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Washington Redskins' draft needs: Defense a major priority

Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.

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The Washington Redskins have been extremely active in free agency, finalizing their most notable move -- signing DeSean Jackson -- this week. Teaming the three-time Pro Bowler with Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed and, of course, Robert Griffin III, surely has first-year coach Jay Gruden giddy about his offense's potential.

But Gruden can't be as excited about not having a first-round draft pick (traded to the St. Louis Rams in the RGIII deal) or the defense he's inherited. Washington tied for second to last in points allowed (with the Chicago Bears) and gave up an NFL-most 23 rushing touchdowns last season. Bringing in Pro Bowl tackle Jason Hatcher and re-signing Brian Orakpo should help the unit improve, but the Redskins still need to add more talent at all three levels of their defense if they want to climb out of the NFC East's basement. Despite not having a selection on Day 1, they still have enough picks on Days 2 and 3 to find some upgrades.

Here are four positions of need for Washington -- and four prospects who could fill them.

1) Offensive line


If you look at the offensive line Gruden had with the Cincinnati Bengals, you'll see his system calls for more size and physicality than what the Redskins had under Mike Shanahan. With this in mind, I could see them using their top pick (No. 34 overall) to upgrade at right tackle. Cyrus Kouandjio, once touted as a top prospect, saw his stock fall after an underwhelming junior season at Alabama. If Kouandjio isn't selected in the first round, Washington might be able to draft the 6-foot-7, 322-pounder, who has as much potential as any offensive lineman in this draft class not named Greg Robinson. Kouandjio's sophomore tape showed a powerful player who created movement at the point of attack in the running game.


2) Cornerback


DeAngelo Hall re-upped with Washington on a four-year contract, but the Pro Bowl corner is entering his 12th season and will turn 31 in November. The Redskins do have second-year pro David Amerson, who has plenty of upside, and free-agent addition Tracy Porter. Still, with the depth at the position in this year's class, they can look to the future and grab a player like Pierre Desir in the third round. The corner has ideal size (6-foot-1) and excellent ball skills as evidenced by his 13 interceptions during his two years at Lindenwood. He really opened eyes with his performance on the all-star circuit (East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl).

Path to the Draft
Airing weekdays at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network, "Path to the Draft" previews the 2014 NFL Draft by providing in-depth expert analysis of the top prospects and each team's needs.

» 'Path to the Draft' videos
» NFL Network broadcast schedule

3) Defensive line


The Hatcher acquisition was a step in the right direction, and the Redskins have the opportunity in May to keep the momentum going. If Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman falls out of the first round, I could see them taking him at No. 34 overall; he'd be an ideal defensive end in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. The 6-foot-6 first-team All-Big Ten selection is a frustrating player to watch on tape because you see flashes of dominant play accompanied by long dry spells. If he puts it all together, though, he can be a real force at the next level.


4) Inside linebacker


The Redskins addressed the position in free agency, bringing in Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton, but I still think they'll look to add depth here in the middle to late rounds. A player I really like is Montana's Jordan Tripp, who has a combination of size, range and athleticism that I think will translate well at the next level. The defender still needs to improve at taking on blockers, but he makes a lot of plays laterally because of his instincts and speed. He's very good in coverage, which is a huge boost for a unit that allowed the sixth-highest completion percentage in the NFL last season.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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