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Need to Know: Redskins have uneven special teams play vs. Patriots

Need to Know: Redskins have uneven special teams play vs. Patriots

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, August 9, nine days before the Redskins host the Browns on preseason Monday night football.

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A look back at some notes and quotes from the Redskins preseason game against the Patriots before the final days of training camp start up.

—Some think that Jay Gruden is a pass-first coach but that’s not how he sounded about the Redskins’ ball control (39 minutes of possession time) offense. “It’s important. Our offensive line did a good job blocking, obviously. Both our fullbacks in the game did a nice job,” he said. “Of course the receivers blocking downfield, getting those tough yards. Those yards after contact instead of those three-yard gains, you’re getting four or five yards. It was good to see some cutback runs. Some guys made some physical runs and all sorts of things.”

—Robert Griffin III probably would have preferred to attempt more than the four passes he threw. But he knew what Gruden wanted to do and that it made his offensive line happy. “I think he wanted to get his guys in and out and keep us healthy,” said Griffin. “We’ll move on to the next game and we’ll get some more snaps. And those offensive linemen like to run the ball. Let them get their hands dirty in there for a couple plays and get [running back] Alfred [Morris] some touches. We played off that really well.”

—Griffin liked his coach’s demeanor as well. “He was funny, getting the plays in and out to us,” he said. “He enjoys it and that’s the great thing about it. You enjoy the process, you enjoy game day. He’s out there with us on game day. When we have a bad play, he has a bad play. When we have a great play he has a great play. That’s great to see from a head coach.” Note that Griffin later clarified that Gruden did not tell “knock-knock jokes” into the headset while he was making the calls.

—One area that was uneven for the Redskins on Thursday was special teams. There was a 46-yard field goal attempt that was both wide and short, a kickoff out of bounds, and a play that looked bad (long kickoff return) then turned good (recovered fumble) but ended up bad (turnover negated by offside penalty). Then there was a Patriots kickoff return that went 47 yards before rookie kicker Zach Hocker made a nice tackle. “Yeah, that was different,” said Hocker of making the tackle. “The touchback would have been great, but getting to convert the tackle and, you know, I had to make a couple tackles in college and finally getting that one NFL tackle out of the way definitely boosts my confidence the next time they bring one up to make the play.”

—When talking to Mike Shanahan after games, he would never give names of players who played well. After giving the caveat that he need to watched to watch the film, Gruden was happy to name names. “Obviously, [running back] Silas Redd had some physical runs, and was impressive, and then [running back] Lache Seastrunk came in there had a couple splash runs, which was good to see,” he said. “From a receiver standpoint, [Rashad] Ross had another big catch. He’s made some big catches all along. [Wide receiver] Aldrick Robinson, he just continues to make play after play after play. Then defensively, it was good to see [linebacker Brian] Orakpo get a sack and some of the safeties fly around. Not only on defense, but on special teams, like [safety] Akeem Davis. I saw him make a big hit on special teams and do a good job.”

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

—Former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams was born on this day in 1955.

Today’s schedule: Practice 2:15; Jay Gruden media availability after practice; players available coming off of the field.

—It’s been 222 days since the Redskins played a game; in 30 days they play the Texans in their 2014 season opener.

Days until: Monday night preseason vs. Browns 10; Final cuts 23; Home opener vs. Jaguars 37

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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.