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Hogs Haven Mailbag: Where can we expect improvement from the Redskins in 2018?

Answers to your #HogsHavenQ’s!

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Hogs Haven Mailbag Time!

Questions are submitted through Twitter to @Kennedy_Paynter with the tag #HogsHavenQ

Although this is a general question, it’s a good one. What should we expect from the defense? Obviously, no one knows how things will play out on the field in 2018, but the progress over this past offseason is promising. While losing Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland to start the offseason hurt, the Redskins faced a necessary evil in trading Fuller while letting the persistent headache of #26 leave in free agency. In addition, they felt they had more-than-adequate young talent/depth at CB in Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau. The team has faith in DB coach Torrian Gray and he has given them reason to expect him to get the most out of the talent on the team.

Up front is where the Redskins might see the biggest jump. Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis had the Redskins’ pass-rush (3rd in NFL) and run-defense (5th in the league) humming while they were both healthy and they return to a line that has added two talented, young nose tackles to the roster in DaRon Payne and Tim Settle. Now the team doesn’t have to rotate defensive ends in at NT and they can rely on real run-stuffers and pocket-pushers to make things easier on their defensive line mates.

Allen and Ioannidis will be able to a) stay fresh and b) avoid double teams with Payne and Settle taking those responsibilities away, freeing up those two aforementioned disruptors to rush the passer, and we haven’t even begun to talk about the OLBs coming off the edges! Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan could truly have special years with the potential interior disruption this team looks to have on paper. Now that potential has to turn into production.

All in all, I believe a jump to a top 15 defense is possible-and perhaps even expected in 2018.

I put these two questions together because I think I can give a similar answer to both. I absolutely believe the Redskins red-zone offense will improve this season, and it’s because of the change at quarterback. Players and coaches have praised Alex Smith for his mobility and awareness both in general and in the red zone partly because this is where he excels, but also because of the stark contrast between him and Kirk Cousins in this area.

Kirk admitted routinely that he was ‘process oriented’ and was often not willing to take chances or extend plays, especially in the red-zone. As a Redskins fan, watching #8 hurl the ball through the goalposts was an all-too-familiar sight. Alex Smith is the opposite. While he isn’t Aaron Rodgers, he possesses a little of that extend-until-the-last-moment approach-something I believe will be a welcome change in the red-zone.

Why does this matter? Well, because Jay Gruden LOVES the boot/pre-snap action game and wants to utilize it more in 2018 with Smith under center. Gruden had to have also been absolutely maddened by the fact that the Redskins have been one of the most effective teams in the league moving the ball between the 20-yard-lines but in the bottom 5 in scoring since Kirk took over. I think Gruden truly believes that changes this year, as he is implementing a lot more variance into the offense and really opening things up. He expects Alex Smith to take chances and to make plays, he wants to score more. A lot more.

From everything I saw at camp (sweep action/motions pre-snap, bootlegs, options, zone-read), I truly believe that Jay is more comfortable with Smith at quarterback and is excited to expand the playbook in 2018. Plus, now the Redskins have a quarterback that can actually throw the fade! All in all, the QB change in Washington should pay dividends in the red zone for a team that ranked 30th in red zone scoring in 2017.

I love this question. I believe that our offensive line has both the size and the athletic ability to try run any scheme. It’s rare to have players that are as big and as powerful as the Redskins do that can pull and move the way they do on outside runs. My problem with the Redskins running scheme is how diverse it is. If you’ve listened to Chris Cooley on game broadcasts or the radio, he echoes this sentiment. The Redskins need to pick something they like and stick with it rather than implementing all different types of runs, almost like spreading themselves too thin. It’s hard for the linemen and tight ends to change the way they block so much throughout a game, and I’d really like to see them stick to inside/outside zone or a power scheme without always switching back and forth.

If I were coaching this team, I would be running outside zone with cutback concepts on the inside. I think our line is best on the move because of how quickly these huge men move (Trent Williams is just incredible). This also requires, however, better blocking from the tight ends. On a zone read play, the running back delays and patiently waits for the hole to develop as the linemen go by them. If the tight end doesn’t hold their backside defensive end (which Reed and Davis were abysmal at last year), the defensive end knifes in easily to disrupt the play in the backfield. If Jeremy Sprinkle can get more time as a blocking tight end, the running game would really benefit. My advice: pick a scheme and stick with it!

The group that worries me the most is the interior offensive line. While I like the starters on the line, we saw last year that a couple injuries halted a very effective, growing offense. I doubt that the team will be decimated at tackle the way they were last year, and both Geron Christian and Ty Nsekhe can be trusted to fill in at tackle if needed. If one of the interior guys goes down though, look out. Tony Bergstrom is a decent backup center, but he’s a backup center for a reason, he gets pushed back too easily at the point of attack. Beyond him, the team would likely be trusting Tyler Catalina at either guard spot, and as we all saw last year, Catalina just can’t get it done on the interior. With health, this offseason could prove to be a force this year, but a couple of injuries to interior offensive linemen could completely derail that side of the ball for the Redskins.

That’s all for this week! Keep hitting me up with questions on Twitter (@Kennedy_Paynter) with the tag #HogsHavenQ. I’ll answer the best questions each week!