There are indeed some signs of optimism in our nation’s capital, at least when it comes to the football team. Yes, the Washington Redskins failed to defend their 2015 NFC East title, finishing in third place with an 8-7-1 record in a dramatically-improved division. But they have now posted consecutive winning seasons since 1996 and ’97. They appear to have the right man behind center in Kirk Cousins and the right guy running the show on the field in Jay Gruden, who recently received a contract extension. Washington’s offense figures to remain pretty potent despite a few new faces at wide receiver.

The issue, as usual, is the other side of the football. So what exactly will the Redskins do with the 17th overall selection and nine more after that in late April?

What the team needs

It’s almost tempting for team president Bruce Allen to use all 10 of the Washington Redskins draft choices on the defensive side of the football. All kidding aside, the club did fill some holes on the league’s 28th-ranked unit of each of the past two seasons. The free-agent additions of defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, along with inside linebacker Zach Brown and strong safety D.J. Swearinger ensured that the club addressed all three aspects of this area. Still, this is very far from a finished product and Allen must add a little more oomph to the three-man front.

In particular, the nose tackle spot needs to be addressed. It appears for now that Kedric Golston is not in the team’s 2017 plans following an injury-shortened seasons. And veteran Ziggy Hood doesn’t appear to be a permanent answer in the middle.

Top choices

A year ago, the franchise used its first-round pick on wide receiver Josh Doctson.

He struggled to get on the field during his rookie campaign but needs to change dramatically this upcoming season what with the departures of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. We bring up last year’s draft because it was once again kicked off by offense. All told, the Washington Redskins haven’t made a first-round selection on defense since 2011.

That’s the year they grabbed outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who hasn’t missed a game in his six seasons. The team needs that dominating presence inside to support McGee and McClain. Courtesy of CBS Sports and NFLDratScout.com, University of Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen is tops at his position. But he figures to be long gone by the time the Redskins pick at No. 17. That means either Malik McDowell (Michigan State) or Caleb Brantley (Florida) could be available when Allen and company are on the clock.

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