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Flashback Monday: Skins shatter Meadowlands jinx

Flashback Monday: Skins shatter Meadowlands jinx

The 1991 Washington Redskins were a perfect storm composed of talented, determined players and a coaching staff pushing the right buttons at exactly the right moment. This Week 8 game is a great illustration of that as the RealRedskins.com Giants flashback series continues. From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z:

Giants Stadium—The Redskins battled back from a 13-0 halftime deficit and stormed past the Giants thanks largely to two touchdown passes from Mark Rypien to Gary Clark.

It's not often that a 7-0 team with a two-game lead in its division goes into a game with a chip on its collective shoulder, but that was exactly the mood of the Redskins going into this Sunday night contest in Giants Stadium.

The mindset stemmed from the fact that the Giants had beaten the Redskins six straight times. Worse, with the exception of a 1987 game played by strike replacement players, Washington had not won in the Meadowlands since 1983. This led to talk that the 7-0 start was not so impressive since they hadn't faced their nemesis yet.

"I was getting pretty upset about hearing that 7-0 didn't mean a thing," said defensive tackle Eric Williams. "I wasn't going to apologize for our record because the New York Giants hadn't been on the schedule."

The way the game started out, it appeared that the Redskins were going to have to apologize for their performance. The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage and outgained Washington 207 yards to 35. The frustration for the Washington offense was summed up on one play when Gary Clark got open deep, Mark Rypien delivered the pass on target, but Clark dropped the ball.

On the positive side, as badly as they had been outplayed the Redskins weren't out of the game on the scoreboard. Rodney Hampton scored a touchdown on a one-yard run, but two other New York forays deep into Washington territory were stopped short of the end zone and the Giants had to settle for two Raul Allegre field goals and a 13-0 halftime lead.

"The way it started, you have a tendency to say 'Goodness, gracious, here we go again,'" said Gibbs. Most of the players chose stronger language. The mood of the team in the locker room at halftime was one of loud, self-directed anger. Clark, desperate for a chance at redemption for dropping the sure TD pass, was among the most vocal, screaming, "Give me the damn ball!"

Rypien did just that with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Clark to pull the Redskins to within six at 13-7. That capped an 87-yard drive during which the Redskins converted seven straight third downs. The defense stopped the Giants when rookie defensive tackle Bobby Wilson knifed in to nail Hampton for a six-yard loss, forcing a punt.

The Redskins moved to their own 46 yard line where they faced third and 12. Looking for a gamebreaker, Joe Gibbs called a play that assistant Rod Dowhower had suggested in meetings the week before. The Giants were playing their standard defense, a soft, two-deep zone that was designed to prevent the deep pass. They key to beating it long was to get someone out of position.

Rypien took the snap and rolled to his left. Every time he had done that previously that year, he had thrown to the left. Free safety Greg Jackson knew this and dropped off of Clark, who was running a fly outside the right hashmark. "When he rolls that way," said Jackson, "we have to roll with him."

That left Clark with single coverage from corner Everson Walls. Clark got a step and Rypien got him the ball at the three. The receiver bobbled the ball for just a moment but this time he secured it for a 14-13 lead.

"It was exactly the same play as in the first half," Clark said. "Rip laid it right in my hands."

After getting the ball back, the Redskins did exactly what they needed to do; they ground out a time-consuming drive. Rookie running back Ricky Ervins was the workhouse, carrying the ball on 10 of the 14 plays that chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock. Chip Lohmiller's field goal to make it 17-13 came with 47 seconds left and Wilbur Marshall's interception shut off New York's last-gasp effort.

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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

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