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Flashback Friday—Redskins vs. Rams

Flashback Friday—Redskins vs. Rams

Despite the alliteration, Redskins-Rams doesn't necessarily roll off of the tongue when talking about great NFL rivals. The truth is that the teams have been adversaries both on and off the field in some interesting, even historic, confrontations.

The Washington Redskins had never lost to the Cleveland Rams in five games when the two teams squared off in the 1945 NFL Championship Game. With no score in the first quarter Sammy Baugh went back to pass in his own end zone. He spotted star receiver Wayne Milner at the ten but his pass smacked off of the goal post (they were on the goal line then). Under the rules in force at the time the Rams got two points for a safety. While the rule was changed prior to the next season, it was too late to help Baugh and the Redskins, who lost that title because of the two points awarded to Cleveland, 15-14.

That would be the last postseason game the Redskins would play in for the next 25 seasons. To try to end that drought, Washington hired George Allen, who had just been fired by the Los Angeles Rams, in 1971. While there were bitter feelings between the coach and his former team, it didn't keep the two parties from getting together for what still is the biggest trade in NFL history involving just two teams. Fifteen players and draft picks exchanged hands in the 1971 draft day deal.

That season the Redskins were on the verge of breaking that quarter-century playoff drought, but they had to beat, you guessed it, the Rams in the 13th game of the 14-game slate. It did not start off well for Washington. Kermit Alexander picked off a Billy Kilmer pass and dashed down the sideline 82 yards for a 7-0 Ram lead. A 70-yard bomb from Kilmer to Roy Jefferson tied it up before the first quarter ended. It was tied at 10 in the second quarter when Kilmer hit Clifton McNeil with a 32-yard scoring pass. On the ensuing kickoff the Redskins' control of the game turned into command of it when the Rams fumbled, the Redskins recovered, and Larry Brown bulled over from the one six plays later.

The Rams threatened to rally back into it in the second half, cutting what was a 31-10 Redskins lead to 31-24. They got no closer, though, as Speedy Duncan locked up the Redskins' long-awaited playoff berth with a 44-yard return of an interception for a touchdown and a 38-24 Washington win.

That game had the atmosphere of a playoff game but following the 1983 season the Redskins and Rams hooked up in an actual elimination game. Washington was coming off of a bye week, the Rams had to travel to Texas Stadium to eliminate the Cowboys the previous week. The Redskins had gone 14-2 in the regular season; the Rams had snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 mark. They had met previously, with Washington taking it to the Rams in California 42-20.

The game went precisely to form. After 16 minutes of play it was 24-0 as Art Monk had caught a touchdown pass and John Rigging had two touchdown runs. Meanwhile, a rookie defensive back named Darrell Green was flying all over the field making tackles and breaking up passes. Appropriately, Green scored the last points in the 51-7 rout, snatching a pass that had bounced off of Eric Dickerson's hands and, in a flash, taking back 72 yards for a touchdown.

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.