ASHBURN, Va. -- The 2015 class looked solid last season, though there were question marks. Some of those questions are starting to be answered -- and in a good way for the Washington Redskins.
General manager Scot McCloughan’s first draft class has produced three starters -- four if you include No. 1 slot receiver Jamison Crowder. All four of the picks have played a role in Washington’s 4-2 start.
The Redskins drafted 10 players last season, with four of them no longer on the roster. They released Evan Spencer, lost Tevin Mitchel via waivers, and Austin Reiter was claimed off the practice squad last month by Cleveland. Safety Kyshoen Jarrett would have been a key part of the defense if not for the nerve damage in his right arm.
Otherwise, McCloughan’s first class as general manager has helped quite a bit:
Guard Brandon Scherff (first round): He’s coming off a terrific game where he neutralized Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, sometimes with a little help from the center but not always. Cox really only got around him once and his better pressures came when facing left guard Shawn Lauvao.
The question always will be whether you ever take a guard fifth overall -- and not addressing the defensive line at some point still hurts them. But you make the pick and move on, and Scherff has played well. There’s been a big change in his game from when he first entered the NFL, as you would imagine. He can strike quicker and tighter with his hands and he does so with an excellent base, allowing him to anchor. In fact, the one time he was driven back by Cox occurred because he had lost his base. Otherwise, Scherff was in control as he has been in most games this season. He also blocked well on the move. He’s a good player.
Linebacker Preston Smith (second): He has only one sack and continues to be someone who is always thisclose to a sack. But Smith does help against the run and has done a solid job setting the edge. He’s playing because he deserves to. Also, his versatility helps -- not many outside linebackers can be lined up over the nose as Smith has been in one defensive look. He’s still a developing pass rusher, even though he recorded eight sacks last season.
Running back Matt Jones (third): He’s rushed for 433 yards, only 67 fewer than during his rookie season. Not a whole lot has changed here in terms of analysis: When he’s decisive, he can be very good, but when he’s not and he shuffles his feet then he’s a small back in a big back’s body. He’s received good blocking and has taken advantage, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Receiver Jamison Crowder (fourth): He’s been a solid slot receiver for them, with 24 catches and three touchdowns this season. Plus he’s returned 10 punts for a 20.7 average and one score. Crowder also is a willing blocker -- two of his blocks vs. Philadelphia helped open good cutback lanes. A definite keeper.
Lineman Arie Kouandjio (fourth): He has started only one game in two years, but that’s as much a function of the depth they finally have along the line. Kouandjio has size and power and could take another year or so to develop. If nothing else, he provides depth, something the Redskins haven’t always had. The Redskins tried him at tackle in camp, but that was a tougher position for him
Linebacker Martrell Spaight (fifth): He’s a backup and special-teamer and showed promise this summer that he could possibly develop into more. He’s not there yet and still must improve in coverage. But, again, if he develops into a core special-teamer he’ll end up as a good pick.