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Falcons CBS Robinson, Samuel find common ground

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Falcons CBS Robinson, Samuel find common ground

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson never questioned Atlanta's offseason trade for Asante Samuel.

Robinson, a ninth-year veteran in his third season with Atlanta, was the undisputed leader of the team's secondary when Samuel, one of the NFL's most talkative players, arrived last spring.

It didn't take long for Robinson to embrace a teammate with two Super Bowl rings and four trips to the Pro Bowl.

``We are a very close bunch as a secondary,'' Robinson said on Friday. ``We go out and we trust one another, and I think bringing Asante in here - a guy with experience who's played in this league for 10 years and has been a lot of different situations - it was great for this team.''

Samuel, whose locker is next to Robinson's at the team's training complex, said he has felt welcomed since joining the Falcons.

And it's likely that any problems resulting from Samuel's mouth would've spilled over last week during two flamboyant sessions with reporters, but that didn't turn out to be the case.

The first occurred a couple of days before Atlanta traveled to Philadelphia to face the team that traded Samuel for a seventh-round draft pick. The second came not long after the Falcons won 30-17.

Each time, teammates listened in the locker room as Samuel played up his bravado for the cameras, all but taunting Eagles coach Andy Reid for trading him away.

Maybe it's because Atlanta (7-0) is the NFL's last unbeaten team heading into Sunday's home game against the Dallas Cowboys (3-4), but the Falcons seem to have made the right call in acquiring Samuel.

``It's been a lot of fun, man,'' Robinson said. ``You just find ways to balance it, and we don't step on each other's toes. We just go out there and practice hard and we play hard.''

Samuel agrees.

``I'm definitely enjoying it,'' Samuel said Friday. ``Me and Dunta have a great relationship, man. All the DBs get along great.''

Robinson, still seeking his first Super Bowl appearance and Pro Bowl bid, said he and Brent Grimes bonded quickly with Samuel in the offseason.

But when Grimes' season ended with a torn Achilles in in Week 1, Robinson and Samuel grew even closer together.

The original defensive scheme designed by first-year coordinator Mike Nolan called for Grimes to retain his starting spot on the left side and for Samuel to start on the right. Robinson would play in the slot as the No. 3 cornerback.

Grimes' injury moved Samuel to the left and Robinson to the right, the positions they have played the majority of their careers. Robert McClain and Christopher Owens took over at nickel.

So far, so good, but the defense will face a considerable challenge against Dallas with top linebacker Sean Weatherspoon sidelined by a right ankle sprain.

Snap counts will increase for Stephen Nicholas, Akeem Dent and 14th-year veteran Mike Peterson. Just as the Falcons weathered the loss of Grimes, Robinson has no doubt that Weatherspoon's replacements are ready.

``I think that's a testament to the way they put this team together,'' Robinson said. ``Injuries come with this game and to make sure you have enough so that it's not a huge issue for you is big. I think we've done a great job of that thus far.''

Robinson and Samuel each have an interception and four pass breakups in their first season together. Samuel scored on his pick, a 79-yard return in the fourth quarter, three weeks ago against Oakland.

Against Dallas' Tony Romo, the Falcons will face a quarterback who leads the NFL with 13 interceptions. Atlanta is tied for third in the league with 10 picks, four by free safety Thomas DeCoud and two by strong safety William Moore.

The Cowboys have lost of four and are coming off a 29-24 home loss to the New York Giants in which Romo threw four interceptions.

Even though Dallas will be without injured starters DeMarco Murray at running back and Phil Costa at center, Robinson believes the Cowboys still have enough playmakers to give Atlanta some matchup problems.

``It's a potent offense and it's not an opponent that we're taking lightly,'' Robinson said. ``They're coming off a tough loss. We expect them to come in here Sunday night and give us their best shot. We definitely will be prepared.''

Samuel can't wait. Even if something goes wrong, he knows Robinson will be there for support.

``Of course, I miss tackles, he misses tackles, but we make a lot of plays together, man,'' Samuel said. ``He comes up on the ball hard and makes some good tackles. I try to do the same thing.''

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Brian MacLellan got his day with the Stanley Cup over the weekend

Brian MacLellan got his day with the Stanley Cup over the weekend

Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan finally got his day. 

Over the weekend, MacLellan played host to the Stanley Cup, taking it home to his offseason house in Minnesota. 

MacLellan brought the Cup to Powderhorn Park, where a youth hockey tournament was being put on by the Herb Brooks Foundation. 

MacLellean talked with local media about the experience:

"It's a fun day, a fun day to see people react to the Cup," MacLellan told FOX 9 TV. "You know, it brings a lot of smiles to people's faces, people that sometimes don't get a chance to get close to it are getting an opportunity and it's fun to watch them enjoy it."

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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 

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— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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