Monday, May 16, 2016

Defense: Adding Firepower To A Much Needed Unit

Bashaud Breeland coming into his own as a shut down cornerback and adding Josh Norman gives this team the ability to shut down any offense in the NFL. Especially the NFC East with all the talented WR tandems.

 After another early exit from the playoffs in 2015, the Redskins know they had to address the defense and Scot McCloughan made it his #1 priority. With the key acquisition of Josh Norman and the defense heavy draft, the defense has the potential to be a top 10 unit in my opinion. Some of the fan base has been questioning for years using a 3-4 if we don't have the proper personnel. Some fans wonder about going back to a 4-3. Fans remember the top 10 ranking but forget the way those top 10 defenses faltered late in games because we couldn't stop the run or couldn't get pressure on the opposing QB. Unfortunately that has been the case for the last few years with the 3-4. Now that the franchise and GM have gone all in to improve a inconsistent defense this off season, I can't wait to see the finished product under the play calling of Joe Barry on opening night against the Pittsburgh Steelers on MNF. I know it's early in the off season voluntary workouts, rookie mini camp and OTA's but looking at the roster (minus the rookie mini camp players that reported on Friday May 13th) it's apparent that Scot is putting his imprint on this team and this franchise. I'm gonna breakdown each position groups and give a stand out player from each unit that I think could make an impact on this defense. Starting with the defensive line.
Chris Baker will have to make a consistent impact for this defense to excel. Trent
Murphy converting to DE will also be something to watch in 2016.
Via redskins,com

Defensive Line: The defensive line has been a big need since the team switched to a 3-4. It's a dirty job of occupying blockers and clearing lanes for the linebackers to get to the ball carrier and making the play. With the retiring of Jason Hatcher and another inconsistent season on defense, due to injuries and lack of turnovers the defense has to address these issues as soon as possible. For this unit to improve and become more consistent, pressure and containment from the DL is mandatory. As of right now I see nine defensive lineman and eight of them are DE and one tru NT. With Terrence Knighton moving on to New England this leaves a big void n the middle of the line. Drafting DL Matt Ioannidis in this years draft could be an answer but that's a lot to ask of a rookie. He has great power and strength but lacks consistency with his technique.  Also with the OLB Trent Murphy converting to DE will be something to watch since he hasn't consistently lined up with his hand in the dirt since college. A key free agent acquisition is Kendall Reyes from San Diego. His experience with the 3-4, durability and 13.5 sacks in only 3 years as a starter shows he can get pressure on the QB and close the deal by getting to the QB. Ziggy Hood is another experienced lineman that can play the DE or the NT but he does have a lot of miles on him. Ricky Jean-Francois and Stephen Pea played well in their first year with this new defense, they also have room to improve. Their consistency, production and execution are all key to help this defense become a stellar, hard hitting, ball hawking unit that we all dream of when we think of a 3-4. My impact player to watch on the DL is Trent Murphy. If he can produce and get pressure at DE he can keep his place on the team and help this defense take  major step forward.

For this defense to become feared by opposing offenses and QB's Ryan Kerrigan
and Junior Galette will both need to have a double digit sack numbers for this
defense to wreak havoc and cause turnovers.
Linebackers: The life's blood of any 3-4 is the linebacking corp. The outside linebackers go after the quarterback and drop into coverage on some occasions. They have to be versatile, fast, smart and sure tacklers. Inside linebackers have to be good with their hands, shedding blocks, solid coverage skills and ability to dissect the play n get the front seven in the right alignment.  With 17 LB's on the roster right now, you can tell how important it is to get the right combination of skills and the right type of players to fit the scheme. Pro bowl LB's Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette look to form a dynamic duo at the outside backer position. In order for Kerrrigan to get back to double digit sacks as he did in 2014 he will have to stay healthy and cause havoc where ever Joe Barry lines him up at. The only way the he gets his numbers is if Junior Galette returns to the form that got him his pro bowl nods in 2012 and 2013 with back to back 12 sack seasons. He's the wild card for this defense. After coming off of a Achilles injury that ended his 2015 season before it even started. The team isn't worried after DeAngelo Hall came off of two such injuries in a six month span and still played effectively for the team. These two are keys to the defense but key contributions will need to be made by the second year stud Preston Smith and any of the number of OLB's they have on the roster. Getting pressure on the quarterback is key to any  3-4 defense being effective and flourish. The emergence of one of my favorite players since the team signed him as a UDFA out of Nebraska is Will Compton. He's a steady defender, can read and diagnose plays and for the most part a sure tackler. Mason Foster inked a new deal in the off season along with Compton and the depth, skill and talent behind them is definitely gonna be an upgrade. They all have room to improve but with the upgrade in talent, youth, size and depth the Redskins have a chance at having a linebacker corp as good as Pittsburgh in the near future. My players to look out for are the OLB's Junior Galette and Preston Smith. The second year pro Preston Smith ended his rookie season with a bang, 10 tackles, five sacks, forced fumble and pass defensed all in his last three games has the team looking like they got a late round steal from last year's draft class. Now if he can back last season up wit eight more sacks or maybe even 10, it will make the defense as a whole more dominate in all the ways they want to. Junior Gallette has been putting in real work to return from almost two full seasons off the field. He signed a team friendly, incentive heavy one year deal to prove he can return to form. He performs well and this will be a huge win win situation for the team and the player.

DeAngelo Hall's experience and skill will help this team gain some stability
to the safety unit just as he did to the cornerback unit when he arrived.
Safety: Now any Redskins fan can tell you how much a team needs above average safeties to survive in the NFL. We have yet to get any type of consistent play from this position  since the untimely and tragic death of Sean Taylor. I wrote a article in 2013 referring to the 27 safeties the team has used since his death in 2007.( Lost count since I wrote that article) The safety position is the last line of defense and a very critical position. With DeAngelo Hall, Deshazor Everett and Will Blackmon are all making the switch to safety official, this will be once again a very important position to fill. We know Joe Barry likes for his safeties to be able to play both the Free and the Strong spots. There's only six safeties on the roster right now but sure to be deep competition during training camp and preseason. The second round draft pick in this year's draft Su'a Cravens out of USC can be an boom or bust pick. He fits the Troy Polamalu mold being a S/LB  but will be playing mainly safety and wearing Sean Taylor's old rookie number #36. The way Coach Barry uses his safeties to blitz and crash the box, whoever gets the starting job will have to be sure tacklers and have the ability to read formations quickly. As of right now there are six safeties on the roster right now. Duke Ihenacho is coming off injury will be someone to watch along with David Bruton Jr.a free agent pickup from Denver. My player to watch in the safety corp is the rookie Su'a Cravens. If he can learn the defense and convert to full time safety with his ability to cover will help this defense vastly. From the looks of rookie mini camp the rookie will be learning the SS position first and go from there.
The surprise signing of yet another talented superstar has the Redskins poised
to repeat as NFC East Champs and actually win a playoff game. Josh Norman's
impact should be felt immediately and if it does, watch this defense flourish.

Cornerback: The cornerbacks for this defense will have to step up there turnover game in 2016 for this team to be successful and repeat as NFC East Champs. If the front seven gets pressure and containment then the secondary will have to take advantage of these high pressure situations and force turnovers. I believe the GM feels the same way too, that's why he went after and signed the surprise free agent of the off season. Adding Josh Norman to this defensive backfield should help in the turnover department. We all know about the bitter and ugly rivalry between Odell Beckham Jr. and Norman, so now the stakes have doubled down. With these two meeting atleast twice a year for the foreseeable future, I'm sure it will be must watch football for years to come. In five seasons he has only seven interceptions and two returned for TD's. That's mostly because of his lockdown capabilities on the opposing teams top receiver limits the balls that come his way. That is going to put even more pressure on Bashaud Breeland who thrives off of it, as RedskinsNation has seen in his two years as a full time starter. These two feisty CB's should make it tough on opposing WR's, especially the talented WR's in the NFC East. The team signed Greg Toler another talented corner as a free agent, returning Quinton Dunbar (converted WR) and the rookie Kendall Fuller out of VT will be fighting for the nickel back duties. It will be a very competitive training camp with all this young talent on this roster. My player to watch is Josh Norman. With him now being the highest paid CB in the league he will have to play like one. He shines and plays like he did in Carolina then this defense has taken a major step forward. His work ethic and experience will help Breeland and all the other younger players.

 With a number of additions to this team and defense, the Redskins should be a much better team going forward. The goal is to repeat as NFC East Champs and make a long playoff run. In order for that to happen the defense has to step up and force turnovers, make plays, and get those critical three and outs when needed. It takes 53 men on a team to make a winner in the NFL and Scot McCloughan in my opinion is doing everything in his power to get the best 53 men possible. This season will go along way in to seeing where this franchise is headed. Back to back winning seasons with a playoff birth or maybe even NFC East Championships back to back will signal turning the corner finally.

 Don't forget to tune in to Sports On The Hill Podcast at 7pm streaming live on Tru Radio Network or you can call-in/listen in by dialing 347-884-9299. On the show tonight me and my co host Robbie Gross will be talking about the early playoff exit of the Capitals, the busy week on and off the field with the Nationals and of course talk about the Redskins and the rookie mini camp that just wrapped up this past weekend. If you haven't go like the Sports On The Hill Podcast page on Facebook and go follow @SportsOTHP on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter @TattooedScorpio or Carroll Porter III on Facebook. Hope to hear from you tonight about any DC pro sports team, this article or any sports topic you may want to talk about. #HTTR4LIFE #dcRising