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From Landon Collins to Kam Chancellor: How Sean Taylor continues to inspire

From Landon Collins to Kam Chancellor: How Sean Taylor continues to inspire

When asked to describe the type of player Sean Taylor was, former Redskins great Brian Mitchell had three comparisons: 

“Imagine Steve Atwater, Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed all mixed in one,” he said on the Sports Uncovered podcast, which debuted on Thursday. 

Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing around 230 pounds, Taylor looked more like a linebacker than a defensive back. But what he did on the field revolutionized the position forever, and even to this day players want to be like Taylor.

Let’s start in the same secondary Taylor roamed for four years in Washington. Landon Collins may have grown up in New Orleans, but perhaps no other player in the NFL gets more inspiration from No. 21 than No. 20 does today for the Burgundy and Gold, thanks to the undeniable similarities between the two.

“I’m watching highlights and I’m constantly seeing 21, 21, 21 making big, ginormous hits on highlight tapes and stuff like that, so I was like ‘let me figure out who Sean Taylor is,” Collins said on the podcast. “After watching his highlight tapes I’m like, ‘wow, he’s playing with so much aggression, he’s playing like he hates the other team that he’s playing against. That’s how I feel playing against anybody.”

“I feel like this is me, just an older me that’s already playing the position I want to play… It was just crazy that it was like hand-in-hand, I mean I feel like I'm walking in the same footsteps.”

Carrying himself like Taylor has been a priority since a 9-year-old Collins saw Taylor hitting anything that moved on those highlight tapes. It provided somewhat of a blueprint for the aspiring safety, so Collins wore No. 26 at Alabama (Taylor was No. 26 at Miami), then he donned No. 21 (famously Taylor’s number with the Redskins) with the New York Giants before settling on No. 20 in Washington, as a sign of respect to his football idol.

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“I’m not trying to replace No. 21, I’m not trying to do anything to make anybody upset, but to me it was something that I idolized, and I knew at this moment I don’t think anybody from this time or forever will wear No. 21 again, so I wore No. 20 just to honor him right next to his number… I have some big shoes to fill at the same time, but I’m going to do it all if I can.”

Collins is far from the only player to feel this way. Former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger wore No. 36 with Washington (Taylor’s old number during his rookie year), laced-up Taylor inspired cleats and even decorated his facemask with tape before big games just like Sean used to. As Swearinger told NBC Sports Washington back in 2017, Taylor provided inspiration on the right way to play the position.

“Every time he was on, I was glued to the TV just trying to see what he did, how he hit people, how he had range in the middle, how he came downhill and knocked the ball loose, just how he was a dominant force on the field,” Swearinger said. “I wanted to be that dominant force wherever I was at.”

The list goes on: New Redskins safety Sean Davis, former Redskins safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Virginia native and 4-time Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry have all opened up about how Sean Taylor inspired them (and that’s just to name a few). It’s not only safeties though, Taylor was even a favorite of 2020 second overall pick Chase Young while he was growing up in the DMV, and now the Ohio State product will look to have a similar impact on the Redskins defense that a young Hurricane had over a decade ago. 

RELATED: WHERE WOULD TAYLOR RANK AMONG BEST SAFETIES EVER?

It is truly incredible that Sean Taylor’s playing style is still talked about to this day, a fact not lost on those who have seen it all in the NFL, like 12-year NFL veteran and longtime Redskins analyst Trevor Matich.

“Some of the best at the position in the league are looking at Sean Taylor to see how they should play to be better,” Matich said. “Think about that - I mean it’s one thing to look at a player and say, ‘Ok, he’s pretty good,’ it’s another thing for you to be one of the best in the business and you say, ‘I can get better if I do things more like he did it.’ That’s a compliment.”

“When you talk about Sean Taylor, when you see tributes to Sean Taylor, he’s affected more players in the NFL at this point than anyone else,” said Clinton Portis, Taylor’s teammate at the University of Miami and with the Redskins. “You’re talking about most of your top players in the NFL want to emulate or idolize Sean Taylor.”It’s great to model your game after a legendary player, but what about replacing him? The Redskins have been trying to find success in the secondary for over 12-years without much luck. Super Bowl XVII champion Joe Theismann has seen it all with this franchise, and warns against setting the bar too high for a replacement.

“We’re looking for someone like Sean Taylor, it’s like looking for a Lawrence Taylor. It’s like looking for a Tom Brady. It’s like looking for Peyton Manning. It’s like looking for John Riggins, you don’t find that, they’re rare to find,” Theismann said. “The search continues I think for us, I really think Landon Collins is the kind of a young player that can be close to that kind of a guy… to me, what I see in Landon is a lot of Sean.”

Collins sees a lot of Sean in himself too, and appears ready for the challenge ahead.

“It’s like a dream come true, it's unreal. Like I’m still floating on a cloud but I’m here now, got some big shoes to fill that I’m trying to make happen.”

Listen to the full episode of Sports Uncovered's Sean Taylor: The NFL Superstar We Didn't Get to Know, click here.

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Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

While many expect Dwayne Haskins to be Washington's quarterback in Week 1, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to formally name a starting quarterback and has preached "pure competition" between Haskins and Kyle Allen.

The battle for the job has the potential to take an interesting twist in the coming weeks if veteran Alex Smith is able to return from the active/PUP list. In a media session with local reporters on Monday, Rivera said Smith is "going to be in the throes of this competition" if he's able to return.

However, even if Smith is healthy enough to compete for the starting job, Haskins believes he's the best man for the job. 

"All respect for everyone in that room, but I feel like I give us the best opportunity," Haskins told Julie Donaldson, Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content. "I look forward to showing it."

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Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie but really started to show flashes of his potential towards the end of the season before an ankle injury prematurely ended his first season as a pro. Over his final six quarters, Haskins finished with 394 passing yards on a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and zero turnovers. 

Since Rivera took over as head coach in January, he's challenged Haskins to take command of the job, and the quarterback has responded. Haskins has dropped close to 20 pounds this offseason and said he is in the best shape of his life. He's spent the bulk of his offseason training and learning from numerous NFL stars, most notably Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr.

Although Rivera has yet to name Haskins the starter, he's taken notice of the 23-year-old's progress and has publicly praised him for it. In a media session last week, several comments the head coach made sounded as if he was ready to move in the direction with Haskins as QB1.

While Haskins and Smith may be directly competing with one another, the two have a strong relationship.

Haskins has said multiple times how much of a help Smith was to him as a rookie. On Monday, Haskins said he looks at Smith as a "mentor" to him.

"He's a great teammate," Haskins said. "Somebody in the meeting room that we look for answers and questions and everything he's been through in his long tenure as a professional quarterback in the NFL. He's someone I kind of look to as a mentor in that sense."

RELATED: MORGAN MOSES IS IMPRESSED WITH DWAYNE HASKINS 'KNOWING HE'S GOING TO BE NO. 1 QB'

Smith's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he's even close to playing after suffering the gruesome leg injury he had in November 2018 is already impressive enough within itself. And of the three quarterbacks, Smith is by far the most proven and experienced.

But Washington is currently in a rebuild, and Rivera has said multiple times that the 2020 season will be crucial in determining who he sees as core players on his roster. So, starting a 35-year-old Smith over Haskins, a second-year player who the team invested a first-round pick in just one year ago, wouldn't make much sense.

Yet, if Smith does end up being healthy enough to compete for the job, Haskins is ready to embrace the challenge.

"I'm extremely happy and excited for Alex. Having watched him train last year and him just getting into the position to try and play this year...I can tell how much work he's put in," Haskins said. "I'm excited for him. Hopefully he gets back to where he needs to be, and I look forward to competing with him and everything of that nature."

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Dan Snyder's attorney raises conspiracy questions with defamation suit

Dan Snyder's attorney raises conspiracy questions with defamation suit

Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder wants to clear the air about a series of slanderous rumors that his attorney believes were part of a wider campaign to spread misinformation and defame his character. 

"There's a lot of things going on in Washington right now regarding the club and there are people that may have some motives to falsely attack Mr. Snyder," attorney Joe Tacopina, who represents Snyder, said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington. 

The center of the issue comes from an article that ran on meaww.com - a website owned by India-based company Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide - alleging Snyder had personal involvement with financier Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who killed himself while in prison last year. 

"Dan Snyder has nothing to do with [Epstein] and had nothing to do with him," Tacopina said of the article. 

That article, shared repeatedly via social media, deeply bothered the Snyder family and now the owner wants to do everything in his power to clear his name. 

In the process, Tacopina alleges that a former employee was spreading the disinformation at the behest of a financial backer. Snyder is taking legal action against former Washington employee Mary Ellen Blair in an attempt to prove she intentionally spread lies and was told to do so by a third party. 

"We believe there are obviously people behind that had their own purposes for doing it," Tacopina said. The lawsuits aim to "to uncover who’s behind the scenes, who’s pulling the strings."

RELATED: DAN SNYDER FILES TWO DEFAMATION LAWSUITS

In a New York Times report, Blair is connected to Dwight Schar, one of the Washington minority owners looking to sell his shares in the team. The article contends that Blair dealt with financial hardships and lives in a building that Schar's daughter's real estate development company owns.

Asked if the misinformation and defamation lawsuits have anything to do with Washington's minority partners looking to sell 40 percent of the team, Tacopina would not speculate, but he did respond. 

"I think common sense will sort of play out. I think the evidence in this case will present us with who’s behind this," Tacopina said. 

Tacopina has an impressive and high-profile legal track record. He worked with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill to end his decade-long legal saga and multiple jail visits. He also lists Alex Rodriguez and Jay-Z as clients. 

This looks to be just the beginning of a series of legal actions that could unclose a significant conspiracy against the Washington Football Team owner. Then again, it could be nothing. The legal process will play out.

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