Go back to the start of free agency. Remember the landscape leading up the draft. Just about every pundit, football thinker, fan and shaman believed the Washington Redskins needed defensive line improvements. Other areas required a boost, but in terms of star power and depth, DL topped the list.
Based on the quiet moves this off-season, wow did the Redskins braintrust not agree with that perception.
Maybe a prominent free agent target got away. Maybe a desired prospect was snatched just before their turn. Regardless, the Redskins made no big splashes with this unit. From the team's perspective, the moves they made caused more than a mere ripple.
"Yeah, I think you talk about a big splash and a high-paid free agent but I think we made some splashes," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said at last week's optional team activities.
Even as two 2015 starters - Terrance Knighton and Jason Hatcher - moved on, Washington's main additions were a fifth-round pick Matt Ioannidis) and a handful of cost-effective veterans (Kendall Reyes, Ziggy Hood). Linebacker Trent Murphy is packing on pounds for a move to the defensive end.
Nothing mentioned in the previous will have oddsmakers sharply change any opinions on the Redskins forecast. We'll see about Ioannidis, but the others, including nose tackle Kedric Golston, are rotational pieces.
"We don’t have a big named pro bowler at defensive tackle in the interior and that’s fine, but we are going to have four, five, or six of these guys that are going to play compete and play well," Gruden continued.
Perhaps Washington felt those additions were wise because of the potential upside with the returning players.
"We have [end] Stephen Paea coming off of injury. We have [Chris] Baker coming back, Ricky [Jean Francois]," Gruden noted. "Now we add Junior Galette at defensive end, we got [Ryan] Kerrigan; we got Preston Smith who you watch him out there he looks pretty dang good."
Those last three names were designed to play linebacker last season with defensive end duties in nickel coverage situations. Based on how often Washington likely uses pass defense looks to combat the NFL's aerial shows, expect those linebackers to play plenty with their hands in the dirt.
That doesn't change the lack of wow with the true linemen. That doesn't mean the organization is wrong to think this core can get the job done.
"I know the coaches and the GM are very comfortable with the guys we have here," Baker said. "We have a lot of guys who were first-round draft picks and veterans who were on other teams and had a lot of success.
"Our group will be a strong unit on this team."
Just don't expect major splash, for better or worse.
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