Despite the injury to Reuben Foster, the Redskins defense will be just fine in 2019.
The Washington Redskins defense has been overhauled the past couple of years now with a good mix of proven veterans and young defensive studs. The Redskins have greatly upgraded the defensive side of the ball and are built to move forward from the loss of Reuben Foster.
The defense will be headlined by the leader and the longest-tenured Redskins defender in four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan, who is coming off his eighth straight season with over 7.5 sacks. After Kerrigan, there is a phrase you will hear over and over again at Redskins Park, and that is “Roll Tide”. The defense is loaded with five guys from Tuscaloosa, and for good reason; Alabama has been to the College Football Playoffs every year since the NCAA moved to that format.
Let’s start with the defensive line, in which the Redskins invested back-to-back first-round picks in Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. The defensive line was a big weakness not so long ago, but has become one of the strongest positions on the team. With Allen going into his third year and Payne entering his second, you can expect a jump in production from these two guys.
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The two Alabama products will be paired with Matt Ioannidis, who is fresh off his well-deserved extension. Ioannidis has quietly been wrecking offensive lines. The defensive line has hogs in the pit ready to step up in second-year pro Tim Settle and third-year guy Caleb Brantley. The young defensive line has shown promise and a strong work ethic. A good offseason from these guys can add to what is already a scary unit.
The Redskins linebacker crew has the biggest questions coming into the season. After two rocky seasons, the writing was on the wall for Zach Brown, who was released this offseason. Brown’s replacement was supposed to be talented Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, but he’s now done for the year with a torn ACL. The leader of the linebackers is eight-year pro Mason Foster, who is easily the most productive. This defense now hinges on Foster being a leader and staying healthy more than ever.
After Mason Foster, the Redskins have question marks. Shaun Dion Hamilton will be next man up, as Josh Harvey-Clemons is set at his nickel coverage spot and rookie Cole Holcomb is just supposed to provide speed and special teams help this season. Whoever the Redskins replace Reuben Foster with will have time; it’s only May and there are quality free agents and trade targets available. Bruce Allen and Co. must make a move. This team has the right pieces in play, but linebacker depth is now a huge concern.
On a lighter note, this is where the fun begins, even when talking about the Redskins linebackers. I’ve already mentioned Ryan Kerrigan, but you can expect more of the same from him, as he’s second in career sacks for the franchise. As for my new favorite player who will be lining up opposite of Kerrigan, Montez Sweat is going to tear up the league.
At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, with long arms, and a 4.41 40-yard dash, Sweat has the rare traits to go with his impressive College production. Now, the NFL is a different animal, but so is Sweat, and as long as his medical concern isn’t an issue, he has the talent to take this defense to the next level. With former Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in the mix as well, the depth looks good, and the front seven talent has the potential to take this team to the next level!
The biggest news this offseason came in the form of strong safety Landon Collins and his massive payday. Ever since the tragic loss of the great Sean Taylor, the Redskins have been looking for a tone setter, and the All-Pro Alabama product is that and some.
The Redskins got their guy for years to come, and it allows them to shift their focus to other needs. The secondary still needs some help but for now, they have Josh Norman, whom Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle ranked as the fifth-best man coverage cornerback last season. Quinton Dunbar plays opposite of Norman and should provide quality coverage if healthy.
The Redskins cornerback depth is in question, as it comes to the formerly retired Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and unproven youngsters like Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman, Danny Johnson, and Adonis Alexander. Someone must step up, or the team needs to make a move to give the Redskins their missing piece. At the other safety spot, you should expect Montae Nicholson to step in and contribute (assuming he stays out of trouble).
As you can see, the Redskins have spots that could use an upgrade, but not many. Now, I know injuries have piled up the past couple of years, but barring any more injuries, the Redskins have the talent to be very good. With a mix of young stars in the making, current Pro Bowlers, and quality veterans, the 2019 Washington Redskins have the formula for a top five defense. Can they get past the injury bug and make “good on paper” turn into consistent production on the field?