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Need to Know: Redskins need to make hay while the sun is shining

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Need to Know: Redskins need to make hay while the sun is shining

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 19, one day before the Washington Redskins host the St. Louis Rams.

Redskins need to take advantage of early schedule

Yesterday in the game prediction post I looked at some of the opportunities that the Redskins failed to capitalize on against the Dolphins—dropped interceptions, fumbles there for the taking, drives deep into Miami territory that came up empty.

But there is another, bigger opportunity that the Redskins have that they could let slip through their fingers and that is their early schedule.

They have already lost to the Dolphins, who were a mediocre 8-8 last year. Next up are the Rams and Giants, both of whom were 6-10 last year.

Up next are the Eagles. They were a cut above the first three opponents but the Redskins beat them at FedEx Field last year after giving them all they could handle in Philly. After that it’s on the road to play the Falcons and Jets before returning home to play the Bucs. Those three teams combined to go 12-36.

Summing up the first seven games before the by, there is one with a winning record in 2014, one that finished .500 and five coming off of double-digit loss seasons.

It’s a different story after the Week 8 bye. There are four games against 2014 playoff teams including a visit to the defending champion Patriots right off the bat plus two more against teams that finished with winning record. At this point we don’t know how teams will be playing in November and December but that looks like a considerably tougher slate.

This is not the ideal schedule structure for a team that is trying to find its way. At this point, as the try to gel as a team, particularly along the offensive line and at defensive back, they are underdogs at home to the Rams, despite the fact that they have been every bit as mediocre as the Redskins over the past several years.

It should be noted that even though the season has started we really can't be sure of which teams will be quality teams in 2015 and which ones will struggle. It's probably safe to say that the Patriots will be in Super Bowl contention again and that the Bucs will have a top 10 draft pick. But most of the other teams could go either way.

The Redskins have no control over it one way or the other. All they can really do is try to gel sooner and beat some of the lesser teams coming up in the coming weeks. On Friday about 25 minutes after practice ended there were 10 players still out on the field in small groups, working to get better. It’s a good sign that I haven’t seen in previous years.

But, in terms of the schedule, the sun is shining and the Redskins need to make some hay.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park; no availability

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 1; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 5; Eagles @ Redskins 15

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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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