Redskins.com caught up with NFL Network's Mike Garafolo at the 2017 Senior Bowl to discuss the Redskins' recent coaching moves, potential draft direction and more.
If the Washington Redskins go defense-heavy in the 2017 NFL Draft, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo won't be shocked.
"I'll say if 75 percent of their picks this year are defensive picks I wouldn't be surprised even a little bit," Garafolo told Redskins.com at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "Because that's the impression that I get. That they are really going to focus on the defensive side of the ball this year. Not just in free agency but also the draft. I know Scot McCloughan and his crew are here looking hard at a lot of the defensive players because that defense last year was not where they want it to be."
To help bolster the defensive unit, the Redskins could select a few players that are in attendance at this week's Senior Bowl. Both Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith have been recent Senior Bowl attendees, and Garafolo sees this week as "extremely important" in their road to the NFL Draft.
"A lot of these guys [talent evaluators] want to see what they're able to do in one-on-one type situations instead of in a game where you can kind of get lost," Garafolo said. "And listen, sometimes vice versa. Sometimes guys…I was just talking to a head coach here earlier today who said, 'sometimes this guy won't flash in one-on-ones, but he's a guy who fits the glove.' That's the term that he used. You want to see them both in individual, how he works during the week, and also how he can work in a system with other guys around him.
The Redskins struggled on the defense throughout the 2016 season, finishing with a 28th-overall defensive ranking.
While Washington has veteran pieces in place that it can build around, they decided to make coaching changes, as defensive coordinator Joe Barry, defensive line coach Robb Akey and defensive backs coach Perry Fewell.
After an extensive search for the next defensive coordinator, it was outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky who was promoted to the position.
Prior to joining the Redskins' coaching staff in 2016, Manusky has previous defensive coordinator experience with the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts.
"They want to really build this thing," Garafolo said of the defensive unit. "Especially now with Greg Manusky, to build this defense in his mind and not having to change schemes. Staying with the 3-4 is going to be beneficial for them and some of their younger guys that they won't have to change it up too much."
Along with the promotion of Manusky, the team also decided to bump up Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach – a role he served in for two seasons – to offensive coordinator to replace Sean McVay.
"It's good to have guys that have that experience and not have first-time guys when you're a team like the Redskins who are not rebuilding, you're not starting anew, you're looking to compete, you're looking to build on what you've already done," Garafolo said. "You're that team that's right there and now you're looking to make the next step. So it's good to have guys who have previous experience as coordinators.
"Sean McVay is an excellent offensive coordinator. So that's going to be a big question mark. Can they continue to do the things they did offensively especially if they lose some pieces on offense in free agency. Which I expect to happen because you just can't re-sign everybody. It'll be an interesting side of the ball to watch for Washington next year."
One of those players that could hit the open market from the offensive side of the football is quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Garafolo believes that the Redskins will have suitors interested in a tag-and-trade scenario, but Washington will ultimately bring him back on a long-term deal.
"There will be talk of trade or maybe sign elsewhere even if he's tagged and all that stuff, and that will be something that I'm sure Scot McCloughan will listen to, just to consider all of his options," Garafolo said. "But I believe in the end that he's still going to be the quarterback of this team. They'll have a nice long-term deal and they'll move forward."