Washington Redskins: Caleb Brantley signing another solid move

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Caleb Brantley #57 of the Florida Gators celebrates a defensive stop during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Caleb Brantley #57 of the Florida Gators celebrates a defensive stop during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

The Washington Redskins made another solid move for their defensive front, bringing in former Florida Gators star Caleb Brantley.

The Washington Redskins finished off one of their best offseasons ever by signing a defensive tackle they almost drafted in 2017.

Redskins fans kept waiting for the front office to do something stupid. But, to our surprise, it never happened. On the contrary, Washington seemed to follow one good move with another. Until, as the first meaningful kickoff of the season quickly approaches, they have a team that commands respect from fans and opponents alike.

The latest move, the signing of former Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, is a fitting finale to a team that was assembled with profound insight and a great deal of foresight.

When this signing was first announced it was unclear whether the Redskins would, in fact, be able to hold onto Anthony Lanier. It seems clear now that the Redskins were all but certain they would be able to get Lanier onto IR.

Once that happened, even the most skeptical among us had to appreciate the artistry in this signing.

Brantley is a tremendous talent. Lest we forget, it was only a little more than a year ago that Brantley was considered one of the best defensive tackles in all of college football. It is not difficult to find writers and pundits speaking of Brantley’s early second round talent.

Many seem to have forgotten that prior to his untimely “off the field issues,” many draft boards had him going in the first round.

There is no doubt in my mind that had Jonathon Allen not inexplicably fallen all the way to the Redskins at pick number 17, Brantley would have been drafted by Washington in 2017. Whether they traded back in the first or took him in the second round it is clear the team was enamored with him as the 2017 draft approached.

Brantley, of course, spent last year with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were terrible last year, and that is a gross understatement.

They ranked at the bottom of the league in almost every statistical category, save one. The Cleveland Browns had the seventh best defense against the run in the entire NFL. Things like that tend to get overlooked when a team goes winless.

Other teams did not have too much to worry about when preparing to play the Browns.

Opponents did, however, find time to gameplan for Brantley. He was constantly double teamed by the oppositions offensive line. Double-teams are intentional. They don’t happen by accident. And they are not put into the plan unless the other team respects what the target of those double teams is capable of doing.

Anyone expecting Brantley to be inactive on game day doesn’t fully understand what the Redskins have in the former Florida Gator.

NFLDraftScout.com rated Brantley the best defensive tackle in the country against the run and had him graded right behind Jonathon Allen and Solomon Thomas. Furthermore, they commented:

"Brantley’s initial quickness and raw power help him create some highlight reel plays and he plays with the dogged determination and toughness that scouts will appreciate…has a team-first mindset (that) will make him a favorite with NFL coaches.NFL Draft Scout"

But still, some questioned whether, with Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, and Ziggy Hood, the team really needed another run stuffer. The answer is a resounding yes.

I was hoping, and wrote as much, that the team would keep Phil Taylor for just this reason. Forget for a minute that they were the worst in the league at stopping the run last year. What’s done is done.

All anyone needs to do to understand the value in the Brantley signing is to look at the Redskins 2018 schedule. The ‘Skins will play the top five rushing teams in the NFL this year and they will play two of them twice.

They play the number one rushing team in all of football — the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette — in Jacksonville. They also play the second-best rushing team (first in the NFC) in the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott.

They of course get to do this twice.

Likewise, they play the third best rushing team in the NFL (second in the NFC) twice when they line up against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Add to this the fourth-best rushing team in the NFL (3rd in the NFC) in the Carolina Panthers, and the fifth-best running team in the NFL (4th in the NFC) in the Saints and the need to stop the run clearly becomes the team’s number one priority.

This doesn’t even include two games against the New York Giants with their new superstar running back Saquon Barkley or their first game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals and David Johnson.

Johnson, who missed all but one game last year with a broken wrist, is one of the top five running backs in the league. Prior to last year’s injury, in 2016,  Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He is an absolute beast.

So are Fournette, Barkley, Jonathan Stewart, Elliott, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, not to mention Derrick Henry, Lamar Miller, D’onta Foreman, Devonta Freeman, and all of the other talented backs the Redskins will face. You get the picture

Fortunately, so did the Redskins front office. For all the criticism we have directed at Washington over the years for giving new meaning to the concept of boneheaded signings, we must give credit where credit is due.

The Redskins looked at that schedule, and the featured running backs in some of the most powerful rushing attacks in the NFL and they did everything they could to build a defense that could stop the run.

All things considered, the signing of Caleb Brantley wasn’t just a good signing, it was a great signing. The only downside could have been losing Anthony Lanier, and that didn’t happen. Of course, we’ll know a lot more after the Arizona game.

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One thing is certain: if a team has to play against some of the best running backs and best offensive lines in the game week in and week out, it sure helps to have the kind of formidable defensive line the Redskins have assembled.

To be sure, these teams are too good to be shut down completely. They will get their yards, but they won’t come easy.