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Welcome to football, 2015 Redskins style

riley-tackle-vs-dolphins.png

Welcome to football, 2015 Redskins style

If the Redskins play 15 more games like the one they played on Sunday against the Dolphins, much of what Scot McCloughan set out to accomplish since he got put in charge of rebuilding the team back in January will be in place.

McCloughan wanted to the offense to emphasize the running game. Against Miami ran the football early, often, and successfully. The numbers were 37 carries for 161 yards, a 4.4 per carry average. They ran the ball more often than that once last year, Jay Gruden’s first as head coach. That was in their blowout 41-10 win over the Jaguars then they had 42 rushing attempts. The most they ran the ball in a competitive game was 31 times in their 20-17 Monday night win over the Cowboys.

And it was Alfred Morris, the back who was the recipient of a frequent and lavish praise by Gruden, getting the job done. He had 25 carries for 121 yards, a solid 4.8 average. And when he took a rest, Matt Jones stepped in and averaged 4.7 a pop with 28 yards on six carries.

McCloughan also set to rebuild the Redskins’ offensive line, starting the process by drafting Brandon Scherff fifth overall. Ndamukong Suh was lined up against Scherff most of the day and Suh had two tackles, zero sacks. While we’re at it, for one game Morgan Moses justified the faith shown in him by making him the starting right tackle a week into camp by keeping end Cameron Wake off of the stat sheet entirely.

In the big picture, in addition to the 4.8 average per rush, the Dolphins sacked Kirk Cousins just once. A good first effort against one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts.

Speaking of defensive fronts, the Redskins’ front seven looked good, certainly better than Miami’s heralded group. The Dolphins rushed for just 74 yards including only two in the first half. Running back Lamar Miller, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last year, averaged 4.1 on 13 attempts. He had consecutive runs of 12 and 17 yards in the third quarter. Absent that burst he was held to 2.2 yards a pop.

Preston Smith made a big play that could have been a huge play, sacking and stripping Ryan Tannehill and then hustling about 30 yards to recover the fumble. The turnover took away a field goal chance for the Dolphins—the line of scrimmage was the Washington 22—but Cousins and company went three and out from the Miami 40.

Finally, McCloughan wants the Redskins to be physically tough. The good play up front on both sides of the ball shows that that is off to a good start. The defense delivered a number of solid hits. On offense, Pierre Garçon and Jones were particularly physical in their play.

But the problem is that this style of play does not leave much of a margin for error. The offense needs to take that Smith fumble recovery and get at least three points out of it, if not seven. Chris Culliver needs to get that third-quarter interception that may have been a pick six and was at least a first down well in the red zone. Kai Forbath can’t go wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt. The team can’t draw 11 penalty flags for 88 yards. Cousins can’t throw two interceptions. And, most importantly, the special teams can’t continue the problems of the last two seasons by allowing a game-winning 69-yard punt return.

McCloughan knew that all of the Redskins’ problems were not going to be fixed in one offseason. In talking about what he wanted to accomplish this year he made sure to emphasize that a certain number of wins was not on his list. This could mean more close, “shoulda-woulda-coulda” losses are on the horizon.

In fact, until the Redskins can reduce the mistakes and make some key plays in clutch situations, it almost guarantees them.

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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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