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Need to Know: Luck's extension was no surprise to Redskins, Cousins

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Need to Know: Luck's extension was no surprise to Redskins, Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 1, 27 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 173 days ago. It will be 73 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 14; Preseason opener @ Falcons 41; Final roster cut 64

Quick hits

—One thing that needs to be taken into account when talking about the Andrew Luck contract extension and its effect on Kirk Cousins’ negotiations is that the deal did not come out of the blue. Jim Irsay has been talking about it publically for a couple of months and the $25 million per year figure has been speculated by many. Redskins cap guru Eric Schaffer certainly has had figures close to the actual amounts in Luck’s deal plugged into his evaluation of the QB market. Ditto for Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent. Luck’s contract is still a game changer but the change took place long ago.

—Last year the Redskins defense was 12th in the NFL in stopping opponents on third down, allowing the opposition to convert 37.7 percent of the time. As anyone who watched them consistently last year might guess, their room for improvement comes in their rushing defense. When opponents passed the ball the Redskins allowed a first down 31.4 percent of the time, significantly better than the league average of 36.2 percent. But when opponents ran the ball on third down they were successful 51.2 percent of the time, a tick over the league average of 50.6 percent.

—For the sake of comparison the 2014 Redskins, who were 24th in opponents’ third-down percentage, were better against the run than against the pass. They beat the league average against the run with 43.2 percent conversions compared to 48.8 percent for the league. But they were 31st against the pass, allowing first downs on 43.8 percent of third down pass plays compared to the league average of 37.8 percent. Since teams pass on third down almost four times more often than they run the ability to stop the pass on third down is much more important to overall third down success.

—Joe Barry and company deserve some credit for the improvement in third down conversions between 2014 and last year. That and improvement in takeaways (19 in 2014, 27 last year) were big reasons why the Redskins were able to rank 17th in points allowed while standing at 28th in yards allowed. That is a good statistical picture of a bend but don’t break defense.

Thursday on Twitter

If the Redskins could get Cousins to accept this they should send a plane for him and get him to sign it immediately.

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Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Need to Know: The best Redskins late-round picks of the last 10 years

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 29, 25 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.

Timeline

At Redskins Park—Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft; conference calls with players selected; Gruden will speak to media shortly after Redskins’ final pick.

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 13
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 25
—Training camp starts (7/27) 89
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 134

The Redskins’ best late-round picks since of the last 10 years

While no aspect of drafting in the NFL is easy, it is much harder to find key contributors on the last day of the draft than it is in the first three rounds. The Redskins will have seven picks in this afternoon's draft to try to find one or two of them. 

Since the 2007 draft the Redskins have taken 56 players from the fourth round on. Of those, 45 played in at least one NFL game but only 12 of them were the Redskins’ primary starter at their positions for at least one season. Here are the five best of those players.

QB Kirk Cousins (round 4, 2012)—He was probably the most controversial pick on this list since the Redskins had just drafted Robert Griffin III a couple of days earlier. History proved Mike Shanahan right.

RB Alfred Morris (6, 2012)—This pick came a few hours after and with much less noise than the Cousins pick did. Many believed that the Redskins were set a running back with Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Morris not only surprised many by making the team but he lined up as the Week 1 starter. He went on to break the team’s single-season rushing record by piling up 1,613 yards rushing.

LB Perry Riley (4, 2010)—He didn’t get into the lineup until midway through his second season. Riley was always solid for four-plus seasons as the starter but never spectacular. The team let him go last year in training camp and he played well for the Raiders after they picked him up.

CB Bashaud Breeland (4, 2014)—Breeland started 15 games as a rookie. At first he was in the slot but after DeAngelo Hall was injured in Week 3, Breeland moved to the outside and he has stayed there ever since. He has seven career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

WR Jamison Crowder (4, 2015)—At 5-9, many teams thought Crowder was undersized and he didn’t run a great 40 at the combine. But he was big enough and fast enough to break the Redskins rookie record for receptions in a season and then to lead the team in touchdowns with eight last year.

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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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."

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