Quick Takes: Redskins' defense and O-line

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
9:25
AM ET
• The Redskins won't have a tough time replacing London Fletcher's 2013 production; he did not have a strong season. But replacing his leadership will be difficult and whoever the Redskins sign to take over his spot must have those skills. Fletcher's replacement probably won't be the same as his predecessor, but he does need to be a leader. The Redskins may re-sign Perry Riley who knows the defense, but he is a quiet guy better suited as a sidekick in this area.

[+] EnlargeLondon Fletcher
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIThe Redskins may need to look to free agency to replace London Fletcher's leadership.
• Here's what defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said on ESPN980 last week in a conversation with Doc Walker and Brian Mitchell about Fletcher: "I don't think I've ever been around a guy in 35 years that has the qualities you look for like him. When he's on the field he's outstanding. He's the smartest guy I've ever been around. When he's in the meeting room he's the ultimate guy."

• One player who has those qualities and will be a free agent? Jon Beason. I once spoke with someone who had worked with both Fletcher and Beason (did not coach them) and he felt Beason rated higher in preparation than even Fletcher. The problem with Beason now is that there are questions about his coverage skills. But he was very good against the run with the Giants this past season.

• Here's what Haslett told 980 about new coach Jay Gruden, who was his offensive coordinator in the United Football League, "You'll see a level-headed guy. You'll love the offense. He does multiple different things every week. He'll use our quarterback to the best of his ability. He'll take whatever they do best and use it. He's not going to find fault, he'll find what they do best."

• The Redskins will be at the scouting combine this week. I know a lot is made of 40-yard dash times, but that should only be a metric to see if a player plays as fast as he timed. There's an issue if the player looks slow on film, but fast in the 40. In that case? Stay away. Football is won with quick decisions, not with 40-yard dash times. If you're fast but make slow decisions, you'll soon be out of the league.

• After watching Buffalo's Jairus Byrd (a potential free agent), I was surprised to learn that he ran a 4.68 in the 40. That's not fast, but he more than compensates with knowledge and quick decisions.

• Gruden used bigger offensive linemen in Cincinnati, but that does not mean he'll necessarily look for bigger guards in the draft. The Redskins will use the same run game zone-blocking principles, though I'm sure Gruden will incorporate some of his beliefs as well. I'm sure they'll still look for some help in the interior.

• But if they did want bigger and wanted to promote from within, then this is a huge offseason for Josh LeRibeus. As a former third-round pick, he should be challenging for a starting job by his third season. LeRibeus had a terrible offseason in 2013 and took much of the year to return to his end-of-rookie-season form. If a team is doing a good job developing talent, then a player such as LeRibeus should be ready to play a lot more now. Yes, a lot of that is on him. If he has a good offseason, he could be a factor.

• But the way you help yourself when you need to cut players is by bumping up a young player. Otherwise, they can cut, say, Chris Chester and then have to find a somewhat expensive replacement. You're just spinning wheels after a while, in terms of creating cap space (which has typically been the Redskins' problem). It also limits a team's ability to then address other more costly issues.

• And, to reiterate, I would not take a flier on guard Richie Incognito. Football isn't played by choir boys, but there's a difference between being nasty and being disruptive. Incognito clearly is -- and has been -- the latter and has consistently hurt his own team. When a player's positives don't outweigh their disruptions, you let them go elsewhere.

• In watching games again from this past season, it's shocking how many tackles this defense missed –- the safeties in particular. Every team operates under the same CBA guidelines limiting the amount of contact in practices, so you can't blame that. When you consistently try to shoulder tackle or tackle too high, it sort of gets you in trouble. Or when you're just not good enough.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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