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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Super Bowl

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Super Bowl

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 3, 94 days before the NFL Draft.

Nickel coverage

Here are five things the Redskins can learn from the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 rout in last night’s Super Bowl:

1. Draft and develop—The Seahawks did make some free agent acquisitions like Cliff Avril (see below) and Michael Bennett and pulled off the big trade for Percy Harvin. But they were built by drafting and, just as important, developing their own. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were fifth-round picks, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was a seventh-rounder. It’s not just finding players like that in the draft, it’s getting them into your system and teaching them your way of doing things and giving them an opportunity to succeed. The Redskins have drafted 32 players in the last four years and precious few have contributed to the extent that the Seahawks’ picks have. They need to improve here.

2. Have an identity—The Seahawks are the Legion of Boom disrupting receivers, Marshawn Lynch with power running, and Russell Wilson making a huge play when it’s needed. Who are the Redskins? OK, they’re a zone running team on offense. But what do they do on defense? Do they prefer size, speed, football IQ? Back to the previous item, if you know who you are you can draft and develop players in the mold of your identity.

3. Special teams turn games—The big play was Harvin’s TD return of the second-half kickoff (Harvin was helped by some atrociously sloppy play by the Broncos’ coverage unit) but I’ll take it back to the first play of the game. Tridon Holliday made a dumb decision to take the opening kickoff out from six yards deep in the end zone and the Seahawks made him pay for it by tackling him at the 14. If the ball is at the 20, that first, errant snap might not result in a safety. It’s not just about the huge plays, it’s about field position. It goes without saying that the Redskins have a long way to go here.

4. Pass defense starts with pass pressure—The player who would have had my vote as MVP make just three tackles and didn’t record a sack. But Cliff Avril was in Peyton Manning’s grill all night long with two hits, five hurries, and on pass batted down. His pressure created Chancellor’s interception that the Seahawks converted into a TD for a 15-0 lead and Smith’s pick six that essentially ended things before halftime. Even one of the greatest ever can’t get it done with pressure in his face.

5. Have an attitude—As the Seahawks built their lead they became more and more confident. For that matter, they were confident when they led 2-0. They kept on doing what they were doing and steamrolled to the win. The Redskins have tended to be nervous with a lead, afraid that someone would make a mistake to blow it rather than confident that they could build on it.

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Timeline

—It’s been 36 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 216 days until they play another one.

—Days until: NFL Combine 16; NFL Free agency starts 36; Offseason workouts start 63; NFL Draft 94

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.