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Sean Taylor: Scared Straight?

Sean Taylor: Scared Straight?

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The news that Sean Taylor has reached a plea agreement with Miami prosecutors that will keep him out of jail and land him an NFL suspension that will be minimal if there is one at all certainly was welcome among all those who follow and, especially, who are employed by, the Redskins. The situation, which has been going on for a year, isn’t quite concluded yet. Taylor has to do some community service type things in Miami area schools and he’ll be on probation for 18 months. But it’s just about over and there are a couple of things that need to be said about it in retrospect.

First, most of those who are complaining that this was a case of someone with money get off easy don’t know what they’re talking about. And I’m not claiming that I know what I’m talking about in this instance either. I wrote here a while ago that the charges against Taylor didn’t seem to fit what had transpired on that day in West Perrine, the depressed community near Miami. If felony charges carrying mandatory jail time were pressed every time there were threats and punches exchanged on the streets of places like West Perrine, the courts and prisons would be jammed to the gills.

Regardless of that, if you want to say that Taylor bought his justice or got off easy because he’s an NFL player you need to demonstrate that others, less rich and famous that Taylor, got more severe treatment for committing similar offenses. It’s my educated guess that many, many more such perps end up with community service and probation than go to jail. I don’t have any statistics to back that up, mind you, but neither do most of those crying foul in this situation, either. If anyone has any information to the contrary, please feel free to forward it to me.

The most important thing about this whole affair, however, is not the celebrity justice aspect but the mere fact that it happened. That fact may well have saved Sean Taylor’s life.

A year ago Taylor was not anywhere near where he needed to be and what he was doing did not remotely resemble what he needed to be doing. He was blowing off phone calls from Joe Gibbs and that was the least of his problems. According to this excellent article by Robert Andrew Powell, he possibly carried a gun into a club. Taylor was hanging out in West Perrine with a buddy who was up to all sorts of activities ranging from unsavory to illegal if the contents of the buddy’s house after he moved out are any indication. Instead of spending his days at OTA’s in Ashburn, working out and polishing his knowledge of the defense he was cruising around the housing project in an ATV.

Obviously, this is not a path that a young man who is very talented in his profession and is worth millions of dollars should be on. In fact, it was incredibly stupid for him to be where he was doing what he was doing. Taylor, though, didn’t see it that way. He was bulletproof and he could do whatever he wanted to do, the consequences, if any, be damned.

The consequences came in the form of a felony arrest warrant. Sean Taylor was facing the possibility of spending a good chunk of the rest of his life in jail. No matter how flimsy the charges may have seemed or how much the prosecutor may have seemed to be overreaching in pressing such serious charges, the time behind bars was staring him right in the face.

It appears that he has been scared straight. On the first day of training camp last summer Taylor stayed out in the hot sun and signed autographs for all of the kids who wanted one. While he wasn’t exactly glib with the media he was much more accommodating than he had been in the past. The more cynical out there might say that this was just PR, an attempt at image rehabilitation. While they might be right to an extent, it does appear that he genuinely has changed for the better.

This could well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Sean Taylor. Had Joe Gibbs known what path Taylor was on last year, he himself could not have written a better prescription to knock him off of that path and get him onto the right one. Taylor certainly would not have listened to any lecturing. It took something like this to give him a shot at turning his life around. We will see whether or not he completes that turnaround.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information, go to

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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.