Gabe Ward: This offseason the Redskins lost their weakside pass rusher Preston Smith to free agency. The Redskins had been planning to go with former 2nd round pick Ryan Anderson as the new starter but picked up two EDGE rushers in the draft: 1st round pick Montez Sweat and 7th round pick Jordan Brailford. Between Anderson (who plays with good strength, power, and hustle) and Sweat (who has prototypical length and athleticism), Brailford may not get too many snaps. Given his skill set, can you tell us how you think he can make his way onto the field and stick with the team?
Micah Allen: Brailford has the ability to get to a quarterback that could give him an edge over his competition. If he can learn to get better control of his body and be more agile, I think he could be even more of a steal for the Redskins. He’s going to have to work really hard to prove himself, but I think he’ll put in that work. He’s got the skills to evade blocks that could also put him over the competition. He also needs to work on sticking with his guy if he wants to make the roster. If he can get those things perfected it would not surprise me for him to stick with the team.
Gabe Ward: Sort of related to the above question. . .I am inspired when I see innovative defensive fronts across the NFL. Breaking out of typical personnel groupings certainly has its advantages. If you were the Redskins defensive coordinator how would you use Brailford on the field to best maximize his talent?
Micah Allen: Brailford is a coachable player. He will adapt to whatever you want him to do. Like you talked about in your profile prior to the draft, he’s mobile and played all over at Oklahoma State last season. With the stats he put up in college, though, you have to think he’s best used as a pass rusher. He was one of the best in the conference last year for a reason. The game against Boise State is the perfect example of this. No matter where Jim Knowles put him, Boise couldn’t get to him. He can be disruptive if an O-line breaks down and he sees opportunity. He could also be disruptive on special teams because of his size and speed.
Gabe Ward: In my research and viewing of Brailford, I surmised that he was held back a bit because of injury history and his lack of counter moves. Do you have any insight as to his development at OKST? Specifically, I’d be interested in how he’s grown as a player during his college career and if you think that trajectory looks good going into the pros.
Micah Allen: He developed immensely while at Oklahoma State. In his first season, getting to play in 2017, he was sort of out-shined by a player you might have heard of named Emmanuel Ogbah. After Ogbah left, Brailford played in every game of his last two seasons. He improved on the field, becoming quicker and getting better with his hands. He was a All-Big 12 team selection his first year playing, and then was a First Team All-Big 12 selection his final year with the Cowboys. I really enjoyed watching him grow and learn from the guys he was around at OSU. He became someone that we here at CRFF were sad to see go. I think he grew into a leader at Oklahoma State as team captain his junior season. That tells me that he gained the respect of his teammates along the way. I see his ceiling only going up after staying healthy for a couple of years and some good coaching.
Gabe Ward: The Redskins do ask their outside linebackers to drop back and cover a not insignificant about of the time, especially the weakside OLB. While I did see Brailford in zone coverage, I’m not sure he had much experience turning and running with TE’s or RBs (please correct me if I’m wrong). Do you think that would be one of his bigger weaknesses as far as being more of a complete OLB prospect? Do you think he has the physical capacity to do that well, or do you think he is much better as a pass rusher?
Micah Allen: I’m going to be honest and say I do think he’s a better pass rusher. When he was in the back he tended to miss tackles because he went back there so fast. I just feel like he’s most comfortable in the pass rusher role. Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t be taught to be better in zone coverage. Like I mentioned before, he’s coachable. I just feel like it’s going to take some time for him to develop the skills to be good in zone. We tested it out with him in that Boise State game I mentioned, and it went okay, but we ended up putting him back where he had been before, and it was better.
Gabe Ward: Could you give us any insight into Brailford’s abilities as a leader and motivator? Lately the Redskins have been trying to change the culture in the locker room by selecting high character young players with histories of leadership. Did Brailford have that role while at OKST? If not, that’s fine, but then how else do you think he can contribute to a winning culture with the team?
Micah Allen: He was always pumped. He brings an excitement to a defense. He was definitely in that role at Oklahoma State; he was always the one pumping his arms up and down telling to crowd to get loud. He’s also been in that team captain role, which speaks to his leadership ability. I think he’ll bring a positive attitude to the locker room and contribute to a winning culture. He was on a team in college that preached culture so much it was on Mike Gundy press conference bingo boards.
Gabe Ward: While Brailford is likely going to be at least 4th on the depth chart at the position, if he had the opportunity to consistently get on the field, which are the areas you think he would succeed in?
Micah Allen: If he could get consistently on the field on special teams I think he could cause some chaos. He’s got the skill set to bring some physicality to the special teams. Also, he has speed at 250 pounds, so another area where I think he would succeed if he was given the opportunity is pass rushing. He’s so quick off the line and and he can definitely get to quarterbacks. I know I keep preaching that, but it’s just who he is.
Gabe Ward: Could you give us a few words to describe the player the Redskins are getting in Brailford?
Micah Allen: They’re getting a steal of a player — someone who is going to grow into an elite football player, I think.
They’re also getting a great guy in Brailford that will bring a lot to their locker room.
I want to thank Micah again for her time spent answering my questions about Jordan Brailford. Brailford was one of my favorite ‘mid-round’ EDGE prospects, and I was ecstatic when the Redskins took him with their last pick. I think Micah provided great insights into what a value he is. As a formatting note, I would have liked to include Micah in the main byline, as I have done with other authors from other blogs in years past, but the new editor restricts permissions to do that in a new way. This is, at minimum, a 50/50 endeavor, with the bulk of the thinking and writing coming from the people gracious enough to answer questions, and I want to make sure they get their credit. I’ll likely be including this note for the rest of the series.