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Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 44 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Zach Cunningham

Inside linebacker
Vanderbilt

Height: 6-3
Weight: 234
40-yard dash: 4.67

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Cunningham sports a long-levered frame with broad shoulders, a tapered middle and plenty of room for additional muscle mass without significantly impacting his impressive quickness, agility and speed. He attacks oncoming blockers with an aggressive and powerful initial punch, quickly disengaging on his way to the ball. Unlike most linebackers with his length, Cunningham shows good recognition and body control to slip cut blocks, as well, sprawling to maintain his balance and rarely losing sight of the ball. 

Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins start a pair of inside linebackers who are smart players and great teammates but Will Compton and Mason Foster are limited athletically. If the Redskins want to upgrade here, Cunningham would be a good place to start. He is a playmaking machine, fast and aggressive.

He led the SEC in tackling, although some are concerned that his tackling technique needs some work. His pad level tends to be too high but that is something that can be corrected by coaches.  

Potential issues: He is tall and angular and he has issues fighting off blockers, especially if they go low in him. Having a good defensive line in front of him will help mitigate that and, as of now, that is not an asset that the Redskins possess at the moment.

Although he played on the inside at Vanderbilt, many draft analysts think that he would be better suited to playing a weakside linebacker in a 4-3. But the Redskins are in 4-3 often enough that he could play inside in base and then go outside when the OLBs put their hands in the dirt on passing downs. Still, a first-round linebacker has to be a three-down player and the Redskins would have to be convinced that he can play inside in base defense.

Cunningham is a much better value later in the first round and he could be a reach at No. 17. It seems like they are always open to trading back so perhaps they could do that and snag him somewhere in the twenties.

Bottom line: The Redskins have never use major assets for the inside or middle linebacker positions. Since the merger, they have not spent a first- or second-round draft pick on the position. The only major free agent acquisition there was London Fletcher and the contract he signed with Washington in 2007 was not a blockbuster. Their primary philosophy has been to draft in the middle rounds (Perry Riley) or not draft at all (Compton) and develop.

So, will the Redskins change a philosophy that stretches back for decades? You never know but it would be a surprise if they take a player like Cunningham in the first even though he could provide an instant boost to the offense.

In his own words:

When asked for a self-scouting report:

I have a great work ethic. Passion for the game. Passion for what I do. A hard player. A team player. Always putting the team first. But is going to sell himself out for his teammates as much as my teammates would see themselves out for me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens joins Giants staff

Former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens joins Giants staff

What a difference a year makes for Freddie Kitchens.

After a tumultuous season in his first year as the Browns head coach in 2019, Kitchens was fired at the end of the season. On Monday, reports surfaced that Kitchens would be joining new Giants head coach Joe Judge's staff in New York.

According to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, Kitchens is expected to be hired as the Giants tight ends coach.

From head coach to position coach in just a month's time, that's quite the fall off for Kitchens.

Kitchens and Judge had previously worked together at Mississippi State in 2005. Kitchens served as the Bulldogs' running backs coach, while Judge was just starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant.

The two have not crossed paths since, but obviously maintained a relationship strong enough for Judge to bring the former head coach onto his staff.

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Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Terrible news hit America on Sunday when word came out that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter and seven others. 

A tragic event for a man and a player that made an impact far beyond basketball. Bryant was known for many things, but more than any, it might have been his competitive spirit. A five-time NBA champion and an 18-time All-Star, Bryant's play was defined by a fluid game and an unstoppable spirit. 

For Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, he got to see some of Bryant's spirit up close. Last year, before the NFL Draft, Haskins trained at Bryant's gym in Los Angeles, and their encounters made an impression on the signal-caller. 

"He's definitely a guy that brings a lot to the table as far as how he trains, how he prepares and what he expects out of his teammates. Very, very demanding," Haskins said of Bryant. "I want to be able to have that other tool, being able to have that edge that Kobe had. Of course, I play like that, but I'd be able to lead like that. That's why I studied Kobe."

Haskins is one of many young athletes that grew up watching Bryant, and for plenty, idolizing Bryant. 

After the news broke Sunday, Haskins reacted on Twitter.

Haskins said it well: RIP to a legend. Gone too soon. 

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