Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Redskins' 90-Man Roster Review: Defense


Next week, the Washington Redskins will begin the first of four weeks of OTAs at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

While no live contact is permitted during this time frame, 7-on-7, 9-on-9 and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

In preparation of seeing the team in a practice setting like this for the first time this year, here's a quick look at where the defense stands on the current 90-man roster (note that some players may not participate depending on where they are in their rehab programs after injuries):

Defensive Linemen (10): Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier II, Tim Settle, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor Sr., Ondre Pipkins, Tavaris Barnes Sr.
After selecting 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Defensive MVP Daron Payne with the No. 13-overall pick, OTAs will provide the first opportunity to see the 20-year-old alongside his former Alabama teammate again in Jonathan Allen.

"I can remember watching Jonathan and I loved Jonathan Allen but I don't know who this 94 guy is. He was still an underclassman last year and it was Daron," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "Putting some of that tape on from a year ago and watching those two guys side-by-side working, it's tough sledding. They are both very strong at the point of attack."

As for Allen, OTAs will likely be the first time he's participated in football drills since being placed on Injured Reserve last October.

Allen appeared in five games during his rookie campaign, recording 10 tackles with one sack before suffering a Lisfranc injury.

"I'm so excited," Allen told recently about returning to the field. "I can't tell you how much I miss it, and how much I can't wait to just get back out there and be a part of the team again, you know, because it is different. You're a part of the team but you don't feel like you're truly a part of the team when you're not on the field and you're not dying in practice with your guys, so that's definitely the stuff that I miss."

The Redskins also selected Tim Settle in the 2018 NFL Draft to join a group that includes Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier II, both of whom experienced upticks in performance in 2017.

Linebackers (14): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee, Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Martrell Spaight, Zach Vigil, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Pete Robertson, Vontae Diggs, Jerod Fernandez, Alex McCalister
The Redskins were able to bring back two important pieces to the defense this offseason in the re-signings of Zach Brown and Mason Foster.

Foster, who is entering his fourth season with Washington, appeared in five games with four starts in 2017 before suffering a season-ending torn labrum.

Brown, meanwhile, was the NFL's leading tackler for most of 2017 before being sidelined the final three games of the season. Still, the 28-year-old recorded a team-high 127 tackles.

"I think it's important," Gruden said recently of bringing both players back. "I think Zach Brown's first time in our defense making the calls and all that stuff, having Mason by him making the calls, helping him along the way. The same thing two years in a row, I think both of them will be a lot better. I think Mason makes Zach better, I think Zach makes Mason better and I think both of them together makes our defense better."

Along with Brown and Foster at the inside linebacker positon, Washington also returns Martell Spaight, Zach Vigil and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

Spaight (75) and Vigil (59) both recorded single-season career highs in total tackles while Harvey-Clemons appeared in 10 games during his rookie season. They'll be joined by 2018 sixth-round pick Shaun Dion Hamilton.

The outside linebackers corps will once again be headlined by three-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan.

Entering the 2018 season, Kerrigan is just 9.5 sacks away from tying Charles Mann for the second-most sacks in franchise history.

The Redskins believe that Kerrigan will benefit this year from Preston Smith's continued progression along with a significant step up for Ryan Anderson.

"I think he's primed for a real big year," Kerrigan said recently of Smith. "I mean, he's shown a lot of ability these first three years. He's been quite productive. But I think this is the year where he can really make a name for himself, really be an impact, a really dominant player. I'm excited to see. I know he's been working hard this offseason. I think this is the year where Preston takes that next step."

This year, the trio is joined by veteran Pernell McPhee, who signed with Washington in free agency.

Defensive Backs (15): Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Joshua Holsey, Greg Stroman, Danny Johnson, Ranthony Texada, Kenny Ladler, D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke, Fish Smithson, Quin Blanding

As Josh Norman heads into his third season with Washington, the Redskins will have a new starting cornerback opposite him following the departure of Bashaud Breeland.

The Redskins signed fourth-year cornerback Quinton Dunbar to a multi-year extension in January following a season in which he recorded 30 tackles with eight passes defensed and one interception in 15 appearances with four starts.

"To only be playing cornerback for a couple years in his life and you see the progression he's made at such a rapid rate, I think to let him walk in free agency would be a mistake," Gruden said of Dunbar. "I think the skill set that he has with his length and his speed is a rare combination and he's only going to get better."

Additionally, the Redskins are confident that 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau can produce in a bigger role as well.

"He's got a great skill set to do whatever you want him to do," Gruden said. "He's physical and can run really, really fast, so I'm excited to see him with more opportunity and more reps."

The Redskins also have to determine who will become the primary nickel corner after Kendall Fuller was part of the trade that brought Alex Smith to Washington.

At safety, the Redskins believe that a healthy Montae Nicholson could make the difference in the defensive backfield.

"Montae I think is really an important piece," Gruden said. "Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground. He makes all the defensive backs a little bit more comfortable and take a little bit more chances because he's back there roaming. We need him back there.

"D.J., I think when we have a defined role for him, I think he'll be much better and much more comfortable," Gruden continued. "Having to play free, strong, make all the calls, I think we put a little bit too much on his plate. Not that he couldn't handle it, but I'd like to try to identify his role a little bit more clear this year instead of having to move him around."

Washington also re-signed Desahzor Everett before drafting Troy Apke in the fourth round and signing college free agent Quin Blanding as well.