Feb 3, 2016, 5:07 AM EDT
Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 3, 21 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
What role will Ziggy Hood play on the Redskins’ defense?
The Redskins signed DE Ziggy Hood, a 2009 first-round draft pick of the Steelers, to a one-year contract. What role will Hood, who will turn 29 later this month and has played in 98 NFL games with 46 starts, play on the Redskins’ defensive line.
On the base level, Hood provides the line with another body. They could lose as many as four defensive linemen from last year’s 53-man roster. NT Terrance Knighton is a free agent and the buzz that he may not be re-signed is growing louder. Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston well on the far side of 30 and the Redskins may look to go younger and, in Hatcher’s case, cheaper. Frank Kearse is under contract but the team could look to upgrade his spot.
Hood was signed now because he was available, eligible to sign with a team because he wasn’t on a team’s roster when the season ended. His acquisition is only the beginning of the Redskins’ defensive line rebuilding project. If things work out as they should, Hood should be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.
What is “things working out as they should”? Stephen Paea comes back fully healthy after a disappointing 2015 season that ended with him on the shelf with a toe injury. Scot McCloughan needs to invest two draft picks in the position, at least one of them in the first or second rounds (assuming a player fits the best-available requirement, of course). Assuming Knighton is gone, if one of those draft picks is not a nose tackle who is ready to contribute immediately that position needs to be addressed in free agency.
Nose tackle is important because it keeps Chris Baker at end, where he had his best season in 2015. He could play nose if necessary but McCloughan needs to try to make sure that it’s not.
That would leave Paea or Ricky Jean Francois and Baker as the starting ends and the draft pick or free agent pickup at nose. Hood, another draft pick, Kearse, 2015 practice squad player Cory Crawford and perhaps another low-priced free agent pickup or two would be fighting for the last few jobs and position on the depth chart.
It’s good that Hood has starting experience because you never know what will happen during a 16-game season. But if he is penciled in to be the Week 1 starter that is a sign that things did not go well along the line during the offseason when it comes to bolstering the defensive line. And the best case will be if Hood gets let go at the final roster cut because McCloughan has found enough younger talent to effectively fill out the depth chart.
The likely scenario is somewhere in between. Hood probably makes the roster and plays 20 or so snaps per game as part of the defensive line rotation.
—The Redskins last played a game 24 days ago. It will be about 221 days until they play another one.
—Days until: NFL Combine 21; NFL free agency starts 35; 2016 NFL draft 85
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