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How Landon Collins boxed out the doubters while overwhelmed with emotion

How Landon Collins boxed out the doubters while overwhelmed with emotion

ASHBURN -- “When is this going to be over?”

Camden, Landon Collins’ precocious young son, sought clarification on the day’s agenda while tugging at the white-ish blue jeans with purposely-large holes worn by the Redskins new safety.

The day at Redskins Park began hours before Thursday’s 2 p.m. press conference with behind the scenes meetings, introductions to members of the organization and presumably the signing of a six-year, $84 million contract.

Several smaller interview sessions followed. Now a smaller group of reporters encircled Washington’s splashiest off-season acquisition at the back of the auditorium inside Redskins Park for more questions.

Collins, 25, paused for a moment to answer the query from the youngest member of the scrum.

“In a few, alright?” Collins responded sweetly to his son. He turned his rugged 6-foot-0 frame back toward those inquiring about his fit in the Redskins’ defense, why the New York Giants let him enter free agency and the clear emotions of signing with the team he rooted for growing up New Orleans.

“After being with the Giants, I didn’t think I was going to leave,” the four-year veteran said during the podium portion of his day. “Once I got the opportunity to leave, my dream was to come here. I had all my [University of Alabama] guys here. … It was an opportunity that was offered, and I jumped on it. I had to be here.”

Some might suggest there are $84 million reasons why Collins, now the league’s highest-paid safety, felt he had to be with the Redskins. Even the most callous among us surely recognized the choice went beyond the bottom line.

Like other safeties of his generation, Collins idolized the late Sean Taylor growing up. He wore Taylor’s No. 21 with the Giants in honor of Taylor.

“This is a place I always dreamed of being at because of my favorite player,” Collins said. “It’s an honor to be here, all smiles, no nervousness, just all excitement.

Collins broke down crying when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder presented him with a game-worn autographed Taylor jersey Wednesday night. The emotions returned when retelling the story.

Defiance emerged when asked about specific labels thrust upon him.

New York typically used the physical 218-pounder closer to the line of scrimmage as a “box safety.” That role made some analysts question the sense behind the Redskins paying him those many dollars.

"I laugh, honestly,” Collins said of such criticism, “because I'm not just an in-the-box safety. I make plays in the box, yeah, but I make plays also other places. People see me in the box because that's what teams ask me to do sometimes."

Collins played more snaps deeper in the middle of New York’s defense under a different coordinator. He said the Redskins indicated they plan to use him in a more traditional safety role.

"Pretty much it's people they don't know what they're talking about,” Collins said of the critics. “But when I get the opportunity to show that I can play different spots, I will."

Doug Williams, the Redskins senior vice president of player personnel, saw a potential difference maker once Collins became a free agent after the Giants declined using the franchise tag.

“When you see him on the field, you knew that he was one of the best football players on the field. You're not talking about a 29-year-old guy. You're talking about a 25-year-old you can see playing for the next six, seven years,” Williams said.

Collins, who had surgery in December after missing the final four games of 2018 with a partially torn labrum, isn’t sure why the next years of his career are somewhere other than New York. He recognized the changes as the Giants dealt with “turmoil” and “all that craziness” last season.

“No talks were going on. Nothing was being said,” Collins said. “Don’t know what the future holds with the New York Giants but I’m glad it happened because now I’m in that Burgundy and Gold."

Collins became the seventh Alabama product on the roster. Six are on the defensive side including Washington’s previous two first-round selections, lineman Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Those former teammates repeatedly pestered Collins into a reunion.

“We’re ‘Bama made,” Collins said. “So, we know what it takes to win, and all we want to do is win. Yes, it played a great deal in trying to get here. They made it very easy. Because playing with guys that you know they are going to get after it as much as I get after it, it made it much easier."

There’s denying the money makes life easier. “Honestly it's awesome,” Collins said. “It gives you the aspect that you can breathe.” With it comes responsibility. His mature demeanor should help and turn him into a locker room leader.

Another potential burden looms should the organization allow Collins to wear Taylor’s number.

"I love that burden. I love that passion. I love that on my shoulders. I definitely could carry that,” Collins said.

It’s not often anyone gets to truly lives out their dreams. The Redskins are giving Collins that opportunity.

If all goes well, the joy won’t be over anytime soon.


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10 Training Camp questions: Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

10 Training Camp questions: Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

Josh Norman will lock up one of the Redskins starting cornerback positions. Quinton Dunbar will hold the other. Landon Collins will run the secondary from one of the safety spots, and the Redskins better hope Montae Nicholson can command the other side of the deep field. 

In the base 3-4 defense, those four guys will make up the Redskins secondary. But Greg Manusky deploys Washington defense in their 3-4 base less than 40 percent of the time, and that usually means there is a fifth secondary man on the field, usually another cornerback in the nickle package. 

Last year, that was Fabian Moreau. In 2018, he played all 16 games, made 58 tackles and grabbed one interception. He wasn't great, but he was good, and the league noticed. 

For Moreau though, a rangy corner taken in the 3rd round in 2017, he might be best suited to play on the outside. Unfortunately for him, Norman and Dunbar have those roles locked up, and that means Moreau has to keep battling smaller, quicker receivers on the inside rather than using his length and speed on the outside. 

Outside of a devastating, and incorrect, pass interference call against Moreau late in a Week 16 loss against the Titans, the corner played well in his first significant NFL action. But what happens if another player is better suited for the slot corner role?

That player could be seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland.

The Redskins drafted two players in the first round this year, and somehow, Moreland might have gotten more attention than both during minicamp. He's undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs, and he played locally at FCS James Madison in college, but none of that has mattered so far.

He grabbed five interceptions during minicamp and was talked about by coaches and players every day. 

"He’s always around the ball, excellent ball skills, that’s what drew us to him and he’s proven to be quite the athlete," Washington coach Jay Gruden said during the offseason practice sessions. "He’s picked up the system very well. He's playing inside and outside. I’ve been very impressed with him."

Could Moreland really push Moreau for his job? Richmond will be the scene for one of the more interesting position battles in a while. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Moreland's highlights came before players had pads on. He's undersized, and the physicality of the NFL could be a major surprise, especially against the run. Moreau proved he would do his part against the run, which isn't always about making a tackle, but occupying space on the second level. 

Moreland was a great story in OTAs, but training camp is a different beast. It will be fun to see is he's ready for the next level, or if Moreau maintains his spot. 


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Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

The Ohio State University has one of the most prestigious football programs in all of college football.

Year in and year out, the Buckeyes are National Championship contenders, and also produce some of the best NFL players of any school. Ohio State has produced 81 first-round NFL Draft picks in their program history, tied with the University of Southern California for the most of any school.

But for whatever reason, quarterbacks that hail from the Columbus-based university don't tend to usually find success at the next level. The Redskins need this trend to end now. The Burgundy and Gold invested a first-round pick on former Buckeye Dwayne Haskins, who they expect to be their franchise quarterback for the next several years.

The Redskins Talk podcast sat down with Ohio State football beat reporter Bill Rabinowitz last week to discuss Haskins' lone season as the Buckeyes' starter, his leadership qualities, how he's different from past Ohio State quarterbacks and why he might be the first former Buckeye QB to experience real NFL success.

Despite only spending one year as the Buckeyes starter, Haskins turned in the best statistical season of any Ohio State quarterback in program history.  

He shattered the Big Ten record for most passing yards in a season, throwing for more than 1,000 yards more than the previous record holder. He also broke Drew Brees' Big Ten record for most passing touchdowns in a single-season, tossing 50 in 2018, compared to Brees' 39.

"Maybe the most impressive single season by any Ohio State quarterback," Rabinowitz said on Haskins' 2018 season.

Over the past couple of decades, the Buckeyes have had some very successful college quarterbacks, they just were unable to translate it to the next level.

"Ohio State's history at every other position is pretty impressive in the NFL," Rabinowitz said. "Probably the best quarterback they've every produced is Mike Tomzack in terms of a pro career. He was undrafted. Troy Smith looked like he had the chance to do that, but never really panned out in the pros."

Before Haskins, the previous two Buckeye quarterbacks, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, combined to win a National Championship for Ohio State. Neither one has been able to establish themselves in the NFL. Other recent examples include Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller, who both had spectacular careers as Buckeye QBs before switching to wide receiver in the NFL.

But Rabinowitz says Haskins is "on a different level than those guys as a passer." Unlike many of the past Ohio State quarterbacks, Haskins relies on his arm a lot more than his legs. 

Some draft experts were skeptical of Haskins because of the type of offense Ohio State ran, which included a lot of short, quick passes. But Rabinowitz believes Haskins' arm will allow him to be successful in the NFL.

"Sure there were some shovel passes, but [Haskins] made some deep throws that were just spot on," he said. "Just beautiful, majestic throws. Even from high in the press box, you just went 'wow.' There should be no question about Dwayne Haskins ability to make every throw."

Of course, Rabinowitz was asked by the podcast crew the question that will dominate training camp headlines: Should Haskins start Week 1?

While Rabinowitz admitted that he was not too familiar with the Redskins' QB situation, he did say that because of Haskins' lack of experience, "it may be best not to throw him in with the wolves right away."

"I covered Tim Couch with the Browns in 1999, we saw what happened with him," Rabinowitz said. "Carson Palmer with the Bengals, he didn't play at all his first year, and he was a Heisman Trophy winner. I see the benefits. I know it's tempting to have a first-round pick and want to play him, and if he's their best option, maybe he should play. [Haskins] will do everything in his power to be as ready as he can be, but the NFL is different than the college game."

Training camp and the preseason will be telling for Haskins as to how soon Redskins' fans can expect him to be on the field.