Redskins

In a rush: Vikings winning their own way

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In a rush: Vikings winning their own way

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have already surpassed most external expectations for this supposed rebuilding season, winning games with a method that defies modern NFL convention.

This is the rare team right now that is stressing the need to become more balanced on offense by throwing the ball more rather than the other way around, but it's not about to apologize for its approach.

Despite Christian Ponder's paltry 58 yards passing, the Vikings were in control of Sunday's 21-14 win over Arizona from start to finish and improved to 5-2. That's more than half of the nine victories they accumulated over the last two years combined.

Thanks to Adrian Peterson's powerful running and a relentless pass rush by the defensive line, the Vikings are playing with momentum and confidence even if they're still struggling to complete the mid-range and long throws down the field.

``However way we do it, you just like to win,'' coach Leslie Frazier said. ``I do believe you want to be a balanced team. You want to be able to throw the ball as well as run the ball effectively, but there are times where something is being taken away you have to be good in other areas. Fortunately for us, we're at a point as a team where we can make up for deficiencies in other areas. There was a time where that would not have been the case. It shows that we're growing.''

Peterson had a season-high 153 yards on 23 carries, his comeback continuing to amaze the Vikings as well as the rest of the league. As long as he's been here, they've naturally been focused on featuring one of the best running backs of his generation, even during Brett Favre's remarkable un-retirement season in 2009.

On the other side, a formidable front seven that can keep the ground game in check and put pressure on the opposing passer has long been a hallmark of the Vikings, too. They tied for the NFL lead with 50 sacks last year even with a 3-13 record.

The twist on this season is the way they've been able to consistently apply an effective pass rush without blitzing. With Jared Allen and Brian Robison leading the way, the Vikings are third in the league with 22 sacks, but they've done it without sacrificing a linebacker, safety or cornerback in their pass coverage. That plus the healthy return of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield and the addition of rookie safety Harrison Smith has resulted in a significantly improved secondary.

The Vikings have rarely been beaten by the long passes that crushed them so often last year or in the seasons before that, limiting Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday just as they did Lions standout Calvin Johnson in a win at Detroit on Sept. 30.

``We really just focus on what we're going to go out and do, and if the offense puts up 40 points, that's great. If they don't, we're still going to try and play the same ball that we know how to play,'' Smith said.

The Vikings sacked Arizona's John Skelton seven times and forced him into two turnovers.

``I've missed a few this season already, so just to get close to him and get him on the ground was huge for me,'' defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. ``Hopefully they come in bunches.''

Interceptions have come in bunches for Ponder lately after going the first four games without one.

``I'm trying to do too many things. I'm getting out of the pocket and trying to force it to happen. I have to be a lot smarter and make better decisions, for sure,'' Ponder said, adding: ``We're definitely relying on our run game, and that's not a bad thing. We just need to keep making progress in the passing game.''

Frazier pinned much of Sunday's struggle on a tricky, tough Cardinals defense. He expressed no concern with Ponder, only confidence in how much more mature and better suited he is to handle the game than during his rookie year.

``I'm convinced of it, seen enough evidence of it in practice, even in games, where he's bounced back from some tough plays,'' Frazier said, ``and his teammates have seen it as well.''

NOTES: Peterson, who has been bothered more by a sprained left ankle than his surgically repaired left knee, was not as sore on Monday as he was a week ago, according to Frazier. ``So that's encouraging. We'll be smart tomorrow and get him ready to go on Thursday,'' the coach said. ... Backup TE John Carlson took a hit to the head and developed concussion-like symptoms and probably won't play against Tampa Bay with only three days to heal.

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Various sources

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Davis as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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