Redskins

Mitch Unrein helps Broncos beat Bucs 31-23

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Mitch Unrein helps Broncos beat Bucs 31-23

DENVER (AP) What Mitch Unrein lacks in dance moves he more than makes up for in shock value.

The second-year defensive lineman out of Wyoming helped the Denver Broncos wrap up their second straight AFC West title Sunday with their seventh straight win, a less-than-perfect but oh-so-pretty 31-23 win over the feisty Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Unrein caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to open the scoring, then came free for the big hit on Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman that forced a bad throw that ended up in Von Miller's hands for the game's biggest play.

Miller's pick-6 marked the first career interception and the first career touchdown for last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, who is making a stronger case by the week for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

And it put this game out of reach at 28-10.

Miller did a hip-swaying jig in the end zone, unlike Unrein, who became the first defensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass in Broncos history and celebrated with a big-time spike - followed by a mad scramble to retrieve the football.

``After I spiked it, I was, like, `Uh, oh, where'd it go?'' Unrein said. ``Luckily, I got it back.''

He left the dancing to Miller, though.

``I have two left feet as they say. I can two-step a little bit, country dance,'' Unrein said. ``It all happened so fast I didn't know what to do.''

Unrein trotted onto the field on first-and-goal from the 1 and lined up at fullback.

``Certainly when you put a big D-lineman in there, a lot of times the defense is thinking run,'' Manning said.

Unrein, though, slipped into the left flat and hauled in Manning's floater in stride.

``It was a Willie Mays catch,'' marveled teammate Kevin Vickerson. ``It was over the shoulder just like Mays.''

And it seemed the hang in the air for just as long as Vic Wertz's drive to the warning track in the 1954 World Series, too.

``It felt like a really long time when that ball was floating toward me,'' Unrein said. ``I was like, `Don't drop it. Don't drop it.' Luckily, it hit my hands and I caught it. That's why I wrapped it up with both hands and stood there for a second and was like, `I just scored a touchdown. That's pretty cool.'

``Then, afterward, I had no dance, no skills like Von Miller.''

Although the Broncos had put in the trick play at practice several weeks ago - and Unrein said he caught it every time - the play surprised teammate Champ Bailey.

``Not that they threw to him, but that he caught it,'' Bailey noted. ``Too many times you see a defensive player run a route, be wide open and he drops it. He got his hands up and caught it.''

It sure stunned the Buccaneers.

``You never prepare for that play,'' safety Ronde Barber said. ``It happens. There isn't much you can do about it. It never had shown up on film.''

About 90 minutes later, Unrein helped Miller get into the end zone for his first career TD, coming through the line unblocked and hitting Freeman just as he threw toward Vincent Jackson.

The ball floated into Miller's hands at the 26 and he ran untouched into the end zone.

``I only had some O-linemen in front of me,'' Miller said. ``I felt like my odds were pretty good.''

Miller's touchdown came just after Demaryius Thomas' second straight TD catch from Manning, whose 29 touchdown throws this season surpassed Jake Plummer and John Elway for the most scoring tosses in a single season for the Broncos.

``You look at that type of swing that a pick-6 is from a mental standpoint, from a point standpoint, it's tough to overcome,'' said Freeman, who completed 18 of 39 passes for 242 yards.

The Broncos (9-3) won their seventh straight and wrapped up a date in January in the playoffs, though there were no whoops and hollers in the locker room.

``It's one step,'' Bailey said. ``It's not like we've done everything we want to do.''

The Bucs (6-6), surprising contenders under first-year coach Greg Schiano, fell a game behind Seattle for the second NFC wild-card spot and their loss clinched the NFC South for Atlanta.

The Broncos held Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin to 56 yards on 18 carries.

Manning went 27 for 38 for 242 yards, as the Broncos scored 30-plus points for the sixth time over their seven-game win streak. Despite Denver's big numbers, which included eight catches for 99 yards for Thomas and nine receptions for 89 yards from tight end Jacob Tamme, this was another far-from-perfect effort from the Broncos' offense.

Manning was frustrated in the first half as a series of penalties, off-target throws and missed protections kept him biding his time on the bench. The only real highlight came at the end of his first drive - the 1-yard touchdown pass to Unrein.

Freeman countered with an 11-yard scoring strike to Manning's friend and former top target in Indianapolis, Dallas Clark.

After that early touchdown drive, Freeman never got comfortable again, although he led the Bucs on a 47-yard TD drive that made it 31-23 with 2:33 left. Eric Decker recovered the onside kick and Denver lined up in victory formation twice. Schiano, as is his wont, had his players fire off the ball.

``After the game he came up and told me on the end-of-game play he didn't mean any harm,'' Manning said. ``And I appreciated that comment.''

NOTES: Broncos K Matt Prater missed from 47 yards, making him 2 for 5 from 40 to 49 yards this season and 15 for 17 from everywhere else, including 3 for 4 from 50-plus. ... Bucs CB LeQuan Lewis appeared to sustain a serious leg injury in the closing minutes on special teams.

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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. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

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

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 22, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview: Offense

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the offense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. 

Alex Smith

The subheadline here doesn’t need any elaboration. The Redskins gave up a top-100 draft pick, a promising player, and $71 million in guaranteed money to get him. When asked about the timetable for Smith picking up the offense, Jay Gruden said, “He has got to get it down by the first game.”

That first game is seven weeks from today. Of course, the process has already started as Smith appeared to have a solid grasp of things in the offseason practices. There is every reason to think that he will look good in Richmond. 

The question is, how much will the coaches push him? Will they focus on him having success on shorter, easier throws to build his confidence? Or will they call plays that test his ability to throw deep? Last year in Kansas City his ability to hit on long passes helped transform him from being an above-average quarterback to an MVP candidate. The Redskins need him to be effective deep starting Week 1 and training camp needs to be the starting point. 

The running back rotation

This is primarily about Derrius Guice, who is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards last year and they bring back the same offensive line (although hoping for better health) and three of the same running backs. They are counting on Guice to be the difference maker. 

But Guice can’t do it by himself. Gruden will be wary of overworking his rookie, who has an aggressive running style and who was banged up for a lot of his last year at LSU. He also may give Guice a light load if he struggles in pass protection early on. Chris Thompson’s role is set. Where do Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine line up? Does one or the other take most of the first-team reps when Guice is getting a rest? 

The difference between being the third back and the fourth is big. The fourth back on the depth chart is unlikely to be active most game days. The active back could get five to 10 carries per game.

Who’s at left guard?

Is Shawn Lauvao going to be the left guard? It doesn’t seem logical that they would put all their eggs in Lauvao’s injury-prone and frequently ineffective basket. Will Ty Nsekhe line up there? Do they think that Tyler Catalina or Kyle Kalis can push for the starting job? Is a trade in the offing? 

Jordan Reed’s health

This does not need much explanation if you’ve been paying attention the last several years. It would be both a good sign and a major surprise if he starts camp healthy and doesn’t miss any time due to injuries. If he’s out there, there is no question that he and Smith will quickly develop chemistry. 

Wide receiver depth chart

The stakes at wide receiver are similar to those at running back. The top backup behind the three starters, who could be any of Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick or Try Quinn, will have a regular role in the offense line Ryan Grant had last year. The fifth guy will rarely play, the player who has the sixth spot will rarely play, and the seventh won’t have a job. 

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Apparently, some teams are worried that their players are playing too much of the video game Fortnite. No, seriously.

Timeline 

Happy birthday to Redskins running back Quinton Dunbar, who was born on this date in 1992.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 4
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 18
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 41

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 49 days. 

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