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Redskins Cardinals First Glance

Redskins Cardinals First Glance

In my combined years of blogging, doing a radio show, participating in football pools, and in other venues for predicting the outcomes of football games, I'm pretty sure that I've never picked the Washington Redskins to lose to the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals. While the Cards have had their up periods and the Redskins haven't spent much time hanging with the NFL's elites lately, Washington has almost always been the better team in my view.

And even though it seems that the Cardinals are on the upswing and that the Redskins are still a mystery at this point in Jim Zorn's coaching tenure, I doubt that I'll go against that trend this time around.

To be sure, I've been wrong about my automatic pick on many occasions, some of them very costly losses for the Redskins. A loss in the 1975 game in St. Louis—I'll recap the Mel Gray game on Flashback Friday—sent the Redskins into a tailspin that knocked them out of the playoffs. Norv Turner's Redskins may well have made the playoffs in 1996 if not for a loss in a bizarre game at RFK Stadium. Boomer Esiason passed for 531 yards and the Redskins blew a game that they had won on several separate occasions.

However, those losses and some others too painful to recount illustrate the fact that it usually takes a quirk, a bad call, an extraordinary performance from an unexpected source, or some other freak of nature for the Cardinals to come out on top. In other words, things you can't predict have to happen for the Cards to beat the Redskins.

Kurt Warner having a big day would not fall under the category of things you can't predict. He passed for 361 yards and posted a perfect QB rating of 158.3 as the Cardinals slapped around the Dolphins last week. My first impression is that the Redskins are solid enough defensively to slow down Arizona's three-headed passing attack featuring Warner and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Take a look at the Cardinals' depth chart and show me a defensive player that is going to keep Greg Blache and company burning the midnight oil. These guys aren't even household names in their own households.

It seems as though every year this decade the Cardinals have been the trendy pick to be a "surprise" playoff team. Every year this decade they have failed.

With apologies to Dennis Green, the Cardinals are what I've always thought they were. I'm not sure what the Redskins are yet, but I'm inclined to think that whatever it is will be sufficient to beat the Cardinals at home.

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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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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.