Now Redskins can focus on D in draft

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
8:00
AM ET
The Redskins have fixed their offense, or so they hope. They added a dynamic, playmaking receiver and now should -- I emphasize should because expectations have been dashed here before -- have an explosive offense.

A lot also depends on the development of quarterback Robert Griffin III. But this offseason has set up well for him: The Redskins hired a quarterback-friendly coach; he’s not rehabbing his knee; and he’s exerting more leadership in the offseason than he could last year, organizing a gathering in Arizona and helping recruit free agents. And now they've handed him an explosive receiver in DeSean Jackson.

And when you look at the offense, you have to look at the age of the nucleus: Griffin is 24, Jackson is 27, running back Alfred Morris is 25, receiver Pierre Garcon is 27, receiver Andre Roberts is 26, left tackle Trent Williams is 25, tight end Jordan Reed is 23.

It’s a nucleus that can grow -- and grow some more. Each of those players is either entering his prime or a couple of years away. Yes, the Redskins could find a right tackle to groom in the draft, if they don’t like Tom Compton’s potential should Tyler Polumbus falter. Yes, they could add a young, speedy back if they’re not sold on Chris Thompson’s durability.

But Jackson’s arrival enables the Redskins to focus hard on defense in the draft. The players they signed in free agency -- lineman Jason Hatcher, linebackers Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton and safety Ryan Clark -- are all designed to help right now more than in the future. Only Hatcher has signed for more than one season -- and he’ll turn 32 in July.

Now, however, the Redskins can -- need to -- use the draft to fill in the gaps and plan for the future defensively. The offense may be young, but the defense has five potential starters age 30 or over. It also has four 25 or younger. The defense is in transition, but the draft must be a way to serve as a bridge.

The Redskins need to find another young safety to develop. They could always add another linebacker, especially with questions about Keenan Robinson after torn pectoral muscles his first two seasons. He could be a future starter, but it’s tough to predict (though every player I’ve spoken with about him in the last year raves about his ability). He might also be limited to third-down and special-teams duty. If Jordan, 28, or Sharpton, 26, wins the starting job and shows something -- and Robinson doesn’t project as a starter -- then he could be re-signed. Point is, the Redskins have options here, but these players must prove themselves as starters.

But Washington can address this spot in the draft if it wants. There are potential safety targets in the second and third rounds; it’s a good draft for corners. And the Redskins could use more depth at safety -- they need backups who contribute more on special teams. Get younger on defense; develop better: That should be the mantra next month.

They can start grooming more players now to make sure they don’t face another defensive overhaul in a year or two. They have a chance to begin that process in May. They need to make it work. If they do, this will have been a productive offseason.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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