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Redskins looking to find running back at some point in draft

April 25, 2018

FILE - In this March 15, 2018, file photo, newly signed Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, left, shakes hands and poses with Doug Williams, the NFL football team's senior vice president of player personnel, during a news conference in Ashburn, Va. Acquiring Alex Smith filled a long-term need at quarterback the Redskins didn’t think Kirk Cousins was the right fit for. It’s not a great sign that Cousins led the Redskins in rushing touchdowns. So before introducing Smith, Williams glanced at him and said: “I promise you, we'll get the running back situation straight.” (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Acquiring Alex Smith filled a long-term need at quarterback the Washington Redskins didn’t think Kirk Cousins was the right fit for.

After signing Smith to a four-year extension worth $94 million, the Redskins then began looking at the other holes on their roster.

Super Bowl MVP QB-turned senior vice president of football operations Doug Williams said Smith looked at Washington’s weapons and offensive line before deciding to essentially complete the trade from Kansas City by agreeing to the extension.

Most things are fine on offense if oft-injured tight end Jordan Reed and the line anchored by left tackle Trent Williams stay healthy and new receiver Paul Richardson provides a speed threat along with high-jumper Josh Doctson and possession guy Jamison Crowder.

Then there’s the ground game, where only four NFL teams rushed for fewer yards than the Redskins with a combination of Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and third-down back Chris Thompson.

It’s not a great sign that Cousins led the Redskins in rushing touchdowns. So before introducing Smith, Williams glanced at him and said: “I promise you, we’ll get the running back situation straight.”

The draft gives Williams the opportunity to find that running back, even if it’s not in the first round with the 13th pick. The closest running back to making an immediate impact like Leonard Fournette for Jacksonville, Penn State star Saquon Barkley, will be long gone by then.

Georgia’s Sony Michel, N.C. State’s Jaylen Samuels, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley or even Fordham’s Chase Edmonds could be later-round targets for Washington, which traded its third-rounder in the Smith deal but has seven more selections after No. 13: Nos. 44 (second), 109 (fourth), 142 and 163 (fifth), 205 (sixth) and 231 and 241 (seventh).

“Everybody wants to upgrade, and we want to upgrade everywhere if we could,” Williams said Tuesday while praising Perine and Thompson when healthy. “Running back is a place that we always say we need a little more help.”

Going defense in the first round for the second consecutive year is a strong possibility with needs along the defensive line and in the secondary.

Landing Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen at pick 17 a year ago was a coup for the Redskins, but his injury exposed their lack of depth.

“When we lost Jonathan, things really seemed to kind of change, and that’s unfortunate,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “Jon was as advertised in how he played the run and how he played the pass and how he got after the passer, so his loss was huge.”

Defensive tackles Vita Vea from Washington and Da’Ron Payne from Alabama are projected to be mid-first-round picks.

Some other things to consider for the Redskins at the draft:

SECONDARY CONCERNS

Beyond top cornerback Josh Norman and safety D.J. Swearinger, Washington has question marks all over its secondary and is counting on young and/or injury-prone players to take a lot of snaps. Second-year cornerback Fabian Moreau and safety Montae Nicholson, converted receiver Quinton Dunbar and recently signed Orlando Scandrick are in the mix, but the Redskins could use some help there.

If a defensive back such as Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Florida State’s Derwin James are available at 13, the Redskins could make an immediate upgrade in an important spot.

ONE BIG HOLE

Left guard is the only position on the roster that doesn’t have a likely starter already unless Washington’s front office experiences a change of heart and brings back Shawn Lauvao. Getting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson would be a dream at 13, though it’s more likely the Redskins find a fit later in the draft after doing the same with center Chase Roullier last year.

Williams allowed for the possibility that Arie Kouandjio could start at left guard.

“We’re not going in saying, ‘We got to get a guard,’” he said. “That’s not where we are at this point because we got enough guys around here that if we have to play the game, if everybody was healthy today with what we have, we would have no problem lining up playing the game.”

TIGHT END INSURANCE

While Reed is an elite talent and a matchup nightmare, injuries limited him to six games last season and 12 in 2016, second tight end Vernon Davis is 34, 2017 pick Jeremy Sprinkle is unproven and Niles Paul is gone. All that makes tight end an intriguing position for the Redskins if they can find someone there who can catch passes and serve as a blocker.

LINEBACKER DEPTH

Washington’s starting linebacking group is set with Zach Brown and Mason Foster inside and Kerrigan and Preston Smith outside. Beyond that, depth is lacking, making soon-to-be 20-year-old Tremaine Edmunds out of Virginia Tech is a possibility in the first round. A hybrid linebacker/safety would also help the Redskins replace 2016 third-rounder Su’a Cravens, who left the team while contemplating retirement last season and was traded to Denver.

HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS

Right guard Brandon Scherff has been a no-doubter making the Pro Bowl twice since going fifth overall in 2015.

Thompson was the Redskins’ offensive MVP last season after being a fifth-round pick in 2013, and 2016 fifth-rounder Matt Ioannidis could be a fixture on the defensive line for years.

Misses are far more frequent for Washington in recent years, including most of the 2014 class. WR Josh Doctson, a first-rounder in 2016, is still a question mark.

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