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On the Redskins defensive line, the plan is 'starting to come to fruition'

On the Redskins defensive line, the plan is 'starting to come to fruition'

The Redskins needed to fix their defense, and the work required was not light. In consecutive drafts, the team selected defensive linemen from the University of Alabama, and the results are beginning to prove worthwhile. 

On Sunday, Washington's defense stifled the New York Giants in a 20-13 victory. Rookie phenom running back Saquon Barkley couldn't run, and veteran quarterback Eli Manning couldn't pass. In fact, Eli could hardly stand up. 

Led by the defensive line, the Redskins sacked Manning seven times and knocked him down many more. Barkley had just 38 rushing yards. 

It was a dominant effort, and it all started with the defensive line. 

There are playmakers all over the field on the Redskins defense. D.J. Swearinger is playing sensational football and Josh Norman competes at a high level. But three guys up front are creating havoc: Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. 

Against the Giants, Ioannidis had 2.5 sacks while Allen and Payne each had one. The trio is also a huge part of the 'Skins suffocating run defense. 

Ioannidis leads the Redskins with 5.5 sacks on the season, and he's a great story, too. Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Ioannidis was actually released as a rookie and signed to the practice squad. He kept working, and got coaching from Jim Tomsula, and ended up making the active roster that season.

In 2017, he showed improvement. 

In 2018, Ioannidis is breaking out. 

"Matt does play hard, and he is also very strong," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Sunday. "He is one of the strongest guys on our team, and he is a smart football player too. He understands leverages and double teams and all that."

Strength and smarts is a killer combination on the football field.

Ioannidis, in his third season, has seen more than Allen and Payne, but does not play quite as much. That's because Allen and Payne just can't come off the field. Gruden won't let them. 

"Jonathan and Daron, they are good, they were first-rounders for a reason. Daron is an unbelievable run player, great leverage, great hand strength, great idea of what plays are coming, getting off blocks, pursuit, never stops, and Jonathan is the same way. Those two guys together, like I said, we had a vision for those two guys and it’s starting to come to fruition, obviously, and we just have to keep them healthy and keep working," Gruden said.

"They are great players."

It might seem too simple, but great defenses win up front. That's how it works. Ask the corners and the safeties and they all say a strong pass rush and the ability to stop the run make them look good. 

The craziest part might not be what the Skins defensive line did Sunday, it's what they've done on the team's current three-game win streak. 

In three consecutive games, the Redskins have shut down some of the best running attacks in the NFL. Let Gruden explain.

"It is unbelievable, really. These are three really, really good backs. [Ezekiel Elliott] and Barkley back-to-back, and obviously [Christian] McCaffrey, but also don’t forget about Cam Newton and (Dak) Prescott, they are great runners with the ball also, so like I said, it starts with the scheme. Greg (Manusky) and Tomsula are doing a great job, and then the players have to buy in and they have to perform. They have to get off blocks, they have to continuously pursue, play with great leverage and hustle, and they are doing that."

They are doing that. And they're doing it quite well. 

Late October is not the time to get carried away, but defense travels. Ferocity and physicality on the defensive line matters in January. 

Few things lead to wins more than forceful play up front, and for three straight games, that's what the Redskins are getting. 



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Jason Garrett reportedly to stay in NFC East, becomes Giants offensive coordinator

Jason Garrett reportedly to stay in NFC East, becomes Giants offensive coordinator

Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has agreed to become the new offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, according to a report from ESPN

He will join the staff of first-year head coach Joe Judge.

Garrett was recently let go after a 10-year unimpressive stint with the Dallas Cowboys. In that span, he only led the team to three playoff appearances and with that two playoff wins. 

The team under-performed in 2019 after starting the season with Super Bowl aspirations. Stumbling to an 8-8 record, It became clear that Garrett was the not the answer at head coach. Following the end of the regular season, the team decided to go in another direction replacing him with former Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

The Princeton alum led the Cowboys to an 85-67 overall record during his tenure in Dallas.

As a former backup QB for the Giants (2000-03) and Cowboys (1993-99), he has an extensive background in game-planning against the NFC East.

Judge was named head coach on Jan. 7 after spending eight seasons with the Patriots. He was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2015, and also became the team's wide receiver coach in 2019.

Garrett and Judge will be tasked with developing a young roster with some intriguing options at their disposal, as well as the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft.

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DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has drawn criticism because of his performance in D.C. during his 5-year, $75 million contract he signed in April 2016. Former Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall came to Norman’s defense during a radio appearance with Craig Hoffman on 106.7 The Fan on Friday.

“He does compete, he’s a competitor. And if I have a football player on my roster who’s a competitor, who wants to be out there, who fights hard and plays hard, I’m [going to] find a way to put him in position to make plays,” Hall said. “I think we could’ve done a much, much better job of putting Josh in position to make plays.”

In November, then-interim head coach Bill Callahan benched Norman, and the 32-year-old cornerback played just 10 defensive snaps over the last six games of the season. Should Washington choose to cut ties with Norman this offseason before June 1, the team would save $12.5 million of cap space.

Hall, who interviewed for the Redskins’ defensive backs’ coaching position last January, said Norman wasn’t given the chance to be the leader of the defense. Hall said some of that was self-inflicted because of Norman’s habits and preparation, but a portion of that was because of schematics. 

“I always told those coaches ‘If you want Josh to be a leader — because Josh wants to be a leader — you’ve got to put him in a position to make plays, the same way Carolina put him in a position to make plays,” Hall said. 

The peak of Norman’s career came in 2015 under the direction of Washington’s newly hired head coach Ron Rivera. In that all-pro season, Norman recorded 56 tackles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two touchdowns. 

Hall believes Norman still possesses that all-pro ability; it just needs to be tapped with the right defensive scheme. Hall compared the situation to Richard Sherman, who has revitalized his career in San Francisco after battling injuries. 

“It’s not because [Sherman] is the best lockdown man-to-man corner. It’s because they play Sherm in a system that he’s able to succeed and shine, and they put players around him so that he can make plays,” he said. “If we [would’ve] done the same thing to Josh Norman, he could’ve been an all-pro player here, too, just like he was in Carolina.”

Despite Hall’s belief in Norman’s ability, and the presumption that Rivera and new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will run a similar system to what Norman played in with the Panthers, the former Redskins defensive back doesn’t think the $15 million price tag is worth it for a franchise that has other holes to fill.

“I, as a fan, would love to have Josh back on this team, in this defense that I feel will be similar to Carolina,” Hall said. “But to me, it doesn’t make sense to bring Josh back for $15 million. It’s just a big pill to swallow when you can do a lot with that money on a team that needs a lot of help.”

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