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Best of the Best: The case for John Riggins


Best of the Best: The case for John Riggins

John Riggins is the Redskins all-time leading rusher, an impressive accomplishment especially considering that he didn’t joint the team until his sixth NFL season and that George Allen really wasn’t sure how to use him after he gave him a large free agent contract. And let’s not forget that he sat out a season in his prime, right after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1978-1979. Fortunately, Joe Gibbs persuaded him to return, prompting Riggins to declare, “I’m bored, I’m broke and I’m back.”

He was good during the 1981 and 1982 regular seasons but as the Redskins entered the ’82 playoffs Riggins took it up a notch. A big notch. In his previous 24 games he had gained over 100 yards just twice. Riggins went in to Gibbs, told him, “give me the ball”, and the rest is history.

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In the three playoff games leading up to Super Bowl XVII, Riggins rushed for 119, 185, and 140 yards. He saved his best for last.

In Pasadena against the Dolphins, the Redskins seemed to be the better team but they still trailed 17-13 when the Dolphins punted. With 10:28 left to play, the Redskins faced fourth and one at the Miami 43. We’ll let my book pick it up from here:

"Gibbs didn’t hesitate in his decision to go for the first down. The call was Seventy Chip, run from goal line formation. As he had been doing all game, Gibbs added motion to the play to try to create just a moment of confusion in the Miami defense.

On this play, the motion caused more than confusion. From the tight, jumbo formation, tight end Don Warren went in motion from the left side of the line to the right. Dolphins’ cornerback Don McNeal shadowed Warren. When Warren got to the right end of the line, he reversed his direction. McNeal slipped slightly and was a step or two behind Warren as the ball was snapped.

The Hogs exploded off the line, blocking back Otis Wonsley sealed off the end, and Riggins easily had the first down after taking Joe Theismann’s handoff and going off left tackle. McNeal was left unblocked and his attempted arm tackle was useful only in that it provided a snapshot that has adorned the dens of thousands of Redskins fans. After brushing aside McNeal, Riggins easily rolled into the end zone for the TD. The extra point made the score 20-17.

After the defense forced another three and out, the Redskins drove for the kill. From the Miami 41, Riggins carried five straight times to the 23. Five plays later, the Diesel gained the last of his 166 rushing yards to get the Redskins down to the six. Two plays later, right after the two-minute warning, Theismann rolled right and fired it to Brown, who managed to keep both feet in bounds in the right side of the end zone, and the celebration could begin." 

--From “The Redskins Chronicle” by Rich Tandler

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From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

Terry McLaurin's first touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday wasn't just the result of one well-executed play.

Instead, it combined intelligent film study, superb route running and excellent speed, three of the qualities that McLaurin has shown off all season long as he's establishing himself as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and one of the best picks in the 2019 Draft.

Earlier in the week, the 24-year-old saw Amari Cooper run a similar route versus Miami — one that starts off looking like a crosser before a change of direction turns it into a dash to the corner — and he took note of how the defender tried to undercut it. So, he know if he sold the crosser well, he'd break free once he planted his foot in the ground.

It's one step to put in that work, though. It's a whole other step to actually carry it out on the field. But that's what McLaurin did in Week 6, and it ended up as one absolutely tremendous highlight in an overall impressive afternoon.

No. 17 would go on to find the end zone a second time in the contest, as well as secure an important, long catch late that got the Redskins off of their own goal line. After the win, the team's first in six tries as well as the first of McLaurin's pro career, he was asked if he's surprised by how effective he's been.

"Not really," he said. "I want to be a guy you can come to on third down, the clutch situations, press man. I want to develop into that."

While at the postgame podium, Bill Callahan described the way McLaurin gets open as a "work of art." Case Keenum was just as complimentary.

"He's friendly on the eyes as a QB," Keenum told reporters. "Just the body language he gives in and out of breaks, I know where he's going to be at all times."

In five contests for the Burgundy and Gold, the wideout has 23 catches for 408 yards. He's averaging 17.7 yards a grab and has nabbed five scores. He's beating guys deep, he's beating guys over the middle and he's beating the guys in contested situations.

Yet the trait everyone keeps coming back to, from coaches to teammates to analysts, fans, is his route running. Callahan comparing it to art wasn't a stretch, and Keenum calling him "friendly on the eyes" is deserved. It's top-notch already. 

It's something McLaurin takes a ton of pride in, too.

"I think that's what separates good receivers from great receivers," he said. 

Now, the Redskins' Week 6 victory over the Dolphins was far from flawless. In fact, if it weren't for a dropped ball on a two-point conversion attempt, it very well could've been another loss. 

But while fans of the franchise may not take much comfort in the final score, they should find time to appreciate what McLaurin is doing. 

He's not just an emerging star in the organization, he's an emerging star in the entire sport, and covering his rookie campaign has been a treat so far. Well, for everyone covering him except opposing defenders, of course.


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Redskins run their way to first win over really bad Dolphins

Redskins run their way to first win over really bad Dolphins

MIAMI -- The Redskins proved on Sunday that they're not the worst team in the NFL. That would be the Dolphins. 

Washington ground out their first victory of the year thanks largely to Adrian Peterson's legs and Terry McLaurin's hands. It's great for the organization to finally get a win after an 0-5 start and firing head coach Jay Gruden last week, but make no mistake, Miami is an awful football team. The Redskins had to win this one. 

Here's how it happened:

  • When the Redskins named Bill Callahan as interim head coach, he made clear he intended to run the football. A lot. He's a man of his word. The Redskins gave the ball to Peterson 23 times and he gained 118 yards. That's the first 100-yard rushing day for Washington this season and Peterson's first since Week 16 last year in Nashville. 
  • Case Keenum didn't throw the ball much, but when he did go McLaurin's way it worked very well. The rookie wide receiver had four catches for 100 yards but more importantly, hauled in two touchdowns. Both Redskins scores came via Keenum to McLaurin. The 2019 season is largely lost in Washington, but McLaurin's emergence has been an excellent subplot for the team. He's emerging as a potential real No. 1 wideout, something that has been missing in D.C. since Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson left in free agency after the 2016 season. 
  • Wow, Miami is bad, especially when Josh Rosen is at quarterback. The second-year pro completed 15 of 25 passes for 85 yards and two interceptions before getting benched at the end of the third quarter. The Dolphins offense looked much better once veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game, and the team scored a touchdown on his first drive. 
  • Callahan wants to be conservative, which is all well and good against Miami, but the team exercised an embarrassing lack of urgency at the end of this first half. The Redskins got the ball with about 70 seconds before the half and a timeout. A good team tries to move the ball down field in that situation and get points. Washington either didn't have that intention or showed terrible time management in the two-minute drill. Again, maybe against Miami, the Redskins coaches thought a four-point lead was insurmountable, but in general, that's a very flawed strategy.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins on a late run, scoring a touchdown to bring Miami within one as the clock was running down. But, the Redskins managed to break up a two-point conversion attempt and the entire fanbase breathed a sigh of relief.