The Redskins' two free agent signings on the defensive line are coming off big years, and head coach Jay Gruden believes that can continue their upward trend in Washington.
Head coach Jay Gruden explained at last week's NFL Annual Meetings that the Redskins' strategy for upgrading the defensive line in free agency was practical. They would attempt to lure in a high-profile and lucrative player or find two slightly cheaper players with competing skill levels.
Defensive end Calais Campbell was indeed on the Redskins' list, but after he signed with Jacksonville, Washington found two players – Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain -- they believe can be extremely productive together on the defensive line this season.
"Would you rather have one or would you rather have two good ones?" Gruden asks. "I think we feel good about the two good ones we got."
McGee caught Gruden's attention on film during an October game against San Diego last season, when the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder racked up 1.5 sacks , four tackles and two forced fumbles.
The Oklahoma product spent time playing with Redskins left tackle Trent Williams for a couple seasons with the Sooners and also won a state championship in wrestling during his senior season at Muskogee High School, two factors that helped his attractiveness.
"He's a big, physical guy and he's an interesting player," Gruden said. "I think he hasn't tapped on his potential yet. He's strong, he's an ex-wrestler, obviously Trent [Williams] knew him very well, had good things to say about him…from Oklahoma. I'm excited about him. Did a little bit of work on him, with people who coached him out there and had a lot of good things to say about him. We're excited about him."
In his four seasons in the league, McGee has totaled 44 tackles and three sacks, two and a half of which came last season in just nine games.
"They are going to see a man hungry out there hunting, pursuing the ball and trying to bring greatness back here to the Redskins," McGee said in a "Redskins Nation" interview.
McClain has had a similar rise in production during the last few seasons with the Cowboys, after struggling during his first four years in the NFL, splitting time with Carolina, New England and Houston.
The Redskins have signed defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Take a look at photos from McClain's career.
After missing the majority of 2015, McClain bounced back last season. He started in 15 games and posted career highs in tackles (40), sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (2), becoming a reliable presence up the middle at age 28.
"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 the defensive line is in a state of flux – losing Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois, banking on the emergence of Anthony Lanier II and Matt Ioannidis, transitioning to a new defensive line coach in Jim Tomsula – Gruden has confidence that someone such as McClain will take on a leadership role and adapt nicely to the culture the team has been establishing the last couple of years.
Both McGee and McClain expressed their excitement to play under Tomsula, too, and are ready to grow into what the Redskins hope will be consecutive seasons playing at a high level.
"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 of McClain. "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."