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Need to Know: Redskins' Norman should live up to expectations this year

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Need to Know: Redskins' Norman should live up to expectations this year

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 5, 23 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 177 days ago. It will be 69 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 10; Preseason opener @ Falcons 37; Final roster cut 60

The Redskins week that was

—The Redskins threw 30 touchdown passes last year (Kirk Cousins 29, Colt McCoy 1). That was the most they have had in a season since 1991. But they also gave up 30 TD passes, making three of the last four seasons where they have allowed 30 or more touchdowns through the air. If you have to put on your best offensive performance in 25 years just to break even with what the other side is doing, something has to change. That’s why they wrote out the big check for Josh Norman.

—On Facebook, Keith Murphy asked me if I thought that Norman would live up to expectations. I have to say that I’m reasonably confident about him living up to the deal for the first two or three years, at ages 28-30. He’s healthy, has a lot of tread left on the tires (he had only 22 starts in his first three NFL seasons), and, at least this year, he’s highly motivated to show the Panthers that they made a huge mistake. Later on in the contract, however, I’m a bit more dubious about him living up to the cap hits in the last two years, which are slated to be $14.5 million and $15.5 million. I don't necessarily expect him to fall off a cliff but it will be hard for him to maintain a level of performance that justifies those salaries. But let's get through the first couple of years of the deal before making any grand pronouncements.

—Let’s take one from Twitter.

John is one of the more optimistic Redskins fans on my Twitter feed and I have to say that I don’t think that any Redskins will get such high honors this year. I don’t think that the team is there yet. But in the spirit of fun and taking them in order least likely to most, I don’t think Doctson will play enough to early rookie of the year. A pure corner hasn’t won DPOY since Mel Blount did in 1975 and I don’t see Norman making enough of an impact to break a 40-year skid. If the Redskins win 12-14 games both Cousins and Gruden would have a good shot at winning MVP and COY honors but I don’t think they’re ready to make that leap yet. If they can put it together I’d give Gruden a better shot at the individual honor because there is a lot of competition for the MVP award. A 12-4 mark would almost automatically make Gruden a very strong COY candidate.

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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."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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