebackers, expect new players at safety as well. Su'a Cravens has been pegged for a switch from linebacker to safety since the final weeks of his rookie campaign last year. D.J. Swearinger comes to town with every opportunity to start at safety for the 'Skins, and head coach Jay Gruden spoke highly of Swearinger's play last season in Arizona.
The Redskins defense ranked 28th out of 32 NFL teams in 2016 in yards allowed. Bruce Allen and the front office had to overhaul the unit, and it seems, are well on their way.
The team still has 10 picks in the upcoming draft, and it would be a surprise if more resources were not deployed towards the defensive line. Even with the additions of McClain and McGee, questions remain up front, though team officials are very optimistic about both player's potential.
With Brown, Cravens, McClain, McGee and Swearinger, the Redskins 2017 defense will look quite different than the 2016. Add in new coordinator Greg Manusky as well as multiple new position coaches, and it's fair to expect some alterations in the defensive scheme and mindset.
A different defense does not neccesarily mean an improved defense, though Brown's signing suggests the 'Skins are on their way.
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