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Former Redskins CB Champ Bailey named to the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class

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Associated Press

Former Redskins CB Champ Bailey named to the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class

ATLANTA  -- For towering tight end Tony Gonzalez, this was a slam dunk.

The 6-foot-5 Gonzalez, who turned the celebratory post-TD dunk over the crossbar into an art form, was voted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Joining him will be two more first-time nominees, Champ Bailey and Ed Reed, along with another defensive back, Ty Law, and center Kevin Mawae; Law and Mawae were both in their third year as finalists.

The contributor nominees, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Cowboys and NFL executive Gil Brandt, each made it, as did senior Johnny Robinson, the defensive back who helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl 4.

Gonzalez started in Kansas City and finished in Atlanta, where voters met on the eve of the Super Bowl to select the Class of 2019; they didn't need much time to debate his worthiness.

In short, Gonzalez had more than his fair share of chances to jam. (Maybe not by accident, the NFL banned the practice in 2014, the year after he retired.)

The most prolific pass catcher at his position over a 17-year career, Gonzalez caught 1,325 passes (second in NFL history) for 15,127 yards (sixth) and 111 touchdowns. He was a six-time All-Pro, made 14 Pro Bowls, and his 916 catches with the Chiefs set one of 22 franchise records he held upon his retirement.

He'll be donning the yellow jacket this summer alongside three players who spent part of their careers trying to stop him.

This marks the first time more than two defensive backs have made it in the same class.

Bailey played 15 years -- five with Washington, then 10 more with Denver after the Redskins swapped him for Clinton Portis. Like so many great cornerbacks, Bailey did not rewrite the record book, in part because he was, for a huge chunk of his career, considered the best cover guy in the league. So most quarterbacks simply avoided him.

Still, he made three All-Pro teams, 12 Pro Bowls and a none-too-shabby 52 interceptions. His best-remembered pick was a 103-yard return against Tom Brady in the 2006 playoffs that did not go for a touchdown. Denver did score shortly afterward, though, on the way to the win. Eight years later, Bailey made his only Super Bowl.

Reed won his only title in the 2012 season, his last with the Ravens. Running the defense from his safety position, he was a standout playmaker on a roster full of them -- including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Peter Boulware. Reed finished his career with 64 interceptions, and led the league in picks three times.

Law was a lot like Bailey, a rock at the corner who quarterbacks avoided. He finished with 53 interceptions and three Super Bowl rings, all with the Patriots. When New England beat the Rams for its first title in 2002, Law returned a pick 47 yards for a score that gave the Patriots the lead in the second quarter; they didn't trail after that.

Law was one of the many high-profile players Bill Belichick was willing to cycle out, and his final five years were spent with Kansas City, Denver and two stints with the Jets, including 2005, when he made a career-high 10 interceptions.

Mawae, a second-round draft pick in 1994, played 16 seasons for the Seahawks, Jets and Titans. He made three All-Pro teams and joins Mike Webster, Dwight Stevenson and Jim Otto among the few true centers in Canton.

Mawae earned a spot some thought might go instead to Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli. But for Boselli, Edgerrin James, John Lynch, Richard Seymour and six others, it's wait `til next year.

Bowlen goes in after what some believe was a longer-than-necessary wait. He is now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which has put the future of the Broncos' franchise on uncertain ground. He was key in securing the NFL's future via a number of multibillion-dollar TV contracts. The Broncos have largely prospered during his tenure, winning more than 60 percent of their games. That included the 1998 Super Bowl, when the owner famously shouted "This one's for John" -- a tribute to John Elway winning his first title.

Brandt spent 29 years with the Cowboys, where his keen eye for talent helped turn Dallas into "America's Team." He chose eight future Hall of Famers, including Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly and Bob Hayes. He employed computers for evaluating talent and came up with psychological tests for draft prospects, two tools no NFL team could do without in the modern game.

Brandt also was elected for his role as the NFL's resident draft guru.

Robinson was chosen by the Dallas Texans in the first AFL draft. The Texans became the Chiefs, and the Chiefs became Super Bowl champions. A teammate of his, Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, said Robinson was the key to a defense that helped Kansas City to two AFL titles, each of which landed the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

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There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

Ron Rivera's first free agency class with the Redskins consisted of just over a dozen players, many of which share this one specific trait: versatility.

On the offensive side of the ball, Washington added running back J.D. McKissic, who can both run in between the tackles and catch passes out of the backfield. Additionally, the team added a pair of offensive lineman, Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer, who both have experience playing multiple positions along the line. 

The trend of adding versatile players continued in the draft. The Redskins invested a third-round pick in RB/WR hybrid Antonio Gibson and followed that selection with fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles, who played both tackle spots at LSU. The Redskins used another Day 3 pick on Keith Ismael, who played all three interior offensive line spots at San Diego State.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was asked this week why the team emphasized versatility so much this offseason, and the 37-year-old's reply was simple.

"I think you want to be as unpredictable as possible," Turner told local media via Zoom this week. "You don’t want the defense to know what you’re going to do. I think you do that with balance and everything like that."

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While that sounds ideal, being unpredictable is hard to do. The offensive coordinator explained that keeping opposing defenses on their toes requires a lot more than just mixing up pass plays with rushing ones. 

"Balance is not just run and pass," he explained. "It’s getting all five – you have five eligible receivers on every play – getting all five of those guys. That to me is what true balance is, using all five of those guys in the run game or pass game. So, guys that are able to do different things, it gives you more options of how you can use them and more things that the defense has to defend."

Outside of wide receiver Terry McLaurin, plenty of Washington's offensive weapons remain unproven at the NFL level. However, there's still plenty of optimism in Redskins Park about the team's skill position depth.

The Redskins had a pair of rookie pass-catchers emerge towards the end of last season, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, and having another season alongside Dwayne Haskins should only help them. At running back, Adrian Peterson keeps chugging along, and if Derrius Guice can stay healthy, he has the chance to make a huge impact, too. 

Washington's offseason additions of McKissic, Gibson, and fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden, who the offensive coordinator specifically praised, all give Turner plenty of flexibility to be creative with the unit.

"We have guys that we feel like can fit those molds as far as just creatively getting the ball, not just like running back and receiver and we’re going to give a lot of people a chance and see how it shakes out," Turner said.

Too often last season, Washington's offense was extremely predictable, especially once interim head coach Bill Callahan took over. Callahan insisted on running the ball early and often; the Redskins ran the ball 58% of the time on first down, the sixth-highest rate in the league, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Many of these runs were unsuccessful, leaving Washington in plenty of third-and-long situations. Those down-and-distance situations are immensely hard to convert, but even more difficult with a rookie quarterback, which the Redskins had with Haskins last season.

There's only room for improvement for the Redskins offense as Turner enters his first season as the team's offensive coordinator. The unit averaged just 16.6 points per game a season ago, which ranked dead last in the NFL. Washington averaged just 274 yards of total offense per contest in 2019, good for 31st in the league, with only the Jets trailing them.

This season marks the first true offensive coordinator gig that Turner has had; he was promoted to the role in Carolina last December, ironically after Rivera was fired. With the Panthers, Turner had the luxury of running back Christian McCaffrey -- arguably the most versatile offensive player in the NFL -- to his disposal, as well as guys who can play multiple roles like Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore.

While the Redskins may not have a player like McCaffrey, the offensive coordinator has a plan for how he envisions Washington's offense to succeed in 2020, and it all starts with having players who can do multiple things.

"Versatility is so important because it’s uncertainty for the other side of the ball," Turner said.

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Two examples of why ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Two examples of why ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Scott Turner was asked about quarterback Dwayne Haskins' growth this offseason during a Zoom call with local media earlier this week, and the new Redskins offensive coordinator explained he was pleased with both Haskins' physical and mental progress.

Besides raving about the second-year quarterbacks imposing size and natural arm strength, Turner also dove into specific detail about one other thing that really stood out to him about Haskins: his ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a throw without much space.

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter on Friday, tweeting out two video examples from Haskins' rookie season where the quarterback demonstrated the qualities Turner raved about.

The first example was a clip from the Redskins Week 11 contest against the Jets. The play went down in the scorebook as a 24-yard completion to Kelvin Harmon, but what the quarterback had to do in order to make this play successful was quite impressive.

For this play, Orlovsky explained how Haskins identified where the pressure was coming from pre-snap, causing him to shift the entire protection to the left. After the running back missed his block, Haskins didn't panic. The then-rookie QB stepped up in the pocket and fired a dart to Harmon on the in-route as the receiver broke open in the middle of the field.

"This is one of my favorite plays by him last year," Orlovsky explained. "It really is an example of the intellectual aspect of quarterback play with the feel aspect of quarterback play."

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The second clip was from Washington's clash in Green Bay last season. On this particular snap, Haskins showed his mastery of the Packers' defense.

Haskins' initial read was to the right side, where Harmon was running an inside post route. But once the quarterback saw his first read was covered, he continued to look right, forcing Packers' safety Darnell Savage to slide in that direction. The passer then immediately turned to his backside, which created an open throwing lane to find Terry McLaurin in the middle of the field.

"It really shows a complete understanding of what the defense is, what the coverage is, and then a complete understanding of who on the defense he needs to move with his eyes to open up a window," Orlovsky said.

It's fair to mention that the Redskins would not win either of these games and that the rookie passer had his struggles in each of these contests. It's no secret that Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie, and there were examples of such in each of these matchups, too.

But Haskins did finish the season playing the best football of his young career, giving some hope for the future. Count Orlovsky in on those who are optimistic about the quarterback as he enters his second season with the team and his first as the team's true starter.

"There are so many examples on his tape that show how smart he actually is," Orlovsky said. 

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