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The Tuesday Take: Best Ever at FedEx?

The Tuesday Take: Best Ever at FedEx?

Believe it or not, the Redskins are playing their tenth season at FedEx Field. Thats hardly a long and storied history, especially given the teams relative lack of success since theyve set up shop in Landover. They are 42-31-1 there, not exactly a staggering home field advantage.

After Sunday, however, the massive building now has one element that it has been lacking since its inception, a memorable game. In fact, one could argue that this was the best game ever played at FedEx Field (previously known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and, briefly in 1999, as Redskins Stadium).

There are a few other serious contenders for best ever in that building. In 1999 the Redskins rallied from a 21-point first-quarter deficit and beat the Carolina Panthers 38-36 on a last-minute Brett Conway field goal in what was an exciting, well-played affair. The first game ever at the stadium saw the Redskins win 19-13 in overtime, but that win came against a bad Cardinals team. Their first win after starting 0-5 under Marty Schottenheimer came with a thrilling comeback in the late going, highlighted by LaVar Arringtons interception return for a touchdown that saved the season. However, that was a tedious affair for the first 50 minutes or so. Last years overtime win over Seattle was entertaining and considering where the Seahawks wound up the season it was rather impressive as well.

Still, this one had all of the elements you could want in a football game. There were two quality teams on the field and each of them seemed to have control of the game at various times. We had a go-ahead and then a tying field goal in the last two minutes of regulation. It was cleanly played with just eight penalties being called on the two teams combined. Turnovers were a bit high at two per team, but the play didnt get near the point of being sloppy. There were plays that would have been Sports Center highlight leads on their own had they not been overshadowed by other, even more spectacular plays. Santana Moss spin move on his first touchdown looked like something that only could be executed on a PlayStation 2, not on the field of play. Maurice Jones-Drew displayed a scary burst of speed on his touchdown catch and run. And have you ever seen a receiver lose his helmet on a hit but hang on to the ball for a touchdown as Reggie Williams did in the fourth quarter? To top it off, a walk-off 68-yard touchdown play is more fun and exciting way to end an overtime than is a chippie field goal.

And, perhaps most importantly, the home team won.

Giant receivers

The New York Giants seem to be in a bit of disarray at the moment. They went into their bye week after getting spanked by Seattle in a 42-30 rout that was not nearly as close as the final score might indicate. After the game, in a statement he has since apologized for, tight end Jeremy Shockey said that the Giants were outplayed and outcoached. Thats not a very settling tone on which to enter your bye.

New York has the third-ranked offense in the league in terms of yards per game and one matchup that they have to like this Sunday is their crew of big, physical receivers going up against a Washington secondary that has been under assault, literally and figuratively, all year long.

Amani Toomer, at 6-3, has been a thorn in the side of the Redskins for years and at 6-5 Plaxico Burress gives Eli Manning a huge target to throw to. Add in Shockey at 6-5 and you have quite a towering set of pass catchers.

Washington is 24th in the league in pass defense. The beleaguered secondary has allowed both big plays and little ones to the likes of Marcus Robinson, Andre Johnson, Terry Glenn, and Reggie Williams. Its been the Achilles heel in the defense, no question about it.

Shawn Springs is unlikely to return from his groin injury on Sunday so there will be no help coming from the return of one of their best players. After getting burned by the likes of the 6-4 Reggie Williams and, to a lesser extent, the 6-4 Ernest Wilford, dealing with New Yorks giant receivers are not a group to get well against.

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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. 

RELATED: Gruden squashes notion that Alabama defenders do not succeed in NFL

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. 

MORE REDSKINS: Grading the Redskins 2017 draft

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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.

RELATED: Redskins roll the dice in the 7th round

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.

READ MORE: Breaking down the Redskins late round picks

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?