Yesterday I took a hardy look at the Washington Redskins offense and went over what I'd do with that squad if I were Bruce Allen.
Today I'm going to do the same with the defense and special teams.
Since it's easier and shorter, I'll begin with special teams.
Honestly there are only three special team spots a GM needs to be worried about. The kicker, punter and return man.
That last one is easy. It's Brandon Banks. Next.
At the kicker position, we currently have the scapegoat for Sunday's loss, as well as the loss to the Texans, Graham Gano.
I know a lot of people are ready to run him out of town, but I'm going to do the opposite, I'm going to keep him in the offseason. I may bring in some competition for training camp, but I'd at least let him try and prove himself up to that point.
Why would I do this when he leads the NFL with 10 misses this season? Two reasons. First, he's a young kicker, and with any young player you're going to have mistakes, some bigger than others.
Second, the coach really likes him and sees a lot of upside. So unless there is a kicker available in free agency that is lights-out accurate I'll defer to my coaching staff.
But like I said I'd bring in competition for Gano during camp, and after this season he'd have a short leash next year if he makes the team.
On special teams my biggest concern is at punter. Sure the Redskins have already released Hunter Smith. Most fans think it is solely for the the botched hold on Sunday, but honestly I think that was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
Smith has been a very inconsistent punter for the Redskins this year. In fact his punting has hurt the Redskins gravely in close games when it comes to field position.
In Detroit he was downright dreadful booting balls out of bounds and punting it very short. Part of what caused the Redskins to lose that game was field position. We'd have a short punt and the Lions were a first down or two away from field goal position and if they didn't make it that far they were at least able to pin us deep in our zone with a punt.
A punter might not seem all that important, especially since you don't want to punt at all, but in close games like the one in Detroit, Chicago, and other close games it all comes down to field position sometimes and having a good punter could mean the difference in some of those games.
Currently at punter we have Sam Paulescu, and before I say we need to go get a punter we'll have to see how he finishes the season, but like the kicker position I'd probably bring in competition for training camp.
Key position on defense or special teams that needs addressed in the off-season?
Now on to the defense.
First off, they stink. They're near the bottom in nearly every category accept points allowed, which is surprising to say the least.
They've kind of been a "bend but not break" defense all season. A team will drive down the field but then the defense will buckle down and only allow three points.
That would be wonderful if we had the New England Patriots' offense, but we don't, we have our offense.
An offense that, if we're lucky, will score 17 points a game.
Our defense can ill-afford to give up too many field goals and the occasional touchdown.
Our defense needs to play like the defense it's modeled after and that's the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers offense can get away with scoring under 20 points a game because most likely their defense is going to allow less than 14 points.
So, where to start?
Honestly, if I could, I'd blow up the entire defense and keep LaRon Landry, Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall and LaRenzo Alexander.
Everyone else I'd cut.
However I can't do that so I'll have patch a couple holes this offseason and then finish the rest of the work the next.
First things first, to make the 3-4 defense work I need a nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu isn't cutting the mustard. He's getting blown off the ball way too much and isn't absorbing blockers like a nose tackle should.
Also, I'd need to ship Albert Haynesworth elsewhere. Hopefully I'd get at least a fourth-round pick for him, but at this point I'd take almost anything.
So to replace Kemoeatu I'd first look to free agency to see if there was anyone out there to fill that position. And if there wasn't a guy there that would work I'd turn to the draft obviously.
If there is one worthy of a second-round pick, that's where mine would go. Like I said yesterday, if you wanted to be a championship team in the NFL it starts with both lines.
I'm going to want both of them to be young and strong for years to come.
At defensive ends I've haven't been blown away by Adam Carriker or Kendric Golston, but I have higher priorities on defense than ends in the 3-4 so unless I can get a lot of value for young players in free agency those two are safe.
Linebacker however needs some work.
Fletcher, Alexander and Orakpo I'd keep. Both Orakpo and Fletcher are automatic starters in my book. I like Alexander's hustle and I'd keep him on the roster but if I could get someone better to play his position in free agency I'd jump at the chance.
Our other starting linebacker, Rocky McIntosh, just seems lost in the 3-4, especially in pass coverage. He's been in on several tackles but he's not lighting it up like he should be. I'll be looking in the draft for someone to replace him.
Andre Carter is doing his best even though he's playing out of position, but he's also getting up there in years. I'd attempt to trade him to a contender who plays the 4-3 and hopeful I can get a fifth or sixth-round pick for him.
Cornerback has been a bit of a problem for us this season. Rogers has hands of stone, but is solid in coverage, and DeAngelo Hall has been a bit of a turnover machine this season.
Outside of those two I get a bit squeamish.
Though Philip Buchanon has shown signs of brilliance, I have cursed his play more than praised it this season.
Usually when a big play happens against the Redskins because of blown coverage you see good ol' 31 standing around looking clueless.
What this team needs as far as corners and safeties are guys who better grasp a zone defense. Hall and Rogers seems to understand it, so resigning Rogers would be a top priority for me.
Outside of LaRon Landry I'd be looking really hard for a cover safety.
Landry has done a great job coming up to the line and making hits on the running back or quarterback. Unfortunately whoever is playing safety behind him, be it Reed Doughty or Kareem Moore, they are a liability in coverage.
There are a lot of soft pockets out there in the zone, especially deep pockets. Whenever I see Buchanon and Doughty on the same side of the field I dread the deep ball.
I'm not trying to throw these players under the bus; unlike a lot of the guys on offense most of these guys are good football players, just not right for the 3-4 scheme.
If we continue to run the 3-4 we need players better suited for it. That means a bigger defensive line and linebackers who are just as comfortable in pass coverage as they are blitzing.
It's a good scheme that has shown bright spots, especially in the turnover aspect of the game; we just need the right guys in there.
Also think about this for a moment, inspite of being 32nd in passing yards allowed, and 31st in rushing yards allowed, the Redskins are 11th in points per game allowed and are in the top 20 in forced turnovers.
Imagine what this defense will look like when they add a few more pieces that fit to it.
I think if we stick with the 3-4 and keep adding key young players to it, in two years we'll look more like the Steelers than what we do now.