Two de­fen­sive tack­les signed for good price

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

At the start of the NFL new year, the Redskins were need­ier along the de­fen­sive line than any­where else. Thus, some big names were thrown around, would-be heroes that the team could sign and im­prove with, dras­ti­cally and im­me­di­ately.

“Ob­vi­ously we talked about Calais Camp­bell and didn’t get that one done,” coach Jay Gru­den said last week from the NFL’s an­nual meet­ings.

Yes, Camp­bell, the for­mer Ari­zona Car­di­nal player who gar­nered heavy spec­u­la­tion as a Redskins free agency target, ul­ti­mately signed for four years and $60 mil­lion ($30 mil­lion guar­an­teed) with the Jack­sonville Jaguars.

In­stead, the Redskins wound up adding two de­fen­sive tack­les: Ter­rell McClain, from Dal­las, for four years and $21 mil­lion, with $10.5 mil­lion guar­an­teed, and Stacy McGee, from the Raiders, for five years, $25 mil­lion, with $9 mil­lion guar­an­teed.

“We also knew that we had to try to pack­age a cou­ple guys to­gether and those were the top two guys we were try­ing to get if we didn’t land the big fish,” Gru­den said. “Which, once we knew we couldn’t do that we moved along quickly.

“Would you rather have one or would you rather have two good ones? And I think we feel good about the two good ones we got.”

In McClain, Gru­den feels he’s get­ting a player just hit­ting his stride in the NFL. McClain will be 29 by the time the sea­son be­gins but, in his sixth sea­son last year, had by far the most pro­duc­tion of his ca­reer (39 tack­les, 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fum­bles).

“You know the thing about McClain is he’s, he didn’t do a whole lot his first cou­ple years but he just came on like gang­busters,” Gru­den said.

“I like the fact that guys con­tinue to stay with it and work and you see their work pay off. Their devel­op­ment, some­times their devel­op­ment doesn’t hap­pen un­til age 27, 28, 29 and it just hits and it clicks and he is a force to be reck­oned with as far as his abil­ity to track down plays and hus­tle.”

While McClain may have come on strong ath­let­i­cally, Gru­den also likes that he’s had time to sim­mer and de­velop as a locker room guy.

“I think he was a leader amongst that de­fen­sive line room. I know that if you come from Dal­las and you play for Rod Marinelli you’re go­ing to have what it takes to be a de­fen­sive line­man,” Gru­den said. “You’re go­ing to play hard, you’re go­ing to do things the right way and then it will be an easy tran­si­tion be­cause we have a de­fen­sive line coach here who’s go­ing to ex­pect the same things in a big way. He’ll fit right in.”

Gru­den said he sees sim­i­lar po­ten­tial in McGee, but the 27-year-old only played in nine games last sea­son. McGee has been a ca­reer backup and is con­sid­ered best against the run but iffy as a pass rusher, though that de­pic­tion con­trasts with how he was used in his best game last sea­son, against San Diego, which Gru­den ref­er­enced re­peat­edly.

“Well, [Stacy] McGee is a guy that can play dif­fer­ent spots and you watch him in San Diego get a sack and a half and was re­ally dis­rup­tive in the pass­ing game, but he’s a big, phys­i­cal guy and he’s an in­ter­est­ing player. I think he hasn’t tapped on his po­ten­tial yet,” Gru­den said.

The Raiders played both three- and four-man de­fen­sive fronts but, against the Charg­ers, McGee did his dam­age lined up as an end in 4-3 pack­ages. On a play that led to a strip-sack of quar­ter­back Philip Rivers, McGee lined up as a seven-tech­nique and beat his tackle on an in­side counter move af­ter the tight end re­leased away from him. He fin­ished the game with four tack­les, 1.5 sacks and two forced fum­bles — im­pres­sive for any­one, and es­pe­cially for a player who tal­lied 17 tack­les, 2.5 sacks and two forced fum­bles over the course of the en­tire year.

In an in­ter­view with ESPN 980 ear­lier this month, new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky said that he views McClain and McGee as “book­ends” when the team is in its base 3-4. This, of course, begs the ques­tion of who the Redskins will use as a nose tackle, es­pe­cially with Baker gone.

“Right now, we might be in a sit­u­a­tion where we’re look­ing for a nose in the draft,” Manusky said.

The prob­lem is the lack of elite prospects suited to play the nose; there aren’t many in this year’s crop. De­fen­sive line coach Jim Tom­sula, how­ever, promised Gru­den that he could mold a draft pick or cur­rent player on the ros­ter for the spot.

“Coach [Jim] Tom­sula has as­sured me that he will find a nose guard, [and] he’ll make a nose guard. If you look at his track record, [and] you look at the nose guards [that] he’s had, none of them have been pri­or­ity first-round draft choices,” Gru­den said. “He’s made nose guards. He coaches that po­si­tion ex­tremely well, and I have faith that he’ll do that.”

The ma­jor ques­tion, of course, is if McClain, McGee, and what­ever nose­tackle-to-be-named-later the Redskins come up with will ex­ceed what the Redskins were able to do in 2016, when they em­ployed Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Fran­cois.

Im­prove­ments else­where on de­fense should help the de­fen­sive line, but the unit was poor last sea­son and, if this year’s group puts on a re­peat per­for­mance, calls for a big-name sav­ior will come again this time next off­sea­son.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Washington Redskins de­fen­sive tackle Ter­rell McClain’s 39 tack­les, 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fum­bles last sea­son were the most pro­duc­tive of his ca­reer.

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