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Need to Know: 5 things to look for during Redskins-Patriots practices

Need to Know: 5 things to look for during Redskins-Patriots practices

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Monday, August 4, three days before the Redskins open the preseason against the Patriots.

Nickel coverage

The Redskins and Patriots start three days of joint practices today at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. Here are some things to look for.

—The Redskins’ practices have generally run like this—stretching, then special teams, position drills, 11 on 11, seven on seven passing and one on one blocking (going on simultaneously), more special teams, walkthrough, and more 11 on 11. Sometimes the finish up with field goal kicking. It will be interesting to see how things run with the Patriots in town. Bill Belichick certainly has his own ideas when it comes to these joint practices so it’s likely that the deck will be shuffled with some different cards thrown in. Jay Gruden didn’t get into many details so we’ll find out just how these sessions go just like everybody else.

—There is plenty of talk about having Robert Griffin III and Tom Brady sharing the same field. But, of course, they won’t really be going against each other, as any quarterback will tell you as he goes into a game against another noted QB. The matchup to watch will be Griffin trying to deal with Darrelle Revis. You know, the guy who was the best cornerback in the game before Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson decided that they were (pro tip—Revis probably is still the best). Revis likes to bait QB’s into thinking a receiver is open before he swoops in and picks off the pass. It will be educational for Griffin to be involved in the cat and mouse game.

—Keenan Robinson has had some good battles in pass coverage against Jordan Reed. Unfortunately, the Redskins new Mike linebacker may not get to test his mettle against one of the best tight ends in the game, at least not in full team drills. The Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski has been a limited participant in practice at training camp due to a torn ACL he suffered last December. He has been doing position drills and individual work but he hasn’t been in any team drills. So if Robinson is going to be able to use Gronk as a measuring stick it will be during some one on one coverage drills. Good experience for Robinson but not quite the same.

—When the Bengals set up joint practices with the Falcons last year, Gruden initially was skeptical but he ended up seeing a lot of value in it. “I thought it was great,” Gruden said. “Initially going in I wasn’t too fired up about it, but going into it and just giving them the chance to practice against different people, I think that’s the big thing. You get tired sometimes of seeing the same people over and over again as a player is concerned. Now you’re going against somebody else and somebody else that’s trying to make a team so the competition should be fierce, I would think. It’s a great opportunity for some of these young guys to really show what they have against another football team that’s been very good for a long time. I think it’s a great chance for everybody to learn and get better and also a great chance for us as coaches to evaluate our guy and evaluate what we’re doing schematically.”

—Gruden said that there is no concern about showing anything that might be used during the game on Thursday. In reality, the first preseason game will be a continuation of the joint practices only they will be keeping time, playing under the lights, and charging admission. It will be a vanilla scheme and both teams are more concerned with judging individual performances than in the score of the game. Nobody, not even the notoriously secretive Bill Belichick, is worried about giving away any secrets here in Richmond.

If you have any questions about what's going on at training camp, hit me up in the comments. I'll answer all questions as soon as I can get to them. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Timeline

—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this day in 1949.

Today’s schedule: Joint practices with Patriots; Bill Belichick media availability 8:00; Practice 8:35; Jay Gruden media availability 3:50; Walkthrough 4:10

—It’s been 218 days since the Redskins played a game; in 34 days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener vs. Patriots 3; Final cuts 26; Redskins @ Eagles 48

In case you missed it

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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Coming into the offseason, there was plenty of talk coming from the Redskins organization that the team needed to upgrade the defense. Those who have been following the team for a while have heard this for many years now. However, usually the talk is just that, with more draft capital and free agency money going to the offense year in and year out.

But this year things are different.

The lion’s share of free agent spending went to the defense. They added linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, linebacker Zach Brown, and safety D.J. Swearinger. Now they have started off their draft with a laser focus in the defensive side of the ball.

RELATED: Redskins add cornerback with first round talent, but injuries pushed him to the third round

In the first round, they were delighted to take Jonathan Allen, the top-rated defensive lineman on their board. In the second round they went with outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, a teammate of Allen’s at Alabama. Then in the third round the pick was cornerback Fabian Moreau out of UCLA.

It’s been 20 years since the Redskins have gone so heavy with defensive picks at the top of the draft. Not since 1997 have they taken defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft. That year they took DE Kenard Lang, LB Greg Jones, and LB Derek Smith in rounds one, two, and three, respectively.

We will see how much impact the three draft picks have on the defense and, as Redskins fans have learned over the years, an influx of free agents on defense doesn’t guarantee improvement on that side of the ball.

But at least the Redskins organization is putting its money, and its draft picks, where its mouth is and that has be considered a positive development.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins make it two Alabama defenders in the 2017 draft class so far

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.