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Redskins 20, Cowboys 17--First take observations

Redskins 20, Cowboys 17--First take observations

Here are some quick-hit observations on the Redskins’ 20-17 overtime win over the Cowboys.

Bashaud Breeland is a playmaker. In the first half he knocked down a deep Romo pass intended for Terrence Williams and forced a fumble out of DeMarco Murray after he had taken a pass down in side the Redskins 15. In the late going he nearly picked off a pass that would have set up a winning field goal. But on the last play of the game he knocked the ball away from Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant on fourth down to end the game. The rookie will get burned from time to time but he will make some plays.

—The Redskins played more aggressively on defense than they have all year. Jim Haslett dialed up blitz after blitz against Tony Romo. One knocked him out of the game for a while, when Keenan Robinson bolted untouched up the middle in the third quarter and apparently tweaked Romo’s ailing back. In all, the Redskins got five sacks of Romo, two by safety Brandon Meriweather, and one each by Robinson, inside linebacker Perry Riley,  outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Washington also recovered two fumbles.

Colt McCoy recovered from a shaky first half during which he threw an interception in the end zone and was able to lead the Redskins to only three points. He underthrew DeSean Jackson on a couple of plays where it looked like a better throw would have meant six points. But he got it rolling in the second half, scored a touchdown on a quarterback draw to give the Redskins a fourth-quarter lead. He ended up completing 25 of 30 passes for 299 yards, posting a passer rating of 94.3 in his first start in almost three years.

—The Redskins rushing game was sporadic but it got enough done to help them build a time of possession advantage of nearly 10 minutes (38:12 to 28:27). Alfred Morris got stuffed a lot on his 18 carries but he broke loose on a 29-yard run in the third quarter, a key play in a drive the ended up with him scoring a TD on a five-yard run.

—Washington nearly won the game late in regulation twice. Romo reentered the game and fumbled when Meriweather sacked him. It looked like Kerrigan had recovered at the Dallas dive but the ball slithered loose and the Cowboys got it back. Then Breeland had that pick in his hands but Terrence Williams somehow came up with it for a Dallas first down.

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Da'Ron Payne's first reaction after being drafted No. 13 by the Redskins

Da'Ron Payne's first reaction after being drafted No. 13 by the Redskins

Many top draft choices chose to head to the NFL Draft, hear their name be called, and get the pomp and circumstance that comes with all that is the NFL Draft. 

The Washington Reskins' No. 13 pick Da'Ron Payne was not one of those prospects. 

Instead Payne watched the draft surronded by close friends and family.

The reaction was memorable: 

Some draft picks choose not to  come for fear of slidding down draft boards, or worse not being picked in the First Round. 

So he doesn't get to meet Roger Goodell. He doesn't get a Redskins' jersey on draft night.

But this video wouldn't exist if the defensive tackle from Alabama chose to go to Dallas, Texas on draft night. 

RELATED: 

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Redskins hope Da'Ron Payne will be able to solidify a porous run defense

Redskins hope Da'Ron Payne will be able to solidify a porous run defense

Doug Williams said that the Redskins would draft the best available player when they were on the clock. 

“It’s always going to be the best player available,” said the team’s senior vice president of player personnel during the team’s pre-draft press conference earlier this week. 

After their selection, it appears that they took a pick that was more for need. They picked defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne with safety Derwin James and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds still on the board, Jay Gruden said that there was some discussion. 

“There were quite a few guys were worthy of that pick, quite frankly,” said Gruden. “But for what we were looking for, with the fit, I think Da’Ron was perfect for us.”

The words “for what we were looking for” seem to indicate that they took Payne because they thought they needed someone at that position. 

While Payne is unlikely to be a pick that the Redskins will regret, they may look at what James and Edmunds, both players that most analysts had ranked considerably higher than Payne, accomplish during their careers and wonder what could have been. 

Then again, Payne is a pick that is about eight years overdue. The Redskins have been running the 3-4 defense since 2010 and they have never drafted a good nose tackle. Others they have tried, like Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, have been short-term solutions. For the past two years, the position has been manned by veteran Ziggy Hood, who is more suited to playing the end position. 

The result of the nose tackle situation in particular and neglect of the defensive line in general has been a rushing defense that has consistently in the lower half of the league, bottoming out at No. 32 in rushing yards allowed in 2017. The need to stop the run took a step up in importance earlier in the draft when the Giants selected running back Saquan Barkley with the second pick in the draft, a factor that Gruden cited when talking to the media after the pick. They already had twice-yearly dates with the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott at running back and the Eagles, who have a stable of effective running backs. 

Although at 311 pounds Payne may be considered a bit on the light side for a traditional nose tackle, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said in the past that a lighter player can be effective in that role in the team’s defense. 

The main concern about Payne is if he can rush the passer. In his three seasons at Alabama, he compiled just three sacks. Gruden said that that number doesn’t tell the whole story. 

“He can, he can get back there,” said Gruden. “A lot of times, the sacks that don’t show up on the stat board, he enabled other guys to get them, because push from the pocket forces the quarterback outside. I think that [Redskins edge rushers] Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson will be very happy to have Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne in the middle pushing that pocket.”

Gruden also expressed confidence Tomsula will be able to coach Payne into being an effective NFL pass rusher. 

We will see what Tomsula and the rest of the coaches can do with Payne. If they can get some pressures and sacks out of him and the ability to stop the run translates to the NFL, the Redskins will have received good value for the 13thpick, even if James and Edmonds go on to be stars. 

More Redskins

·      Redskins fill a need with their top pick

·      VIDEO: Payne reacts to becoming a Redskin

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.