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With Redskins no longer just winning off the field, does Bruce Allen deserve some credit?


With Redskins no longer just winning off the field, does Bruce Allen deserve some credit?

The Redskins 2015 NFC East title came as a result of a number of good players and strong strategic decisions, good coaching and perhaps even a little luck. That's the case for most title teams, whether it be a mere division title or something bigger, regardless of the sport. 

In the time since last Saturday's NFC East clinching win in Philadelphia, much well-earned recognition has gone to head coach Jay Gruden, quarterback Kirk Cousins and GM Scot McCloughan. All three men deserve the praise, lots of it. 

Gruden made the tough call to bench Robert Griffin III and start Kirk Cousins before the season began. Under the guise of injury or not, Gruden did what needed to be done for his franchise to win despite an outpouring of criticism from some fans, and perhaps some private heat from within the organization. Further, Gruden had the fortitude to stick with Cousins even when early season results were uneven.

Cousins rewarded his coach, and Redskins fans, by emerging from an up and down first eight weeks to become one of the best statistical quarterbacks over the last month of the season. His play in two games the 'Skins needed to win - Buffalo at home and at Philadelphia - was superb. For three years Cousins said he just wanted a chance to compete and prove he belonged as an NFL quarterback, in 2015 Gruden gave him the chance. Cousins ran with it.


And of course McCloughan deserves a ton of praise. His personnel moves have largely been strong, especially the 2015 Draft. Brandon Scherff has started every game at right guard this season, solidifying the Washington offensive line. Matt Jones and Jamison Crowder look like important offensive pieces both now and in the future, and Preston Smith has shown flashes of what could become a Pro Bowl defensive talent. While some of McCloughan's high-dollar free agent imports have failed, largely because of injury, the cheaper veterans the GM has brought in have worked out well. 

But perhaps another Redskins official, and former punchline, deserves a bit of acclaim: Bruce Allen.

That's right, time has served well the man who made "winning off the field" an unintended slogan of the Redskins repeated failures. About a year ago Allen was lampooned at a press conference, and then within weeks hired McCloughan, the man who deserves so much credit for the culture change in Ashburn. 

Allen really had only one year in charge of the Redskins in 2014, his years prior to that Mike Shanahan had firm control over personnel. So let's re-examine 2014, which had both hits and misses, but the hits are starting to pan out. Four players from the 2014 draft are now starting for Washington in Trent Murphy, Spencer Long, Morgan Moses and Bashaud Breeland.

Breeland, selected in the fourth round, looks like a potential Pro Bowler and a steal for his draft slot. That pick was a home run.

Moses, a third round pick, has started all season at right tackle, and while at times the play has been rocky, he's provided a much better performance than Tyler Polumbus before him. Long is starting in place of injured Shawn Lauvao, and Murphy has proven to be a capable NFL linebacker. While a second round pick should deliver more than Murphy has thus far, he is far from a bust. Ryan Grant, a fifth round pick from Allen's draft, has also provided good value from his selection.

It's silly to give Allen complete credit for the 2014 draft, but that haul has produced some solid, and one great, results. Credit is due. 

Yet Allen still has an ace up his sleeve: DeSean Jackson. Signing Jackson in 2014 took guts, as he was cut by Philadelphia amid allegations of off-the-field issues. What the Redskins have gotten? A terrific player that has not been even remotely a problem. While Jackson may choose to skip voluntary workouts, his vertical ability in the passing game more than makes up for it. Cousins emergence this season coincided as Jackson returned to the field; it's a safe bet one had something to do with other.

Allen had misses too.

Jason Hatcher was overpaid considering his age and production. Lauvao played poorly his first season in Washington after being signed to a $17 million deal, but was playing much better in 2015 before an injury ended his season. The point here is not to suggest Allen is a personnel guru. Far from it. But it's also high time to credit the team president, both for what he did in 2014 and what he has done since. 

Hiring McCloughan looks to be a transformative moment for the franchise, and don't think it was an easy move. From a football standpoint? Absolutely, McCloughan was a clear star. But there was baggage after flameouts in San Francisco and Seattle. Allen maneuvered all of that, publicly and privately. Not to mention it takes humility to acknowledge the need for help, for a better player personnel mind. 

Winning off the field remains an all-time Redskins soundbite blunder, and it should. But now, the 'Skins are winning on the field, and appear to be in position to do so for the foreseeable future. Allen helped. 

Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

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