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Yes, the Patriots are better than the Redskins, but we already knew that


Yes, the Patriots are better than the Redskins, but we already knew that

RICHMOND—Last year, the Redskins and their fans got a reminder of just how little preseason games mean. They went 4-0 during the practice games and looked pretty good in doing so. That was followed by a thud of a 3-13 regular season.

Here’s a pro tip for you—joint training camp practices mean even less than preseason games do.

Yes, what you have been hearing out of here about the Redskins-Patriots joint practices is largely true. Tom Brady is moving his team’s offense through the Redskins defense like the proverbial hot knife through butter most of the time during 11 on 11 scrimmages. And Robert Griffin III has been uneven in directing the Redskins’ offense. The third-year quarterback has thrown some excellent passes in rhythm; he also has looked hesitant and unable to figure out what to do with the ball at times.

In fact, Brady looks like a quarterback who has been playing in the same offense for 15 years. That’s because he is. Griffin looks like a third-year quarterback who is learning a new offense. And, of course, that’s because that is what he is.

It would be a mistake to read too much into where Griffin and the Redskins are by comparing them to the Patriots. New England is the league’s model franchise. Jay Gruden, Griffin, and the organization are just taking the first steps down the road trying to build something like what the Patriots have.

Also, be careful not to overanalyze what happens during these practices. There are many differences between them and what actually happens during an actual game. There is no game planning. The quarterbacks wear no-contact jerseys and that means that the pass rush is throttled back considerably. There are no adjustments made as the game rolls on, no coaches observing from up in the booth to come up with counter moves, no using one play to set up something else later in the game.

It’s vanilla on vanilla and that favors a team like the Patriots, who have been drafting players into their system for 15 years, over the Redskins, who are starting over.

This isn’t to say that the Redskins should shrug their shoulders, tip their helmets to the Patriots, and move on. They need to use the practices as a learning experience and as a motivational tool.

But the fact that the Patriots look sharper than the Redskins right now, in early August, should not lead to a conclusion that the Redskins will struggle this year like they did in 2013. It does mean that the Redskins have a lot of work to do if they are ever going to get to where the Patriots are but we already knew that.

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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.