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Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are changing the Redskins defense

Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are changing the Redskins defense

The Redskins spent time, money and draft capital to improve their defensive front. Through three games of the 2018 season, those moves are paying off. 

Construction of a rebuilt defensive line truly began at the 2017 NFL Draft when Jonathan Allen slipped all the way to Washington with the 17th pick. He showed plenty of promise last season, but an injury cut his season short after five games. The Redskins barely recovered from his absence and the team's rush defense limped to finish last in the NFL. 

Washington continued to invest in the defensive front in 2018, drafting Daron Payne in the first round and Tim Settle in the fifth. The 'Skins also re-signed tackling machine linebacker Zach Brown during free agency. 

Add it all up, and the Redskins currently rank in the top 5 of the NFL in nearly every meaningful defensive category. Giving up fewer than 15 points-per-game, Washington is tied for second in the NFL with the vaunted Jacksonville defense. Prefer the yardage allowed metric to measure team defense? Washington (278 per-game) only ranks behind the Ravens (273 per-game). 

Any good defense has strong players lining up from the front to the back, but it always starts up front.

In Washington, that means Payne and Allen at the top of the list. 

"Those two guys are special guys and they need to be on the field," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said on Monday, after Payne and Allen combined for three sacks of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers.

"We have some other guys that can play without a doubt, but those two guys are first-rounders and very talented, so the more they play, the better they get."

Add in Matt Ioannidis, who has three sacks in three games, and the Redskins have a stout, young defensive line. Almost more importantly, all three players are on rookie, team-friendly contracts. In fact, Pro Football Focus has Ioannidis ranked as the highest graded of the Redskins defensive linemen, probably because of crazy plays like this.

Washington will continue to push Payne and Allen into more situations and more snaps. In the Packers game, both of the former University of Alabama defensive tackles played more than they ever had before. 

"The first couple games we had a rotation going and trying to get their feet wet together, especially Daron, but I think he showed that he can handle the reps and we want to get him out there. We didn’t draft him in the first round to sit by me," Gruden said. "I was impressed with the way that he and Jonathan played, not only at the start of the game, but at the end of the game. They were flying to the football. They were making plays downfield, in the pocket, in the running game. Those two guys together, the vision that we had when we drafted them, getting Jonathan and Daron together came to fruition."

This week the Redskins get to rest and nurse some wounds, particularly along the offensive line. After their bye, however, both sides of the football will be tested. 

First comes a Monday night game in New Orleans with the explosive Saints offense. That will be the biggest test yet for the young D-line. The following week will bring a different, more physical test for Allen and company: Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Redskins fans should be excited about the young defensive front. The play has been very encouraging, and that's without much statistical production yet from outside pass rushing stalwarts Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. 

If the defensive numbers look the same after games against Drew Brees and Newton, then the conversation is no longer about potential. It's about results. 

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Report: Brandon Scherff and Redskins 'far apart' on contract negotiations

Report: Brandon Scherff and Redskins 'far apart' on contract negotiations

Besides the quarterback competition between Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins, one of the biggest storylines from Redskins training camp will be whether the team and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff can agree on a contract extension before the start of the 2019 season.

On Monday, a report came out from 106.7 The Fan's Erin Hawksworth that Scherff has been offered multiple contract extensions from the Redskins, but "the two sides are far apart."

Scherff is entering the 2019 season on the last year of his rookie deal and set to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. 

The fifth-year guard will make a base salary of $12.5 million in 2019 after the Redskins picked up his fifth-year option a year ago as part of his rookie deal.

Should Scherff hit the open market, he will be a hot commodity. 

He may not receive a contract as big as Cowboys' guard Zack Martin did, but expect him to command close to top-market money. Martin received a six-year, $84 million deal in 2018 with $40 million guaranteed. A contract extension for Scherff could look something like the five-year, $66.5 million deal Jaguars' guard Andrew Norwell signed in 2018. 

Besides tackle Trent Williams, Scherff is without a doubt the most important piece to the Redskins offensive line. With Williams currently holding out, Scherff's presence on the offensive line is even more important.

Scherff missed eight games a season ago with a torn pectoral muscle, and his absence was very visible.

One thing is for certain: if the Redskins are not willing to pay Scherff top-market money, barring something unexpected, he will certainly get it somewhere else. And no Redskins fan wants that.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden 20 ratings

Five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden 20 ratings

With the release of EA Sports' Madden NFL 20 just a few weeks away, the game released their individual player ratings on Monday.

Madden ratings are usually a controversy-provoking topic. Each year, there are a lot more players disappointed with their initial Madden rating than those pleased with theirs.

This year was no different. Some players, such as Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, have said they will boycott the game after being so upset with their rating.

The game unleashed a new rating system this year, which is intended to reward star players and have them feel different than just an above average player.

So how did Madden rate the Redskins?

The Burgundy and Gold come in at the 16th best overall team in the game, despite only having one individual player rated 90 overall or higher.

Two of the Redskins' NFC East foes, the Philadelphia Cowboys and Dallas Cowboys, were the No. 1 and No. 2 overall rated teams in the game, respectively. The Eagles boast a rating of 89, and the Cowboys come in at an 88 overall.

The New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers were all the next highest with an 87 overall.

Here are five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden NFL 20 ratings.

1. Left tackle Trent Williams was rated a 95 overall, the second-highest rated left tackle in the game.

Williams' rating of a 95 is very deserved. He's consistently been the best player on the Redskins from year-to-year, and one of the best offensive lineman in the league. Madden has recognized Williams' importance to the Redskins as well as his overall skill; only the Packers' David Bakhtiari (97) had a higher rating at his position.

The Redskins' Silverback was the third-highest rated offensive lineman in the game, with Bakhtiari and Cowboys' guard Zack Martin ahead of him. He's the only Redskins player to receive an overall rating of a 90 or higher.

Williams has been a key offseason storyline for the Redskins, as he was absent from Redskins' mandatory mini-camp in June. His absence was at first rumored to him wanting a new contract, but reports came out later that he was upset with the team's handling of his medical situation from a season ago. It is unclear whether Williams will report to training camp, which begins July 25.

If the Madden ratings are any indication, Williams is as important to the Redskins as anyone. The Redskins need him on the field.

2. Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins have been rated just one number apart.

The main storyline throughout Redskins' training camp and the preseason will be the quarterback competition between veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins. If the Madden ratings prove to be true, it's going to be a very close battle.

Keenum's initial Madden rating comes in at a 73 overall, while Haskins is a 72. In terms of specific ratings, Keenum slightly edges Haskins out in awareness (80 to 75) and speed (79 to 75), but Haskins has the edge in acceleration (83 to 82), agility (83 to 73) and strength (70 to 51). 

Of course, Keenum's ratings are based off his performance last season with the Denver Broncos, while Haskins' ratings are a rough estimate because he's a rookie. It's likely that both players could have a very different rating at the end of the season than they do now.

3. The Redskins have three defensive linemen all rated around the same number. 

The defensive line unit is probably the strongest position group on the Redskins and the Madden ratings agree with that.

Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne received an 83 overall rating, while Jonathan Allen received an 82 overall grade.

While all three had productive seasons in 2018, it is worth wondering how Allen is not the highest rated of the three.

In his second season, Allen finished second on the team in sacks (8.0) and tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (11). Out of the three, Allen had the most overall tackles, sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits.

While the Redskins expect Allen, Ioannidis and Payne all to have a major impact in 2019, don't be surprised if Allen has the highest overall rating of the three at the end of the year.

4. The Redskins' big free agent signing, safety Landon Collins, was rated a low 83 overall.

This number at first glance seems very low. In his four seasons in the NFL, Collins has made the Pro Bowl three times and first-team All-Pro once. 

But Madden has a whopping 10 free safeties rated higher than him. Recently acquired New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers has a higher rating than Collins, and anyone who's watched the two players over the past couple years knows that's questionable. 

A season ago, Collins was rated an 88 overall. Missing four games with a shoulder injury could be a partial reason for his dip, but the 25-year-old is still one of the elite safeties in the league. An 83 overall does not reflect that.

5. Haskins is the second-highest rated rookie QB in the game, while Giants' Daniel Jones is, uh, low.

While a 72 overall rating would not be flattering to anyone, Haskins has to be pleased being the second-highest rated rookie quarterback, only behind No.1 overall pick and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Overall, the rookie ratings are a lot lower in Madden 20 than they were in Madden 19. A year ago, five rookie quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen) started with a higher rating than Murray, who enters the game as a 73 overall.

When looking at the rookie quarterback class, perhaps the most surprising ranking has to be the Giants' Daniel Jones, who enters the game at a 63 overall.

In years past, a 63 overall would be given to a fringe roster player, not a top-ten first-round pick. For reference, Redskins' seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland enters the game at a 64 overall. 

To put it into perspective, the next lowest top-ten pick was Denver's Devin Bush, who checked in at a 72. The Giants have seven rookies with a higher Madden rating.

Jones' low rating is in unprecedented territory for a top-ten pick, let alone a first-round pick.

The beauty of Madden ratings is that they change. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a 77 entering the 2019 season.

A year later, he's a 97 overall, and arguably the biggest snub from the 99 overall club. While many players may be upset with their rating, they have the ability to let their play do the talking.

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