I got in touch with several writers on the college football blogs. I wanted to get their thoughts on the Redskins newest draft picks and ask a few more revealing questions about how these players fit on the team and their chances of making an impact either immediately or down the line. Jeremy Keown of Card Chronicle gave us the scoop regarding new Redskin S/LB Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Cadillactica: Could you give us your impression of what the Louisville coaches thought of Harvey-Clemons while at Louisville?
Jeremy Keown: When Josh originally came over (he started his playing career at Georgia but followed Todd Grantham to Louisville), I was a little hesitant of him at first. He was suspended twice for failing marijuana drug tests. That lead to his dismissal from Georgia and he came up to Louisville following his defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. I thought it might be a bit risky having this guy come into the program, but for his three years in Louisville, he never made news headlines in a negative way. You never heard of him being a problem in the locker room or causing any sort of problems with other teammates. He was also like another coach on the field since he was already familiar with Grantham's defense. Grantham ran a pretty complex defense here, so Josh was able to make sure guys were in the right position before each snap.
Cadillactica: Coach Jay Gruden has said he expects Harvey-Clemons to contribute on special teams and also contribute as a dime linebacker. Do you think that is a good use of his talent? Did Louisville use him in those roles in addition to safety?
Jeremy Keown: I think this is absolutely the best use of his talents, and I'm really glad that Gruden has this plan for Josh. There's a bit of an evolution in college defenses the last few years. Essentially, there's a new "position" in which a player is versatile enough to play in the box or drop into coverage. With the explosion of the spread offense in college football, this is basically a defense's counter-attack to it. It allows a defense to be flexible and not have to substitute a whole lot. At Louisville, it was called the "Star" position, but I know at other places like Notre Dame it's called the "Rover". Different names, but same thing. Harvey-Clemons really was vital to the Cardinals defense the last couple of years because of his large frame and ability to run down the field and cover receivers.
Cadillactica: The Redskins have been lacking at the safety position for years. They seem to have a fix with D.J. Swearinger playing FS and Su'a Cravens playing SS but the backup duties are up in the air. Do you think Harvey-Clemons can solidify his spot further on the team as a reserve S and not just a special teams player?
Jeremy Keown: I think he could. I'm not by any means familiar/knowledgeable about Washington's depth chart at the position, or what strengths/weaknesses those players have, but Josh could definitely move his way up the depth chart if he really makes a name for himself on special teams. If Washington is playing a team that is a little more pass-happy, Harvey-Clemons could be utilized as a third safety on the field to help cover receivers, but would also be able to come down in run support.
Cadillactica: What would describe as his biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Jeremy Keown: His pure athleticism is really going to be his advantage. He's just got such a big frame and really long arms to help get a hand on guys, but he's also flexible and able to run down the field in coverage. He's also a pretty heavy hitter. When he's running downhill to tackle someone, he won't let up or slow down, he's going to make sure he comes crashing into someone.
One thing that he'll need to work on is his angles. It's really kind of strange because his first year of playing at Louisville it wasn't really an issue, but then in his second year, it was something that you would start to notice. He would take a bad angle on a running back and it would inevitably lead to poor/missed tackles. There were times where there would be a gain of 15 or so yards, but it could have been just a 5 yard gain had Josh taken the right angle. Another thing is he'll sometimes panic when in coverage if he thinks he's been beaten. Instead of just trusting his size/athleticism he'll start to grab on receivers and get penalized.
Cadillactica: Could you sum up his play in a single word or phrase?
Jeremy Keown: Aggressive. He was a 5-star outside linebacker coming out of high school, so he's used to playing with physicality. When he takes a good angle on someone, he can really thump them.
Jeremy’s information on Harvey-Clemons really has me excited about all the young secondary players the team has brought in. They may not all be starters or diamonds in the rough but they all have impressive physical traits, are versatile and can present a real challenge to some of the old veterans on the team who quite frankly may be on borrowed time with the team. I find Jeremy’s answer to the second question most interesting because it highlights Harvey-Clemons’ versatility and he described a niche that's growing in NFL defenses that command a safety-linebacker hybrid. I didn’t know Harvey-Clemons played outside linebacker in high school so I feel even better about his transition to that hybrid role. If he can be developed and learn the nuances of the position he can carve out a considerable role for himself on the Redskins defense.