The first rule of roster building
Decades ago, when my interest in football first moved beyond my role as an on-field participant (I ended my career as a high school center) to the broader aspects of the game, the first rule of roster-building that I learned was: An NFL team constructs its roster to win its division.
The question, then, is, what do the Redskins need to win the division title?
NFC East passing attacks
The NFC East features the defending super bowl champion, and while the division boasts a couple of really talented wide receivers, it’s not the passing game that’s scary when you look at the Redskins’ division opponents.
Sure, the Giants have one of the best in Odell Beckham Jr., but the rest of the receiving corps in NY is... just average. And they’ve got old man Eli under center, who typically throws as many interceptions as touchdowns.
The Cowboys were a bit comical when they were trotting Dez out as if he were still an elite NFL receiver for the past three years. Now that Jerry Jones has realized what the rest of the NFC East has already known for at least two seasons, Dallas is likely to be relying on Cole Beasley and a rookie for their passing attack — and having Dak Prescott under center in Dallas saves the Giants from having the worst passing quarterback in the division.
The Eagles boast Alshon Jeffrey and a surging Nelson Agholor, but, honestly, that’s nothing that the Redskins DBs can’t handle. The bigger threat posed by the Eagles is the apparently-impossible-to-tackle Carson Wentz, who cut the Redskins pass rush to pieces twice last season — even when the entire ‘Skins defense was healthy in Week 1... hell, especially when the entire team was healthy in Week 1.
NFC East running game
Then there’s the running game.
The Eagles and the Cowboys both boast offensive lines that are among the very best in the NFL (so do the Redskins, by the way).
The Cowboys invested the 4th overall pick in the draft two years ago to get Zeke Elliott.
The Eagles have the 13th overall pick from the previous year’s draft, Jay Ajayi, hauling the rock.
The Giants already enhanced their offensive line in free agency by signing Nate Solder for a small fortune; what happens if the Giants use the #2 overall pick to draft Saquon Barkely?
If the Giants draft Barkley, then the Redskins, who had the worst statistical run defense in the league in 2017, would find themselves playing in a division that boasts three of the league’s best running backs and two of the best offensive lines.
How Dave Gettleman controls the Redskins first round pick
If the Giants choose Barkley at #2, the Redskins would really have to use their first round pick to bolster the run defense. There would be no choice; the Redskins would have to find a way to stop opponents’ run games if they want to win the NFC East.
That means picking a defensive lineman or linebacker in the first round this week.
Honestly, with Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Spaight and JH-C, the Redskins’ linebacker corps isn’t bad. When it comes to upgrading the ‘Skins defense through the draft, probably the only LB that the Redskins would pick in the first round would be Tremaine Edmunds.
But the defensive line currently rates as: “good, needs improvement and depth”. Jon Allen and Matt Iaonnidis proved last year that they can be a force. Despite a lot of sneering from fans, Stacy McGee showed that he can play in the NFL, and that he earns his contract. Ziggy Hood plays hard, but is often forced out of position; he should be a rotational outside lineman, not a nose tackle. Phil Taylor might be able to help, but I believe the last time he took a snap in a regular season game, RG3 was still the starting quarterback for the Redskins. Counting on Taylor would be like building a house on quicksand. Anthony Lanier continues to develop well for an undrafted college free agent, but the team needs another huge playmaker.
In short, the Redskins need a big, run-stopping presence in the middle of the defense to play with Allen & Ioannidis; a player who can stay on the field on third down and help develop interior DL push on the quarterback, but one whose main job would be to stop Say-gone Barkley, Zeke Elliott and Jay Ajayi.
The Redskins would have to target one of two players: Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne.
Maybe the Giants draft Eli’s successor this year
Dave Gettleman, GM of the Giants, could select a quarterback, or trade back in the draft to collect some much-need draft picks to help re-load his 3-13 roster — especially his ailing offensive line.
But if he looks at his draft board when the Giants go on the clock, and decides to stick where he is and select the running back from Penn State, the Washington Redskin war room may be out of options — they may be forced to do what must be done to win their division. The Redskins will have to select the biggest, baddest defensive lineman on the board for the second year in a row.
I don’t think that would be a bad thing.
What’s your preference for the Redskins in the first round?
This poll is closed
Draft Vea or Payne
Take the best DL, LB, CB or S on the board
Trade back and add at least a 3rd round pick — we have too many needs to only have 2 picks in the top 100
Trade up and get Chubb, Nelson or Barkley