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Flashback Friday—Arrington’s return sparks Skins’ win

Flashback Friday—Arrington’s return sparks Skins’ win

Yes, it's only Thursday but with the Independence Day holiday and most everything coming to a standstill as far as the Skins are concerned for another couple of weeks, here's FF a day early.

On October 21, 2001 the Redskins were 0-5 and staring 0-6 right in the face until LaVar Arrington made a play that turned around not just a game but the season as well.

From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z

FedEx Field—After three and a half quarters of football that strongly resembled the first 20 quarters of a dismal season, lightning struck twice for the Redskins in the final period as they tied the game on big plays by Lavar Arrington and Rod Gardner. Brett Conway's 23-yard field goal beat Carolina in overtime.

"You hate to say you don't believe it, but I really don't believe we won," Arrington said. "There were a lot of crazy turns and twists in that game."

Perhaps his ability to comprehend was somewhat affected by the concussion he had suffered in the first half. He went back into the locker room, rested until he regained his senses, and then went back into the game.

"I didn't think it would take this long, but it did," Marty Schottenheimer said. "We are growing. I'm more delighted, frankly, for the players than myself because they're the ones that had to endure in the circumstances that unfolded in the ballgame [today] and they wouldn't give up."

As mentioned, the game started out as though it would be no different from the futile experience of the first five games. The Panthers drove to a touchdown on their second possession after an exchange of punts gave them good field position at their own 47. It took them six plays to move the 53 yards and Wesley Walls caught a two-yard scoring pass from Chris Weinke to account for the score.

While the Redskin offense was utterly ineffective, the defense did step up with a pair of second-quarter interceptions by defensive linemen to snuff out Panther drives deep into Redskin territory. First, with the line of scrimmage at the eight, linebacker Antonio Pierce smashed into Weinke, forcing a fluttering pass that tackle Kenard Lang picked off. Then, with time running out in the half Carolina had the ball at the Redskin one. Out of timeouts, Weinke had to pass. Tackle Dan Wilkinson tipped the ball, however, and rookie defensive end Otis Leverette got the pick with eight seconds left.

No inspiration was drawn from the clutch defensive plays, however, and a sense that another loss was inevitable began to grow. An 83-yard drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters ended with Tim Biakabutuka's one-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0. Washington went three and out and a 27-yard Biakabutuka run had Carolina in Washington territory at the 31. Two plays later, it was third and seven at the 28.

It wasn't a particularly risky play that Carolina called, a little toss in the flat to Chris Hetherington. Arrington was nearby and zeroed in on the fullback as the ball came into his hands. The ball bounced out, though and, in a flash, Arrington went from tackler to pass defender, snatching the ball out of the air and taking off for the goal line. He cruised the 68 yards unchallenged and the game, perhaps the season, took on a new complexion.

Another play was needed, however, for Arrington's to do any good and the Redskins got it in short order. The Panthers failed to get a first down and their punt rolled dead at the Washington 15. On first down, Tony Banks, who had been booed lustily for most of the game, saw that rookie receiver Rod Gardner had worked his way past the Carolina zone. The quarterback delivered the ball on target and the receiver easily coasted into the end zone to tie it up midway through the fourth quarter.

The Panthers were clearly broken and meekly went three and out. The energized Redskins would eventually score the winning field goal, but it would take them two tries to get it. First they drove smartly to the Panther 13, but Conway missed a 32-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in regulation. After winning the toss in overtime, it took the Redskins just four plays to end it.

From the Washington 14, Stephen Davis carried for two yards and then Banks threw to fullback Bryan Johnson for 32 yards to the 48. On the next play, Banks connected with Gardner again. The rookie made a diving catch at around the five, bounced up and bolted into the end zone. A wild celebration was cut off, however, when replay revealed that Gardner had been touched while he was on the ground. The festivities resumed shortly as Conway came in and kicked the game-winner from 23 yards.

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

RELATED: Gruden squashes notion that Alabama defenders do not succeed in NFL

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

MORE REDSKINS: Grading the Redskins 2017 draft

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

RELATED: Redskins roll the dice in the 7th round

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

READ MORE: Breaking down the Redskins late round picks

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?