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As Redskins continue to overhaul defense, how will the pieces fit together?

As Redskins continue to overhaul defense, how will the pieces fit together?

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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Ron Rivera identifies two lesser-known names that'll make a big difference for the Redskins

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Ron Rivera identifies two lesser-known names that'll make a big difference for the Redskins

Are you a Redskins fan who's feeling totally refreshed now that the franchise is heading in a new direction?

If so, then you're absolutely aware of the names Ron Rivera, Kyle Smith, Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner. They are, respectively, Washington's new head coach, new leader of the front office, new defensive coordinator and new offensive coordinator.

There are others worth knowing, though, like Ryan Vermillion and Rob Rogers.

Those names may sound familiar — they're the team's new Head Athletic Trainer and Senior VP of Football Administration — or they may not. Regardless of whether you knew them already, you must know that Ron Rivera believes the two ex-Panthers employees will really contribute with the Redskins.

"You want to put people around you that are familiar with what you want and how you want it done, and these are guys that were with me from the beginning," Rivera told reporters at the Combine on Wednesday. "So they have an understanding of what we want. So we're going to go out and try and implement that."

Both Vermillion and Rogers were in Carolina for the entirety of Rivera's time there, and now, they'll start fresh with him as he tries to reorient the Burgundy and Gold. Some have been skeptical of Rivera bringing so many former members of the Panthers with him to his new job, but he's obviously viewing that as a pro, not a con.

"One of the things that I talked about was trying to develop a sustainable winning culture," Rivera said of his comments after taking over the Redskins. "We had a little bit of that going for a while in Carolina. We had a good five-year stretch. Unfortunately, through attrition, we weren't able to continue that. But that's the starting point."

For most NFL organizations, the changing of trainers would merely mean a new placard next to a door at the facility and not much else to those outside of the team. In Washington, however, it's crucial news.

Redskins supporters are basically scarred from the last few seasons of constant injury problems, and last season, they saw Trent Williams hold out largely because he didn't want to deal with those who botched a cancer diagnosis that put his life in jeopardy. Hopefully, those days are done.

"One of the things that we had to do, that we wanted to do, was redevelop the trust in the training room," Rivera said. "I couldn't think of a better person than Ryan Vermillion. I really, truly couldn't. I'm going into my 34th year in the league and I've been around a lot of good trainers. He really makes me believe that he is one of the best ones because of the way he works."

Redskins supporters were also very fond of Eric Schaffer, a longtime employee of Dan Snyder who was renowned for his contract negotiations and salary cap management. Therefore, when news broke that Schaffer wouldn't be a part of Rivera's plan going forward, there was angst.

Yet according to Rivera, there's nothing to stress about when it comes to those dealings.

"Rob Rogers is a guy that, after having hired him, it's been real interesting to hear some of the agents and some of the league personnel tell me, 'Boy, you've got a really good guy in Rob,'" he said. "He's a guy that I know of and know who he is, so I'm excited about having him as part of it as well."

Starting Week 1 of 2020, it'll be Redskins players who'll obviously be most responsible for whether this new era goes successfully or not.

That said, people like Vermillion and Rogers will matter leading up to and past that point, too. Their new ideas and voices won't show up in highlights on Sundays, but they'll absolutely make a difference in their own right.

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Ron Rivera has spoken to Quinton Dunbar, hopes he shows up to OTAs 'ready to roll'

Ron Rivera has spoken to Quinton Dunbar, hopes he shows up to OTAs 'ready to roll'

It's been a wild month for Quinton Dunbar.

The Redskins cornerback first requested a trade on Feb. 10, citing the team would not commit to him long-term. Dunbar then walked back on that request two days later, saying his request was blown out of proportion and he just wanted to know where he stands with the Redskins new regime. But after the team reportedly declined to engage in conversation about the matter, Dunbar told ESPN's Josina Anderson he still wants out of Washington.

Dunbar enters the final year of his contract, one that includes no guaranteed money.

Ron Rivera addressed local media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday for the first time since the Dunbar news broke, and the new Redskins head coach said he spoke to the cornerback and they "had a great conversation."

Despite Dunbar's requests, Rivera expects the cornerback to report to the facility on April 6, when the team begins Organized Team Activities (OTAs). The cornerback previously told NBC Sports Washington he didn't plan on reporting to OTAs without a new contract.

"I know what he has said, and we won't know until April 6, but the hope is that he'll come in ready to roll," Rivera said. "He is under contract."

Rivera expressed the need to continue having an open dialogue with Dunbar and making sure the two of them are on the same page moving forward.

"I do understand his point of view," Rivera said. "It's something just he and I need to continue to talk about. He is a quality player in this league and he's a solid football player."

Since taking over as the Redskins head coach in early January, Rivera has preached identifying which of his players will be part of the team's core. Dunbar, who emerged as a quality cornerback a season ago, could certainly fit that bill.

Dunbar led Washington with four interceptions in 2019 and finished the No. 2 ranked cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Injuries are a concern; he's missed 14 games over the past two seasons, but he's been very productive when on the field. The once wide receiver turned cornerback is due for a bigger payday, one he's certainly earned.

Rivera said Dunbar is certainly a player that could be a core guy for Washington, but admitted he's still evaluating everyone through the first few months he's been on the job.

"I think he's a guy that most certainly [could be a core guy]," Rivera said. "The thing is that I hope everyone understands, I don't know this group of guys. I really don't. You've got to be able to go out there and assess the talent. Whether they fit what you want to fit. At the end of the day, I think everyone has to understand that, come together and show everybody whether you fit or not."

Whether Dunbar remains with Washington for the long haul is unclear, but the 58-year-old head coach is going to make him prove himself to the new regime.

"I'm going to sit down with him and explain to him where I see you, and that I would love for you to come out and show me," Rivera said. "That's what I would like to do."

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