The Washington Redskins wanted to transform their defense, which is exactly what they’ve done so far -- and the draft remains three weeks away. More help could soon arrive. They changed coordinators and coaches for the line and secondary. They’ve signed four players who should start this season.
Here’s a look at their revamped lineup to date:
Note: Both can play end, though McGee also can play nose. The final spot remains uncertain (no hurry; it’s April 4). Hood can play end (he played nose out of necessity last season; it’s not his best spot). Anthony Lanier will be one to watch, but can he really make that big a leap in one year? The Redskins like how line coach Jim Tomsula has developed nose tackles in the past so perhaps he can get someone such as A.J. Francis or Matt Ioannidis to handle that role. They’re in base only around 20 percent of the time, but that can still equate to around 15 snaps a game -- they can’t punt on those plays again this year. The tough part is finding someone who not only can play nose but also play tackle in their nickel. Otherwise, you have someone who is limited. There are some intriguing options after the first round of the draft (there aren’t many first-round options that make sense at 17 in the first round).
Projected starters: Zach Brown, Compton/Foster
Note: I think this will be interesting. Brown gives them a fast, athletic player inside. He’s still has mixed reviews around the NFL, but safe to say, so is every other linebacker on the Redskins’ roster--– and nobody offers his combination of traits. Brown was a productive player and upgrades this unit. But alongside who? Compton’s ability to quarterback the defense is paramount; Foster is capable of this role, too, but is that his best role? And which pairing would be most efficient: Compton/Brown or Foster/Brown? Both have strengths and weaknesses. For Brown to have someone like Compton next to him, someone who can anticipate more of what’s happening, would be huge. But Foster played well last season, finished strong and remains an asset. If Brown pans out the way they hope, then he can become a versatile defender -- rushing from multiple spots or being able to cover -- and a help on third downs. They also signed Chris Carter in free agency, but he’s a special-teamer.
Projected starters: Kerrigan, Smith
Note: Nothing has yet changed here and a lot depends on what happens with Junior Galette’s return. It must be viewed as a bonus considering he hasn’t played in two years because of Achilles’ injuries. But if he does look close to his old self? Quite a boost. It’s also a good draft for edge rushers. With Trent Murphy sidelined four games, Houston Bates coming off a knee injury and with Smith still too inconsistent -- is that who he is or just a product of being a young pass rusher/player? -- they should look hard for one in the draft. There are third- and fourth-round types who might not be full-time players (yet) but who could help pressuring the passer.
Projected starters: Norman, Breeland
Note: Nothing has changed here, other than the fact that they haven’t yet re-signed Greg Toler. That could happen after the draft, but even if signed, he’s not a starter or even in their top three. Breeland is a free agent after 2017. They drafted Kendall Fuller last year, but he struggled in the slot and is best suited outside. Breeland can play inside. Also, Quinton Dunbar remains, and if the Redskins want to be more aggressive with their corners -- which was one lament by some in the organization late in the season -- then his ability to play press coverage matters. Just know this: It’s a good draft for corners -- and you can never have enough good ones. They pursued Darius Butler in part because he could help inside, but he re-signed with Indianapolis.
Note: Cravens still has to prove he can be the starter so it’s not as if it’s a done deal. But the Redskins clearly like him and want to find more playing time for him, which is why they switched him from linebacker to his more natural spot. They also want to see how DeAngelo Hall is moving after his torn ACL; at age 33, it’s asking a lot for him to have a lot left after three years of injuries. But they love his leadership and know it’s needed. Because of that, there’s no rush to make a decision on his future. However, if he’s not one of the top three safeties, it doesn’t make sense to keep him around. Blackmon also continues to learn the position and certainly can help in coverage if nothing else. He was more disciplined than Hall in coverage last season. Deshazor Everett is a wild card; he’ll help on special teams regardless.