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Classic Camp Phenoms

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Classic Camp Phenoms

They're as much a part of summer as sunburn, triple-digit heat index readings, and mosquito bites. Every August, young players hopeful of making an instant impact in the NFL pop up at Redskins training camp. These phenoms create a buzz among reporters and the fans. Sometimes the player winds up being a star and sometimes it's all sizzle and no steak.

The original camp phenom was quarterback Sammy Baugh, the Washington Redskins first draft pick in 1937, the team's first year in Washington. His reputation as a gunslinger from Texas was already established and he arrived in a ten-gallon hat and cowboy boots. A crowd of about 3,000 gathered to watch his first training camp practice in California. Coach Ray Flaherty drew up a play on the blackboard and drew an X. "When the receiver gets to here," Flaherty said, pointing to the X, "you hit him in the eye."

Baugh responded, "Which eye?"

Baugh went on to lead the Redskins to the NFL title that year, the first of two they would win during his Hall of Fame career.

Arriving with considerably less fanfare in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1969 was Kansas State running back Larry Brown, the team's eighth-round pick in that year's draft. Almost nobody noticed him, with one important exception—Vince Lombardi. The legendary coach liked Brown's raw skills, but he noted in a coach's meeting that the back was a step slow getting off the ball. "Does that Brown hear?" asked Lombardi.

Tests revealed that he didn't, at least not in one ear. Once he was fitted with a special helmet that transferred sound from the side with the bad ear to the side with the good one, more observers began to take note of Brown. In a preseason game a few days after getting the helmet, Brown scored two touchdowns. Back in Carlisle, everyone began to notice his powerful running style and he earned a starting job. Brown went on to rush for 888 yards in his rookie season and 5,875 in his seven-year career.

One summer phenom who didn't have a stellar Redskins career was quarterback Babe Laufenberg. In fact, the 1983 sixth-round draft pick never took a regular-season snap for Washington. After spending two seasons on injured reserve, he was in a battle with Jay Schroeder for the backup QB spot. In training camp, he earned the respect of all, including Joe Gibbs. He gave it his all in training camp. "I've got a world of respect for Babe," said Gibbs. "No one we have has worked harder or had a better attitude. He deserved this opportunity."

His opportunity came at RFK Stadium in a preseason game with the Redskins trailing New England by six. With 1:04 left, Laufenberg led a drive from Washington's 26. Going four for five for 59 yards on the drive, Laufenberg earned a loud roar from the crowd when he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Clint Didier with four seconds left to give the Redskins the win.

Babe won the battle, but lost the war. A few days after the comeback win, Gibbs decided that Schroeder had more potential and Laufenberg was cut.

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

In case you missed it