The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out. That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

More offseason questions: What are resonable expectations for Josh Doctson? Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

Finlay: Ever since Mike Shanahan made the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 in 2010, it seems the Washington defense rarely had the right personnel to play the scheme, yet stuck with the decision anyway. Some fans believe switching the base defense could be a panacea for the Redskins defensive woes, but that's not right either. 

Should the 'Skins stick to the 3-4? Probably not unless they sign or draft an actual nose tackle. But the amount of down linemen won't matter unless the team improves the overall talent pool in the defensive trenches. 


The reality is the Redskins defense, like many defenses in the NFL, spends a lot of time in nickel and dime packages. In those situations, the front and linebackers move around anyway.

Judging by his previous stops as defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky will keep the team playing a 3-4 base. With improved talent, especially up front, the 'Skins do have a number of outside linebackers capable of getting to the passer in Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith and possibly Junior Galette. Su'a Cravens moving to safety leaves the inside linebackers group a little thin, but perhaps additions will come via free agency or the draft.

3-4 or 4-3, Washington must improve the talent on defense. Scheme is of secondary concern. 


I’ll just pick up where JP left off. It doesn’t matter how they line up in base defense if they don’t have the talent to get it done. Whether the defense is lining up with three linemen in base or in a four-man front if you go 20 drafts and take just one D-lineman in the first three rounds of the draft (Jarvis Jenkins, round 2, 2011) you aren’t going to have much of a defensive front. And if you don’t have much of a front you don’t have much of a defense.

Since the Redskins only play a 3-4 about 30 percent of the time many fans wonder why they can’t just do it all the time. But there would have to be some tremendous changes in personnel needed to make that change. When they line up in 4-3 they use outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy as defensive ends. But that would not be a good line to use on running downs, when they are normally in base.

They would have to find defensive ends to play in base. The would need weak side and strong side outside linebackers. Is Will Compton suited to playing middle linebacker in a 4-3? If not, add another position to the shopping list. And then what do you do with Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy and, for that matter, Junior Galette? Maybe they could be nickel ends but then add in the run-stopping DE’s and you start to run out of spots on the 53-man roster.

This team is trying to win now, or at least stay competitive now. It’s much better to sign a free agent nose tackle (Bennie Logan, anyone?) or draft one and solidify the two defensive end spots than it is to tear down the front seven and start over. 


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