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Need to Know: 5 burning Redskins questions on defense

Jun 3, 2014, 4:56 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 3, 14 days before the start of minicamp.

Nickel coverage

After a 3-13 season there are always plenty of questions surrounding an NFL team. Here is a look at five burning questions facing the Redskins’ defense (we’ll talk about questions on offense later this week).

Can Jason Hatcher get double-digit sacks again? The Redskins’ 3-4 defense is not designed for the linemen to make plays. But they didn’t sign Jason Hatcher to a four-year, $27.5 million deal to do grunt work; they want 10 or more sacks out of him. In what situations will Hatcher play and how will what he does affect the rest of the line? Will responsibilities change?

Can Brian Orakpo perform at an elite level? The Redskins are going to rely heavily on the pass rush to prop up the secondary this year and in a 3-4 the key pass rusher is the outside linebacker coming from the QB’s blindside. That, of course, is Orakpo. If the master plan is going to work he will have to play to his full potential and make some big plays in addition to getting sacks and pressures.

Will Keenan Robinson be ready? The third-year player who has only 69 defensive snaps under his belt is the preferred choice to win the job at inside linebacker. Robinson looks good now but it’s hard to judge without pads. And if he’s not ready, the question becomes who will it be?

Will David Amerson be ready? The second year player seems to be a safer bet. He played almost 700 snaps as a rookie so he has more on-field experience to fall back on. Still, he’s a second-year player coming off of a season during which he, well, looked like a rookie. He’s likely to get burned from time to time but if can he can make enough big plays to compensate his year will be a success.

How will the safety spot sort out? Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather are the starters, at least for the time being. Does that mean Phillip Thomas will watch most of the year from the bench, barring injury, or will he get a legit shot at starting? Will Bacarri Rambo even make the team? Can Tanard Jackson be effective after a two-year suspension (if he even makes the team)? Nothing seems to be out of the question at this point in time.

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—It’s been 156 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be 96 days until they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Minicamp starts 14; Training camp 51; Redskins @ Eagles 110

In case you missed it

Gruden talks about expectations for DeSean Jackson

  1. kenlinkins - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    So, the question is: Will adding a 35 year old Safety, a 32 year old pass rushing linemen, a 3rd year rookie ILB to a defense that just tagged their pass rushing OLB, a 2nd year CB who still needs work, a rookie Safety OR a Safety out of football for 2 years, some under developed D-linemen that do not rush the passer and do not make tackles on running plays (by design) to go along with TWO 30 year old DB’s, added to a new millionaire ILB and a OLB who just had a year added to his contract, can they improve on a defense that was 3-13 in 2013? Sounds about right to me! My question is, how far did the Redskins defense fall over the last few years that moves like the ones above look good? IMO 2014 is about getting the ship to float again before we go hunting the great white whale. If the new coaching staff can get to 8-8 in 2014 I would suggest that would be defined as a success (as it will take more than one year to correct what has happened to this team).

    • Rich Tandler - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:40 AM

      Only point I’ll argue there is saying that the defense “was 3-13 in 2013”. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a very good unit. But horrid special teams and way too many turnovers by the offense contributed to the problems on defense and to the record overall. If the other units take care of their issues the defense would be better without adding anything.

      > >

      • cowboyhater - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        Tackling was horrendous last year. Too many big plays against our defense was due to the lack of defensive fundamentals in terms of assignment breakdowns, and yes that word again…tackling. This had nothing to do with the old head coach, but everything to do with the current defensive staff not emphasizing simple fundamentals. So the big question is, will the existing defensive staff coach up the defense to be more productive, but at the same time improve their overall basic fundamentals of playing defense. We’ll see…..

        • kenlinkins - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:25 AM

          Rich: Do pro teams still spend time teaching tackling? (I can not remember seeing a tackling dummy in a practice video in the last 15 years). I know they spend a ton of time on getting into position to make a tackle (how to keep your legs clear, use your hands to keep blockers away from your body, how to shed a blocker, how to read your keys etc.) but do they still have live tackling drills? It does seem to be a lost art in many of the players coming out of college they days and it is rare to see a guy really improve once he hits the pro level.

    • vtsquirm - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      That’s the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever read. Where were you going with the question you started and didn’t finish?

      • shermanp79 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        Actually he did ask the question. He wanted to know if they still practice tackling. Do they still have tackling drills? I think we all can run on a bit, between emotion and thoughts coming along as we write. This isn’t English Writing. LOL. We don’t proof read and ck grammar and sentence structure. It’s for fun. Don’t be so uptight! LOL

  2. mauriceatwood - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    There is no doubt that many problems existed over the entire team last season, but the biggest problem, in my opinion, was that the team lost faith in the coaching staff that is no longer there. It is difficult to motivate yourself to play for someone you don’t believe in, and perhaps I am completely off base, but when a team loses 8 games in a row there is more to be said for what I am suggesting than some may give credit for. These players are all world class athletes and know how to play football. Schemes and designs are part of the coaching game, but so is the ability to relate to and motivate your players. When the team leader (RG3) isn’t happy then there can be no doubt that others aren’t happy either. With the new coaching staff, which does include some holdovers, I would believe that clears the slate of disenchanted players which will also make this team more competitive.

    • cowboyhater - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Only time will tell if your analysis about the old staff is correct….When you lose it becomes contagious, and then you start trying to find excuses. There is no excuses for losing no matter who is coaching the team. Shanahan was a very competent coach, but unfortunately his players played as if they were incompetent. The offense stunk, the special teams stunk, and the defense stunk which results into a 3-13 season. World class athletes should have the ability to overcome any challenge and just play, which should have resulted in more wins, but it didn’t….In my opinion the players were mostly to blame for last years disaster, because no matter how you sort it out, we just didn’t have a very good team. Time will tell….

  3. mauriceatwood - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Cowboyhater, I disagree with you my fellow Redskin. Shanahan completely mishandled RG3 his rookie season as well as last season and hasn’t had hardly any success as a coach since Elway retired. He will never be a head coach in the NFL again because of how bad he mismanaged the Redskins. He had one winning season out of 4 as Redskins coach and went 3-13 with a team that was 10-6 the prior year. Sure, injuries here and there make a difference, but overall the man just didn’t get the job done. I do believe, however, that he did do a good job of scouting and drafting players that have made a tremendous impact on the team. I would have had no problem with him staying on as General Manager, or working within a capacity that scouted prospective talent for the team, but as the head coach he had to go and so did his son and the special teams coaches. You are right though in saying that time will tell. If Gruden can put together two consecutive seasons of making the playoffs then that will be the tale of the tape.

  4. darrynhyman - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    Maurice….who exactly has he drafted over his four years that have had “tremendous impact”? He had 34 draft picks, how many of them have had a great impact?? Shanny was not very good as either a coach or GM…I’m not on the bandwagon of everything was his fault and now all is right with the world, but you are way off with him being successful with the draft

    • murphsman - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      Shanny was good at drafting but not utilizing the players. Afterthe season was in the tank last year he should’ve played of the young lineman but he didn’t. And he did draft our OLB’s, but the scheme we used was weird.

      • kenlinkins - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        Interesting point about drafting good players but not utilizing the players, if you added poor development of drafted picks I might even agree, but the counter point would be “how could you tell they were good NFL players if they never made an impact in DC” ? IMO the best way would be count the number of players Coach Shanahan drafted that ended up playing for other teams after leaving the Redskins. Anyone have the answer?

  5. murphsman - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Hey Rich, is it me or is Rambo totally coming off as the defensive equivalent of LaRibeus? Although I believe LaRib was drafted higher so his issue hurts more, it seems like Rambo must have talent or Washington wouldn’t have drafted him, but his dedication( or lack thereof) leaves much to be desired

  6. mauriceatwood - Jun 4, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    darrynhyman, how are these names for you..Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, Ryan Kerrigan, Kirk Cousins, Roy Helu, and Trent Williams. Shannahan drafted these guys among others who do contribute. Archives

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