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Draft class of 2011 trying to make its mark

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Draft class of 2011 trying to make its mark

The Redskins’ draft class of 2010 has made its mark with Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and rising star linebacker Perry Riley. The class of ’12 has RG3 and Alfred Morris to brag about.

But the class of 2011 is, well, a work in progress. It was a huge class with 12 players drafted due to a series of trades. But among those dozen prospects, only Ryan Kerrigan has established himself as a quality starter. Of the other 11 players, nine are still with the team. Jarvis Jenkins started 14 games at defensive end last year due to Adam Carriker’s injury but he was quite average. Other than him, nobody drafted that year has started more than a handful of games.

In tonight’s preseason game against the Titans tonight, however, we saw some of the members of that draft class show some signs that they could start to make their presence felt.

Roy Helu Jr., the team’s fourth-round pick that year, looked like the player who led the team in rushing in 2011. In fact, he looked even better in some respects. In a half of playing time, Helu carried the ball 13 times for 57 yards. He also had an 18-yard run called back due to a holding penalty.

Helu showed why the Redskins were so high on him in 2011, finding running lanes behind the Redskins zone-blocking scheme. His quickness and burst, missing as he suffered from a variety of injuries late in 2011 and for much of last year, were back.

No matter how well Helu plays, he isn’t going to beat out Alfred Morris for the starting job. But there is an opening for a change-of-pace back and Helu could perform well in that role.

Leonard Hankerson has been on an uneven career trajectory since he was the Redskins’ third-round pick in ’11. The coaches didn’t think his game had enough polish initially and he was inactive in several games early in his rookie year. When he got into the lineup he had a big game against the Dolphins before suffering a hip injury that ended his season. Last year, he was up and down.

Tonight, Hankerson was up. He had four catches for 38 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass that showed some ability to run after the catch. His best play was his last, the touchdown pass.

Grossman threw Hankerson a little screen right about at the line of scrimmage. Hankerson cut inside to take advantage of a block by Tom Compton, built up some team and dove through blocks by Josh LeRibeus and Kevin Matthews to get into the end zone.

Hankerson has an opportunity to take the starting job opposite Pierre Garçon. Mike Shanahan said last week that consistency was the key for Hankerson so we will have to see what he does in the coming weeks to get a handle on his prospects.

Hankerson and Helu weren’t the only two members of their draft class to perform well. Kerrigan got a sack in very limited action. Evan Royster led the team in rushing with 14 carries for 62 yards. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson had two receptions for 28 yards but he did have a bad drop that helped kill a drive.

There is a long way to go from playing well in the first preseason game to establishing yourself in your third NFL season. That is where the class of 2011 is and the third year is often considered “make or break”. But you have to start somewhere and a few of those players facing pivotal seasons got off to a good start tonight.

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 16, 57 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 49
—NFL Draft (4/26) 100
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 236

Nickel coverage—Five Redskins questions

Taking a look at some of the key questions surrounding the Redskins, sometimes coming up with more questions in the process. Yes, it's going to be that kind of offseason. 

What will the Redskins do at left guard? It would be better for the Redskins to find their left guard in the draft, but assuming that the successor is picked after the second round, they will want someone to start until the rookie is ready. That could be Arie Kouandjio or maybe a veteran free agent.

Can the Redskins make do with what they have at running back? The short answer is no. The running back situation needs attention. It’s hard to picture Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley forming a formidable tandem, or even a very good one. I’m wary of spending a high draft pick on an RB, but the success of the likes of Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette have to be factored into the thinking.

Are the Redskins OK with Zach Brown and Mason Foster at inside linebacker? For the time being they are, assuming that they are able to sign both of the unrestricted free agents, however the Redskins need to continue to build that position. That means continuing to develop Josh Harvey-Clemons to use in nickel situations and spending draft resources there. Even if Brown and Foster are back, the Redskins might be smart to grab Roquan Smith out of Georgia if he’s there in the first round.

If they are without Kirk Cousins, will the Redskins rebuild or retool? This is a key question for the organization. If Cousins leaves, do they just try to plug in the best available/affordable quarterback they can find and roll on with the same basic personnel with which they have hovered around .500 the last three years? Or will the make other changes, perhaps moving on from Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to save cap money for future seasons and give their younger players a chance to establish themselves? The latter might be the better way to go but this organization rarely considers short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Junior Galette leaves, who replaces him? While Galette did not light it up in the sack department, he put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is likely to leave since he would remain behind Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan on the depth chart if he re-signed in Washington. Can they rely on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson to take a giant leap in his sophomore season? Will they try to lock up free agent Trent Murphy and hope that he can bounce back from an ACL injury he suffered last August and regain his nine-sack form of 2016? I don’t see how they can rely on Anderson to suddenly provide pressure after recording zero sacks this past year. Whether it’s Murphy or another free agent, someone with a better track record has to be in the picture. If Anderson improves enough to move ahead of that player on the depth chart, so much the better.

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.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?

RELATED: FORMER TERP PLAYS HERO IN VIKINGS' MIRACLE PLAYOFF WIN

Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 

RELATED: WHAT REDSKINS CAN LEARN FROM THIS WEEKEND'S PLAYOFF GAMES

Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.