top of page

State of The Defense

Welcome back to The B&G Report. Over the last few weeks there has been a ton of focus on the Redskins pending quarterback situation, with the usual drama rearing it’s head. The Kirk Cousins situation will work itself out, losing him to Free Agency looks more and more like the inevitable outcome though. Today we focus on the defense and rightfully so, after the latest defensive performance by the Eagles. They displayed how far a stout defense can take a team, even with their franchise QB on IR. It’s noteworthy that only one out of the four playoff teams from Sunday, had a true franchise quarterback starting. Many have viewed Jacksonville as the model to follow. The Jaguars have spent the last five years stockpiling defensive talent via the draft and sprinkled in a few key defensive free agents along the way. Minnesota has done the same, but they’ve had more success in the draft as of late. They differ from the Jaguars in that, they’ve avoided signing pricey defensive free agents for the most part. This draft is loaded with defensive playmakers, even Free Agency could provide upgrades at a few key positions for the Redskins. The NFL Draft is where teams are built though and is the avenue that the Skins need to utilize to be successful.

Defensive Backs

This unit will stay intact for the most part, with only Bashaud Breeland leaving via Free Agency. Breeland’s projected market value is over $8 million a year, his play hasn’t garnered such a raise in Washington and the Clemson corner will be playing elsewhere in 2018. The groups performance was underwhelming this year, most notably Josh Norman’s production. I believe his drop in production had to do with his lingering rib/chest injury. So I’m looking for a bounce back year from “The Cerebral Assassin“. Norman will return as the clear number one going into next season. Nickel Corner Kendall Fuller had the best year of all the defensive backs though. Fuller played around 60% of the teams snaps in 2017 and still recorded 4 interceptions. Although Fuller is a really great Nickel Back, he can still be the number two corner and slide back to that position in three receiver sets keeping him on the field l. As for who’ll be the third corner, that’s still up for debate. Third year cornerback Quinton Dunbar seems to be the next in line, but rookie Fabian Morea is believed to have the talent to be a #2 corner in time. Moreau is currently one of the fastest players on the Redskins roster, after clocking a 4.3 second forty yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine. For the first time in years, the Skins have decent depth at cornerback. Dunbar and Moreau can’t be counted on yet though, so the Skins could add a mid-level cornerback in FA or better yet in the mid rounds of draft for competition. LSU’s cornerback Kevin Toliver II or Penn State’s Christian Campbell are 3rd-4th round prospects. Those are just two examples that make sense for the Washington, if their still available in the 4th/5th round that is.

The safety position needs some extra attention. DJ Swearenger showed why he was named the Captain of the defense, during his first year on the team. DJ flexes between Free Safety and Strong Safety, so adding another Safety early in the Draft should be a priority. Early on Rookie Montae Nicholson flashed what Redskins scouts hoped he could provide, which was a fierce presence in the defensive backfield. The Michigan State product finished the season on IR after contributing 24 tackles and 1 interception. He provides the Akins with a Safety who has the speed, size and anticipation that the Skins have lacked for over a decade. The main issue is, can we rely on Nicholson to stay healthy after an injury riddled rookie season. Nicholson entered the league with an injured shoulder and never seemed to be 100%, despite his stellar play. Other than the two, depth is nonexistent. Sua Cravens can’t be counted on to return to the team, after he was placed on the Reserve/Left Squad list. Mental health issues are rumored to be an issue Cravens is dealing with. Deshazor Everett is a restricted free agent. The Skins should move on from the underperforming and undersized Safety. DeAngelo Hall seems inevitable to retire, per his last quote about possibly working in an NFL front office. After those players, the depth consists of Street Free agents/Undrafted Players that were signed to the Skins roster during the season. The Redskins will be tempted to draft first round projected safeties FSU’s Derwin James or Bama’s Ronnie Harrison, both are 6’3 and have incredible range. The mid rounds also boast Safety prospects such as VA Tech’s Terrell Edmunds and Texas safety DeShon Elliot, just to name a few. The depth at Safety this season, was tested due to a myriad of injuries. Other than Swearenger, no other safety on the roster can be penciled in as potential starter.

Outside Linebackers

The Outside Linebacking Group is in need of some slight tweaking. As I previously mentioned the D-Line has helped OLB’s such as Preston Smith be more effective and it showed up in his statistics. Well Ryan Kerrigan is always Mr. Consistent, registering another season with 10 + sacks. Free Agent to be Junior Galette really started to come on towards the end of the season, but with the whole “#Free58” Twitter campaign, I’d say it’s safe to think he’s already moved on. After those three, rookie Ryan Anderson is the lone holdover of note. Anderson had an extremely quiet rookie season, but was used as a FB on a few goal line plays. His role is sure to expand next season. Trent Murphy is a pending free agent and the Skins should consider offering him a veteran minimum contract. After Murphy’s injury and PED suspension, signing the former Stanford Cardinal to a minimum deal shouldn’t be difficult. So a third down speed rusher will be needed. This is an opportunity for the Redskins to unearth an early-mid round pass rusher, that will finally complement Kerrigan’s patent Bull Rush. I previously wrote about Boston College OLB Harold Landry and his potential fit in Manusky’s defense. A potential first rounder such as Landry, could pay huge dividends in regards to creating sacks and turnovers. It’s still very early in the draft process, but I’d be shocked if the Redskins avoid drafting a pass rushing outside linebacker within the first three rounds.

Inside Linebackers

This position group could be listed as priority 1B, next to upgrading the defensive line. As it stands now only Matrell Spaight, Zach Vigil and Josh Harvey-Clemons are the only ILB’s returning that played for the Washington in 2017. (UPDATE Mason Foster resigned). Free Agent acquisition Zach Brown was hands down one of the best defenders on the Redskins, but played on a one year prove it deal. Well Brown is about to get paid! Brown is an impending FA and in my opinion the number one player the Skins must resign. Brown may test the waters though, after having a Pro Bowl caliber year. The Skins will have to pay him above market value to keep him around. Brown alone will not be enough to solve the position woes though. It’s been a position of weakness since the retirement of All Pro ILB London Fletcher. Luckily this draft boasts real talent at linebacker! The SEC continues to churn out NFL ready Inside Linebackers, such as Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Bama’s Rashaan Evans. The SEC linebackers are sure to be stars on the next level. The talent at Inside Linebacker, isn’t just limited to the first round though. In the previous Diamonds in the Rough post, I evaluated South Carolina State ILB Darius Leonard. The small school overachiever, is just one example of the talent and depth on defense in the upcoming Draft. This is the year that the Redskins solve the revolving door at Inside Linebacker!

Defensive Line

The Skins defensive line group needs to be a priority number one this offseason. Although I love John Allen, Matt Ioannidis and the emergence of Anthony Lanier II, depth and talent is still desperately needed. Redskins Coaches have stated that the plan is to have Lanier play mostly rush-end in nickel situations, so Allen and Ioannidis are the only true starters. The line looked great during the first half of the season, especially the defensive performance vs the Raiders. After Allen went down with the dreaded Lisfranc foot injury, the run defense and pass rush suffered. It was evident that Allen’s stout play, aided the production of the Outside Linebackers, most notably Preston Smith. Smith was on pace for a franchise record breaking season, before Allen went down. The push at the line that Allen was creating, provided Smith with constant one on ones and opened up lanes to the opposing quarterbacks. Matt Ioannidis was also key, especially in the run game. After breaking his hand, the Temple mauler was never the same with or without the club cast. If I’m the Redskins decision makers, I’m loading up on lineman in this draft. They’ve gone the free agent route and the results have been predictable. Although last years signings looked good on paper, the results were disappointing. Free Agent pick up Stacey McGee has turned out to be a rotational depth player at best, collecting a $5 million dollar a year salary. The second offseason defensive lineman signed was Terrell McClain and he simply was not a fit for the Redskins system. I think if they draft wisely, McClain will be on the chopping block. The depth at DE/DT in this draft, gives me hope for a top rated Skins run Defense next season. First round D-Lineman Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan lead a deep group of powerful run stoppers. So if the Skins draft a few DT/NT in the first five rounds, they should be in good shape heading into camp. I’d stay away from this position in free agency and groom within.

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, teams are starting to get their free agency wish lists together. The Senior Bowl is days away as well and there will be a lot to talk about. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be writing about Draft Prospects that might not be household names, but could provide talent and depth to a team that is in dire need of more playmakers. HTTR🏹🏈



bottom of page