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After an improbable rise, can Quinton Dunbar keep improving?

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After an improbable rise, can Quinton Dunbar keep improving?

In the coming weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will take a look at the team’s rookies, grade their 2015 season and examine their future prospects.

Today, we’re evaluating cornerback Quinton Dunbar.

Drafted: College free agent

Stats: 13 tackles, 1 interception and 5 passes defended

Grade: B

2015: By now everyone knows the story of Dunbar’s improbable journey from undrafted free agent wide receiver to a regular in the Redskins’ secondary.

By the second half of the season, injuries to key veterans had forced him into a significant role. In fact, he ranked among the most relied upon Redskins from Week 12-16, often playing 50-80 percent of the defensive snaps while also contributing on special teams. (He missed the regular season finale in Dallas with a quadriceps injury).

The highlight of Dunbar’s season came in the Redskins’ pivotal 20-14 win over the Giants in November. Not only did he knock away two passes, he also intercepted Eli Manning in the end zone to preserve a 17-0 second half lead. In that game, Dunbar also suffered a gruesome finger injury but was in the lineup a week later vs. the Cowboys. 

Dunbar also had a strong performance In the playoff loss to the Packers, recording a career-high five tackles to go along with two defended passes.

In 11 games, Dunbar played 267 snaps—the third highest total for a rookie on defense (behind Kyshoen Jarrett and Preston Smith). Dunbar allowed only one touchdown in his coverage, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and was also flagged just once for interference.     

Future prospects: The Florida product boasts great measurable to thrive in today’s game. He’s a rangy 6 foot 2, 201-pounds. He’s also a fluid athlete with impressive speed and good hands. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a former receiver.

The 23-year-old laid a solid foundation to build upon as a rookie. His biggest concern should be getting lost in the shuffle this offseason as GM Scot McCloughan retools the secondary. The Redskins allowed 30 passing touchdowns last season (22nd) and McCloughan is expected to make significant changes at safety and corner. And with free agency and the draft still weeks away, it’s difficult to assess exactly where Dunbar fits.

But we do know this: last season, he got an opportunity because the secondary was decimated by injuries. If he's going play a significant role in 2016, it's going to be because he earned it with a solid offseason.

Previous rookie reviews:

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'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

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Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

This Sunday, for the 117th time, the Redskins and Cowboys will meet. 

Dallas will bring its 3-3 record into FedEx Field and face off with a 3-2 Washington squad. The winner of the contest will guarantee themselves a share of the NFC East lead heading into Week 8.

Here's a storyline, stat and player to watch for the next installment of this rivalry. Once you're done reading those, you can officially start preparing yourself for some sketchy fourth down decisions by Jason Garrett. 

Biggest storyline

Since his tidy but effective game vs. the Packers, Alex Smith turned in a disconcerting performance in New Orleans and a lukewarm effort (albeit a winning one) against the Panthers. Overall, Smith has looked very in control at times but also uneasy and ineffective at others so far in 2018.

So, the biggest storyline in this edition of the series has to do with Smith. If this game calls for it, can he lead the 'Skins to a victory?

That could be difficult vs. the Cowboys. The QB will be without Jamison Crowder again, and on Friday, Jay Gruden listed Paul Richardson as doubtful. Chris Thompson, meanwhile, is questionable.

So, it's likely Smith will be without two of his most talented weapons and possible that he'll be missing three. And on top of that, he'll be operating behind an offensive line that's had issues, which is contributing to his sometimes shaky feet in the pocket.  

To make things even harder, the Dallas defense allows the second-fewest points-per-game in the league and boasts a defensive line that Gruden is very worried about because it employs a scheme that involves a lot of movement. The Colts D-line uses a lot of stunts and movement, too, and they held the 'Skins to just 9 points in Week 2.

Smith has yet to top 300 yards this season or throw for more than two touchdowns in a single outing. He's had no problem winning when the team jumps to an early lead and the running game is going, sure, but he can't count on that each time he starts. 

At some point, his right arm is going to have to be mainly responsible for a Redskins W. And there'd be no better time for that to happen than in his first shot against his new franchise's most-hated opponent.

One key stat

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott don't know what it's like to play an NFL game vs. Washington and leave that game as the loser. Prescott is 4-0 in his four starts, while Elliott suited up in three of those triumphs. 

Elliott has been a big-time problem for the Redskins in their run-ins. The RB has scored five times against the burgundy and gold and averages 110 yards per appearance. 

Come Sunday around 7:30 or 8 p.m., when Elliott's day is done, odds are you'll be able to look at his stat line and judge the outcome of the game solely based on it.

If Greg Manusky and his defense, particularly his young stars up front, are able to bottle up Zeke, you have to like the Redskins' chances of beating the Cowboys for the first time since the 2015 season finale.

The Redskin to watch

Charley Casserly identified Fabian Moreau as a key Redskin for Week 7 (full video above). Another one worth watching is DJ Swearinger.

Swearinger terrorized Cam Newton last week and really flew around the entire field. He'll need to be as active against the Cowboys and, most importantly, be a sure tackler.

Elliott is going to churn out a few seven- and eight-yard runs. It'll be on Swearinger, plus fellow safety Montae Nicholson, to not let those become 20- or 30-yard gains. 

A lot of the attention, and deservedly so, will go toward what Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are doing on Sunday. But if Swearinger can take smart angles, get Elliott to the ground and make a few plays in pass coverage, that'll go a long way vs. a limited Dallas offense.

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