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Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

When the Redskins open training camp in Richmond on Thursday, fans will line up to get autographs from Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. Plenty of other players will excite the fans too as optimism rules the first few days of practice in July and August. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

There are other players that fans probably won't scream their names, but who could play a role or fight for a roster spot this fall. Winning in the NFL is almost nearly as dependent on the final 10 players on the roster as it is the first five. Depth is key, and here are a few players that fans might have forgotten about. 

  • RB Keith Marshall - The speedster out of Georgia has a wildly impressive resume - on paper - but just can't stay healthy. In college he started ahead of Todd Gurley for a time, now considered one of the best RBs in the NFL for the Rams. Marshall landed on the injured reserve last year as a rookie but looked healthy and capable at Redskins Park this offseason during OTAs and minicamp. The running back position looks quite full, but if Marshall can show his elite speed and make it through four preseason games, he just might push Mack Brown for a roster spot. 
  • LB Martrell Spaight - A tackling machine in college at Arkansas, Spaight missed most of his rookie season in 2015 before appearing in 14 games last season. Bad luck struck again, and he finished the year on the IR. With the addition of Zach Brown to the interior linebackers, Spaight might have a tough battle for a roster spot. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Brown all seem certain to make the team. Spaight could also start the year on the PUP list, which might be the surest way to stay on the Redskins.
  • LB Chris Carter - Signed as a free agent this year, the journeyman Carter has played for six teams in six years and looks poised to play the special teams role that Terence Garvin took on last year. If Carter makes the roster, that means trouble for Spaight. 
  • DL Anthony Lanier - An undrafted rookie in 2016 that didn't see much game action, Lanier has really impressed coaches with his work ethic this offseason. He has great size at 6-foot-6 and added about 20 pounds of muscle since the season ended, which should allow him the strength to handle the trenches. Lanier could be a sneaky important player this fall for Washington. 
  • S Will Blackmon - D.J. Swearinger and Su'a Cravens look to be the starting safeties for the Redskins in 2017. Swearinger has a proven track record in the NFL secondary, Cravens does not, but showed the ability to do so in college at USC. After those two, and with DeAngelo Hall on the PUP list, the Redskins lack much depth or experience in the defensive backfield. That's where Blackmon should help. A versatile veteran, Blackmon has the speed to keep up with most wideouts and is one of the more cerebral players on the defense. 

Bonus: RB Matt Jones - He might want off the Redskins roster, but that hasn't happened yet. If the team sustains any injuries at the running back position, Jones' fortunes could change quickly. 

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Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

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Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

We don’t know if there will be major changes on the Redskins if they don’t make the playoffs this year but getting into the postseason and getting a win when they get there would make a decision to keep going in this direction very easy.

Yes, a lot of the pressure lies on the shoulders of Jay Gruden but winning games usually comes down to the players on the field. How do the players the Redskins have today compare to those on the last team that made the playoffs?

Here are the players who started in the last playoff game that involved the Redskins, a 35-20 Wild Card round home loss to the Packers, side-by-side with the anticipated starting lineup for the 2018 season with some unscientific comparison of the quality of the two teams.

Offensive line

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
LT—Trent Williams, Williams
LG—Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao
C—Kory Lichtensteiger, Chase Roullier
RG—Brandon Scherff, Scherff
RT—Morgan Moses, Moses

How do the 2018 versions of Williams, Moses, and Scherff compare to the ones who started the playoff game? They’ll be about three years older but they have gained valuable experience. Remember that Lichtensteiger was activated off of injured reserve the week before the playoff game after missing 11 games with a neck injury so he was not close to 100 percent against the Packers. Josh LeRibeus was center for most of the year. Roullier is at least a good as he was. Long is no All-Pro but he is better than Lauvao. Comparison: Even

Offensive backs and receivers

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
QB—Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith
RB—Alfred Morris, Derrius Guice
WR—Jamison Crowder, Crowder
WR—Pierre Garçon, Josh Doctson
WR—DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson
TE—Jordan Reed, Jordan Reed

We can debate Smith vs. Cousins all day but we really won’t know until they start playing games. Guice has the potential to be better than the 2015 version of Morris, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry while gaining 751 yards. Reed has his best season in 2015 with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was arguably the best tight end in the game in 2015. Reed has to demonstrate that he can be that guy again. Crowder will be better than he was as a rookie but there are clear downgrades at the wide receiver positions. Comparison: Edge to 2015

Defensive front

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
DE—Chris Baker, Matt Ioannidis
NT—Terrance Knighton, Daron Payne
DE—Jason Hatcher, Jonathan Allen
ILB—Mason Foster, Foster
ILB—Will Compton, Zach Brown
OLB—Ryan Kerrigan, Kerrigan
OLB—Trent Murphy, Preston Smith

I don’t think we need to go into much discussion here to sort out which team has the better front seven. The interior line plus Brown makes this year’s front clearly superior. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

Secondary

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
CB—Will Blackmon, Josh Norman
CB—Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar
SS—DeAngelo Hall, Montae Nicholson
FS—Dashon Goldson, D.J. Swearinger

Breeland was very good in 2015, tallying two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two recoveries. Dunbar could be a downgrade but I don’t think he’ll be a significant one. This year’s team is clearly better off at the other three positions. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

If defense wins championships then you have to give the overall edge to this year’s team. But the offense will be important and Smith, Guice, and the wide receivers will need to come through if the Redskins are going to play a game in January of 2019.

More 2018 Redskins

- The secondary: What's the outlook in the secondary?
- Tandler’s Take: The pressure's on Gruden and he knows it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

 

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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