The Redskins needs heading into this offseason are many. The addition of a real GM should make acquiring this much needed talent a little easier. Having one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL running free agency and the draft should be a breath of fresh air for Redskins fans everywhere.
Exhale.....now take a deep breath, and.....exhale.
There is no questioning this team's top needs. Without any specific order, I believe the list below adequately identifies the most glaring ones:
Safety - the Redskins secondary has been lacking a play-maker in the back end for years
Right Tackle - this was a MAJOR issue last season, and is a top priority this offseason
Center - pressure up the middle, and lack of blitz pick-up was alarming
DT/DE - we generated very little pressure up the middle on opposing quarterbacks
The team also has some secondary needs that can either use an upgrade, or an infusion of youth(or both):
Inside Linebacker - we've had trouble covering athletic tight ends
Slot cornerback - injury, age and inconsistency have plagued this position recently
Tight end - we lack a complete tight end; one who can block well is a must
Guard - age and poor play have hindered the position
Return specialist - it's been a long time since the Redskins have had a game-breaker returning kicks
With the addition of a new GM, the recent debate has centered around building through the draft, and delivering some limited upgrades through free agency - something the organization had done backwards in the past. A little more than half way through the 2014 season, as it seems to have done recently, the thought shifted towards draft position, and eventually, a weekly team tracker was posted, updating fans on where we could end up selecting in the 2015 NFL Draft. Even the most diehard fans found themselves chiming in on draft position, and routing for other teams to win, in order for us to improve our draft position.
So is the life of being a Redskins fan for the last two decades!
Having the fifth pick in this year's draft is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we should be able to get a player who will immediately make this team better. The curse is that the players this teams has a great need for, are not worthy of the number five pick.
So what should the Redskins do?
Trading back in this draft, and acquiring more draft picks either this year or next, would be the most logical choice. Assuming we can find a partner, a move outside the top ten could likely net us another second, a mid-round pick, and possibly one in the top three rounds of next years draft.
Sound like a plan?
Even though this sounds like a slam-dunk, there are people who feel the Redskins long-term needs will be best served staying at number five, and selecting the best available. It's very likely the best available at that point in the draft could be a pass rushing OLB. People have tweeted and mock drafted about the Redskins landing one of either Shane Ray or Randy Gregory to become a pass-rushing specialist at outside linebacker, but both prospects, who are listed at 245 pounds, are raw talents, who still need to develop into more complete players to contribute consistently at the NFL level. Both are too small and weak against the run to be NFL defensive ends in a 4-3, and both lack the arsenal of pass-rushing moves to counter a good NFL left tackle. Besides, the Redskins roster is littered with tweeners who pose as 3-4 pass rushing outside linebackers, including Jackson Jeffcoat(6'4" 250), Gabe Miller(6'3" 250), former high second round pick Trent Murphy(6'5" 258) and former high first round pick, and multi-time Pro Bowl selection Ryan Kerrigan(6'4" 260). We also have the option of re-signing former first round pick, and multi-time Pro Bowl selection, Brian Orakpo(6'4" 257) to a cap-friendly, one year prove-it deal.
Is a pass rusher a need on the defense? Absolutely, but the need for a pass rusher is on the defensive line, where we have the aging and oft-injured Stephen Bowen(soon to be 31), the overpaid, oft-injured and underperforming Jason Hatcher(32 years old), the solid, but not spectacular Barry Cofield(soon to be 31), the underwhelming Jarvis Jenkins, the youngster Frank Kearse and the solid Chris Baker. These six players combined for just 10.5 sacks all season. Compare that to Ryan Kerrigan alone, who tallied 13.5.
Trent Murphy, who the staff liked enough to use our top pick in the 2014 draft on, had a lot of growing pains after taking over for the injured Brian Orakpo. The rookie however showed some promise, racking up 32 tackles, 2.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles in his 8 starts. In just three games of being active for the Redskins, fellow rookie Jackson Jeffcoat chipped in 5 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception.
Pass rush was an issue for the 2014 Redskins, but that issue came from the interior of our defensive line, not our outside linebackers. I would be upset if this team gave up on Trent Murphy after just 8 starts, in favor of the next "flavor of the month" at outside linebacker. General Managers in the NFL get fired for using high picks on the same position multiple times in a short span of time, and for a team who has had so many needs, and so few draft picks to fill them with over the last 5 years, we can not afford to go back to the same position again in the top of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Pass rush needs to improve, but let's look at where that improvement needs to take place - on the inside.