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Need to Know: Redskins training camp arrangement is wagging the dog

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp arrangement is wagging the dog

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 16, the day the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Wagging the dog

The Redskins announced their Richmond training camp schedule for 2015 and there is a significant change from the way they did things last year.

The full practices, the ones with pads and hitting and full speed action, will be held in the afternoon, most of them starting a 3 p.m. In the morning they will do a walkthrough. Last year they had the full practices at about 8:30 a.m. and the walkthroughs in the afternoon.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden liked having the heavy work in the morning, before the summer heat really started to bear down. He also liked the cycle of going over material during meetings at night and then getting on the field and practicing it in the morning. Richmond is also more like to see a line of thunderstorms roll through in the afternoon and it’s better to have a walkthrough lost to the weather than a full practice, which can’t be made up. Unlike Redskins Park, the Bon Secours training canter does not have an indoor practice facility.

It is believed that one of the reasons for the change is attendance at Bon Secours. Last year fans were showing up in large numbers in the morning for the more entertaining full practice. But since the walkthrough is as exciting to watch as growing grass, fans were not staying. With no reason for fans to stick around there were few people around to get lunch at the various concession stands that were set up inside and outside of the games. The city had a difficult time making its $500,000 payment to the Redskins.

So, it appears that the flipping of the practice times was done at least in part due to the financial arrangement the Redskins have with the city. The change happened even though last year’s schedule was probably best for football reasons.

The Redskins’ arrangement with Richmond nearly created another situation that was not in the best interest of the football operation. As of a couple of weeks ago, the Redskins did not have any joint practices with another NFL team scheduled. Why not?

“Well, last year, we practiced against New England because we played them Week 1 [of the preseason] at home,” Gruden said last week. “You know, this year we didn’t have that luxury. So it’s hard to get somebody to fly into Richmond and we couldn’t really go anywhere else because of our commitment to Richmond.”

Houston had previously arranged to practice against the Saints but when New Orleans cancelled, the Texans made the call and will be headed to Richmond. Had the Texans been able to stick with their original plan the Redskins would have been out of luck.

Joint practices are becoming very popular around the NFL; it seems that the majority of NFL teams are taking part in at least one. They give the team a chance to face unfamiliar players and break up the tedium of training camp.

So since the arrangement with Richmond, which calls for 15 days of practice to be held there, precludes the Redskins from visiting another team’s facility for practice is is turning what most teams believe is a valuable part of training camp into a “luxury”. Add that to the practice time changes and you have what should be football decisions being made, or at least influenced, by financial and other non-football factors.

Of course, it should work the other way around. There are some advantages to having training camp in Richmond but if we continue to see the tail wag the dog the Redskins would be better off terminating their agreement and going back to having their training camp at the team facility in Ashburn.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Minicamp practice 1 p.m.; defensive assistant coaches available after practice, approx. 2:45; Jay Gruden press conference after practice.

—It’s been 170 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 89 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 44; Preseason opener @ Browns 58

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?