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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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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

When Carletha "Nana" West was growing up, she began to take an interest in football. In particular, she took notice of a certain Redskins quarterback. 

"When Sammy Baugh was quarterback I liked him and I was just learning football at that time," West said. "I was young myself."

Baugh commanded the Redskins offense from 1937-1952 and became one of West's favorite player. With that, her fandom for the Redskins grew.

Decades later, her love for the Redskins remains. So for her 107th birthday -- yes, 107th -- she, of course, celebrated it with some Burgundy and Gold festivities.

Joined by Redskins GM Bruce Allen, West took in her birthday on Thursday, July 18, at Brandywine in Alexandria, Va. Not only was she given a customized Redskins jersey with the number 107 and the name "Nana", but West also got a day named after her. In Alexandria, July 18 will now be known as Carletha "Nana" West Day.

West spent some time reminiscing about her years as a Redskins fan, singing 'Hail to the Redskins' and even sharing her advice on how to live a long, fulfilling life. Besides loving football, she shared some simple words of wisdom.

"Make friends," West said. "And keep them."

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