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Redskins draft countdown: Versatile DB Minkah Fitzpatrick could be too talented to leave on the board

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Redskins draft countdown: Versatile DB Minkah Fitzpatrick could be too talented to leave on the board

Redskins draft countdown

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Cornerback
Alabama

Does your team need a safety? Minkah Fitzpatrick can drop back deep and direct the defense from there.

How about an outside corner? He can stick with any wide receiver step for step.

Someone in the slot? Fitzpatrick can handle that, too.

Do you need an edge rusher? You don’t want to line Fitzpatrick up there every snap, but he can get to the quarterback.

On the field, he is a Jack of all trades and a master of many of them. 

Height: 6-1
Weight: 201
40-yard dash:4.46

Projected draft round:1

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins could go into the season with the secondary starters they have now but that doesn’t mean that there isn't a need there. Safety Montae Nicholson could only play in six games last year due to injuries. The slot corner position is up in the air. It’s possible that Josh Norman will be a salary cap casualty in 2019. But even if they were loaded in the secondary, they could use a versatile talent like Fitzpatrick. 

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Clemson, vs. Georgia

—In the first eight minutes of the Tennessee game, he lined up in press man coverage, off man, at slot corner, outside corner and edge rusher. Later in the game, he was the single deep safety. 

—Anyone who plays in the Redskins secondary needs to be part of the solution to fixing the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. Fitzpatrick was a bit inconsistent here. From cornerback, he fought off a blocker and made the tackle in textbook style. Another time he had a bead on a runner on a sweep but he overran the tackle. And against Georgia, he started to jog after it looked like Sony Michel was going out of bounds and Michel turned upfield for an additional 10 yards. 

—Fitzpatrick was a rare true freshman starter on the Alabama defense and his experience shows. He reads plays well and follows his assignments. Once as the quarterback started to scramble he stayed disciplined and stuck in his zone in a situation where many corners rush up to tackle the quarterback, allowing a receiver to run free. 

—He has great speed off the edge rushing the quarterback. Fitzpatrick also shows great hustle, keeping after the QB if he can’t get the sack. That allows other defenders to make the play. 

—Fitzpatrick is very sticky in man coverage, starting with his receiver step for step down the field. 

Potential issues: His interception numbers are hard to sort out. He had eight in his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide - including a school record four returns for touchdowns - but in 2017 he had just one interception. It should be noted that teams mostly threw away from him in the games I watched, so perhaps he did not have many opportunities. Still, it’s something a team should be wary of when spending a high first-round pick. 

There are some analysts who are dubious of Fitzpatrick’s ability to play corner full time in the NFL. That could make the Redskins think twice about drafting him with the idea of having him replace Norman in 2019. 

Bottom line: There is plenty of chatter out there that the Redskins will not hesitate to draft Fitzpatrick if he is on the board at No. 13. That could be true or it could be a smokescreen. Take your pick. 

The Redskins may not have to make the decision, of course. A team could well take him somewhere between the fifth and tenth picks. But the wild card is the likelihood that four or possibly five quarterbacks will go off the board before the Redskins pick. That could push a talented player like Fitzpatrick right into their laps. The Redskins will then have to decide between Fitzpatrick and a few others who would be a top-10 player in most drafts.  

Redskins draft countdown

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

The reboot is almost here. 

The second edition of the XFL, the infamous football league brought to you by WWE founder Vince McMahon for a memorable, combustible one-year run in 2001, begins play in February. It is a second chance for the league and for the players who’ve joined, including former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones is the quarterback for the DC Defenders, Washington’s newest pro franchise that will play its home games at D.C. United’s Audi Field. The first game isn’t until February 8 after the NFL’s season concludes with the Super Bowl, but the organization opened its offseason camp at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor facility on Thursday. The debut is just over two months away. 

“I love it. It’s pretty cool to be part of something that’s going to be a first, a historical moment of the return [of the XFL] and to be in [the D.C.] area,” Jones said. “Hopefully not just me, but this team can leave a lasting impression.”

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the Defenders will make on a crowded winter sports scene with the NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards playing and the World Series champion Nationals starting their title defense just across the street from Audi Field in April just as the XFL plays its final two games and its two playoff rounds. 

Jones, of course, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 when he came off the bench to replace two injured starters and led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big 10 championship game and two more in the college football playoffs. He started seven games in 2015 as a redshirt junior, but lost his job and turned pro after that season. 

Part of the appeal of the XFL is to get another shot at an NFL opportunity. Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and made his debut in a game late that season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and spent that year on the practice squad. Jones was with the Seattle Seahawks this summer and again cut from the practice squad in September.  

“My focus is strictly on the XFL and the DC Defenders, nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said. “I do have long-term goals and aspirations, but all of them consist of being a better player and teammate to this franchise and this organization.”

Pep Hamilton is the head coach and general manager of the Defenders. Quarterback at Howard in the early 1990s, Hamilton has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL and was most recently the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at Michigan. 

That drew a laugh from Jones, who was going back and forth with Hamilton to set up a meeting after the Defenders’ roster was announced. Hamilton still has a home in Ann Arbor so that’s where Jones, the ultimate Ohio State guy, had to go. 

“Right around the corner from the University,” Jones cracked. “So I had to drive past the Big House every freakin’ time I’d go up there. Monday through Wednesday I’d have to go past there.”

Jones laughed and said he was driving through campus one day and saw some players he recognized wearing Michigan gear. He yelled out the car window “O-H!” and sped past them cackling. Every workout Jones makes sure he has his Ohio State cleats on and Hamilton wears his Michigan shoes. 

Jones, Hamilton and the rest are all on the same team now, though, and it will take lots of repetitions throughout the offseason for players from colleges all over the country to come together and form a cohesive group. There isn’t much time. Walk throughs and team meetings began this week and continue into next week. Then come OTAs next weekend and finally a two-day minicamp on Dec. 16-17. 

“This is going to be interesting,” Jones said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I sense a great buzz. We did a couple of appearances and some meet-and-greets with the fans and I was shocked by the response that we got and how excited people are around the city. It’s football all year round.” 

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Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

A week ago, many Redskins fans were not familiar with the name Nate Orchard. But after No. 54's exceptional performance in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina, he's turned into a feel-good story in an otherwise tough season in Washington.

As many Redskins fans know by now, Orchard was signed just days before the Week 13 game. Due to injuries to linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, as well as Ryan Anderson being ejected, Orchard was forced to play meaningful snaps towards the end of Sunday's victory. He finished with a sack, recovering a fumble, and two tackles for loss in the win.

The former star on HBO's Hard Knocks while he was with the Cleveland Browns had worked out for 10 (!!) teams this season, but none chose to sign Orchard until Washington did last week. It makes sense why he was so emotional postgame.

So, how was Orchard spending his time before joining the Burgundy and Gold? 

Orchard, who spent most Mondays and Tuesdays this season working out for NFL teams, was installing windows in Utah a few days during the week, according to 106.7 The Fan.

"A typical week for me, I would leave for a workout Monday, get back Tuesday night," Orchard said on 106.7's Grant and Danny"Wednesday morning, I'd hit the gym early, then go and install windows from 7 [o'clock] until about 3 [o'clock], then come back to my family and rest up. [I would] repeat that Thursday and Friday."

Orchard admitted that he questioned whether he should continue to train and wait for a call, but says his wife encouraged him to stay motivated and continue to workout.

They say hard work pays off, and Orchard's whirlwind of a season thus far ended up being very rewarding for him this past Sunday.

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