Redskins

Undrafted CBs make Broncos' Porter an afterthought

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Undrafted CBs make Broncos' Porter an afterthought

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Just a month ago, Tracy Porter in street clothes on the Denver sideline was a welcome sight for any opposing quarterback.

Now teams might actually prefer to see him back on the football field.

Porter, who leads the NFL with three game-sealing interceptions since 2009, hasn't played in a month while dealing with problems related to a seizure he had over the summer. He hasn't been missed on the field by the Broncos (5-3), however, because two cornerbacks sporting big chips on their shoulders after going undrafted out of college are playing so well in his absence.

Combined, Chris Harris and Tony Carter have allowed just 23 completions in 59 attempts, and Carter is the toughest cornerback in the NFL to complete a pass against, according to STATS LLC.

Moving into the starting lineup opposite Champ Bailey, Harris has allowed only 16 completions in 34 passes thrown his way, and he's broken up a half-dozen throws.

Carter, who is playing in both the nickel and dime packages, is allowing a league-low completion percentage of just 28 (7 receptions in 25 attempts) among the league's 103 cornerbacks and who have been targeted at least 15 times.

Just as impressively, Carter has broken up as many passes as catches he's allowed.

``That's my first time hearing that,'' Carter said. ``That's a good thing. I can go home and tell my mom about that.''

While he's not quite a household name, Carter's certainly more than just a big name in his own family.

Coach John Fox recently heaped effusive praise on his coverage skills, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio praised his ``sticky'' man coverage that he's brought to Broncos' strengthened secondary.

While everyone seems to be marveling over Peyton Manning, who's thrown three TD passes in each of his last five games, Denver's defense is quietly becoming one of the league's best, and these two smaller cornerbacks are one big reason for that.

``We haven't had young corners play like this in a long time,'' Bailey said. ``You might get one here, one there. But two like this, it's hard to find that.''

Bailey has been around long enough to see plenty of teammates show up strong during the week and disappear on Sunday. It's the ones who transfer all that talent into three hours on game day that make their mark and stick around.

Porter, who's making $4 million in a one-year deal this season and has allowed 25 catches in 38 attempts, might just be relegated to veteran leadership duty once he has cleared medical and cardiovascular hurdles to return to action.

With Harris ($465,000) and Carter ($615,000) in the lineup, the Broncos have surrendered just six pass plays of 20 or more yards in the last three games - all wins - and none of those six passes have been caught by the man they were covering.

``Everybody in here plays with a chip on his shoulder,'' safety David Bruton said, ``but they're playing for a lot more.''

Respect.

Harris is a second-year pro from Kansas who climbed the Broncos' depth chart last year as an undrafted college free agent, and Carter is a fourth-year pro from Florida State who beat out veteran Drayton Florence in the final roster cut-down.

Carter and Harris - each of whom had two takeaways and a touchdown return against San Diego last month - have a bond that goes beyond the position they play. Both were overlooked in the draft and both use that snub as a spark.

``Chris and I have become close,'' Carter said. ``Just coming from the same struggle and realizing that we are underdogs. So, we both go out and I think we both play with that chip on our shoulder.

``And I'm undersized, as well,'' Carter said. ``So, I've got to have a little feistiness about me and just take it personal whenever they come at me.''

Carter started all 50 of his games at Florida State, collecting nine interceptions and 26 pass breakups and returning four takeaways for touchdowns. Like Harris, he wasn't invited to the NFL combine, however, and he's never gotten over not hearing his named called in the draft.

``Draft day will never come back again,'' Carter said. ``I feel like I got the bad end of the stick. Every team passed up on me in the draft, so I take it personally. Every team I play I try to have them say after the game, `Why didn't we draft him?'''

Harris knows exactly how he feels.

``We want to go out there and play every week and prove to everyone that we should have been drafted,'' Harris said. ``And that's something that we take pride in every week.''

While Carter says he still has no idea why he was snubbed on draft day in 2009, Harris said he knows exactly why he was overlooked at Kansas, where he made 41 starts and played in 50 games: his Jayhawks were terrible his last two years.

``That's really where it came from,'' Harris said. ``But the way I play now is the same way I've always played since high school, with that passion and feeling like I'm the best guy on the field.''

He wonders still why he didn't get an invitation to the combine for scouts to see him up close.

``With my resume, I should have been there. I didn't see as many guys who had as many starts as I did in college or with my production,'' Harris said. ``It's just a product of us losing games my last couple of years, the program. If I was at Oklahoma and played the same way and had that many starts, I would have easily been invited to the combine.''

They both figure they'll never get over being overlooked.

``Undrafted free agents have it a little different than guys that were drafted,'' Carter said. ``So, we take that, we hold it. But in the end, it's about opportunity. And we have our opportunities now.''

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that hit the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side but since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact, there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball, but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat, the whole offense will be harder to defend.

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

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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My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

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