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Did Redskins find sack specialist gem in Houston Bates?


Did Redskins find sack specialist gem in Houston Bates?

Redskins GM Scot McCloughan made a name for himself finding players that other scouts and personnel men passed over. Stops in Seattle and San Francisco proved McCloughan's ability to find talented players late in the draft, or even after the draft as rookie free agents.

While it's certainly too early to proclaim Houston Bates another McCloughan success, the undrafted rookie linebacker out of Louisiana Tech has made quite an impression. In two preseason games, Bates has logged three sacks, and in Thursday night's preseason game against the Lions, Bates entered the game in the first half with many Redskin starters still on the field. 

"I don't try to read into the timing when I go into the game," Bates said Saturday on a call with reporters. "I have to be ready at all times."


With the departure of Brian Orakpo, a position is open on the Redskins linebacking group. Second year man Trent Murphy or rookie Preston Smith looked to be fighting for 'Rak's old spot early in training camp, but the addition of Junior Galette could change that. Regardless, Bates could provide good depth at OLB as his ability to pressure quarterbacks in the preseason gives him a chance to impress coaches. But beyond rushing the QB, Bates knows the key to a roster spot will be special teams.

"I know the importance of special teams in the NFL," Bates said. "A guy like me being an undrafted free agent, that's going to be key."

Injuries to Adam Hayward, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul mean that there are opportunities on the Redskins special teams, and Bates knows he needs to take advantage.

"I'm just glad the Washington Redskins gave me a chance to show my talent," Bates said. 

Typically a player from a smaller school like Louisiana Tech would have a tough time adjusting to the NFL, but Bates is not a typical small school player. He started his career in the Big Ten at Illinois before transferring back to his home state of Louisiana. Throughout college, Bates played D-end and showed an ability to sack the QB. In his final collegiate game, Bates registered 4.5 sacks in a bowl win over Illinois, a serendipitous moment if there ever was one.

To play in the Redskins 3-4 scheme, Bates will likely need to switch to outside linebacker as he doesn't have the size to play the defensive end role in that system.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "The speed of the game is a lot different."

Despite the position change, Bates said the transition is going relatively smooth.

"It's pretty much the same technique, just at a higher speed," Bates said. When the season ended at Louisiana Tech, Bates said, "pretty much all I did was train for NFL linebacker."

A self-described "tweener," Bates may have a low profile after being undrafted out of Louisiana Tech. Fans should be careful to expect too little from Bates though, as he was an All Big Ten honorable mention player in 2013 and has shown an ability to pressure QBs throughout his career, a skill every NFL team values.

"At the end of the day it's football," Bates said of trying to change positions.

The Redskins invested heavily in their defensive line this offseason, though the linebacking group did not see a tremendous influx of talent outside of the drafting of Smith. Bates said he will be ready for his chance, per the instruction of defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

"Barry says everybody is a starter in waiting," Bates explained. "I'll play linebacker or defensive end, whatever they need me to do."

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The five key plays in the Redskins’ win over the Panthers

The five key plays in the Redskins’ win over the Panthers

Every play in an NFL game is important but some matter to the outcome more than others. Here are the key plays in the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers.

1. Q1, 10:41 — Tress Way punts 51 yards to CAR 21, D.J. Moore to CAR 22 for 1 yard (Shaun Dion Hamilton). FUMBLES (Hamilton), RECOVERED by WAS-Jeremy Sprinkle at CAR 21. Sprinkle to CAR 22 for -1 yard. 

The Redskins did not get off to a promising start on offense as they went three and out on their first possession and punted. Panthers rookie D.J. Moore fielded the punt and tried to find some running room. He found Hamilton, who stripped the ball away and Sprinkle pounced on it.

It only took one play for the Redskins to cash in as Alex Smith found Vernon Davis wide open—as in nobody else in the picture open—for a touchdown to put the home team up 7-0. 

2. Q1, 8:50 — Alex Smith pass short middle to Jordan Reed to WAS 45 for 7 yards 

The Redskins were looking to add to their lead on their possession following the Davis touchdown. On third and eight at their own 38, Smith threw for Reed in the middle of the field. The pass was high and inside, forcing Reed to jump, reach back and stab the ball with his right hand. It was a true one-handed catch because he never touched the ball with his left hand. 

The only thing Reed did wrong on that play was to signal for a first down. It was short, but Smith got the first with a sneak on the next play. Some Adrian Peterson runs and a 21-yard pass from Smith to Davis helped get the Redskins down to the two-yard line. On third down from there, Smith found Paul Richardson for a TD to make it 14-0.

3. Q2, 11:32 — Cam Newton pass short middle to Moore to WAS 37 for 17 yards (Josh Norman). FUMBLES (Norman), RECOVERED by WAS -Mason Foster at WAS 33. 

Norman got his first interception since 2016 earlier in the second quarter but the offense couldn’t do anything with the possession. The next time the Panthers had the ball, Newton went to Moore on a crossing Pattern. He had some running room and it looked like the Panthers would advance well into Redskins territory. But as defenders converged on Moore, Norman reached in and stripped the ball out. “He never saw me coming,” said Norman. Foster recovered, and the Redskins drove for a field goal to go up 17-0. 

4. Q4, 13:43 — Alex Smith sacked at CAR 46 for -6 yards (Julius Peppers). FUMBLES (Peppers), recovered by WAS-Trent Williams at CAR 46. Williams to CAR 38 for 8 yards.

The Panthers had rallied to make it a one-score game at 17-9. On third and seven from the Carolina 40, Smith was immediately swarmed by the pass rush. The ball popped out and it fell into the hands of Williams to the left of the scrum. Going on sheer instinct, Williams headed upfield. Starting from six yards behind the line of scrimmage Williams rumbled eight yards for a net gain of two. That’s not much but it was enough to have Jay Gruden send Dustin Hopkins into the game to attempt a 56-yard field goal. The boot just made it over the uprights and Hopkins’ career-long kick had the Redskins up by two scores at 20-9. 

5. Q4, 0:38 — Cam Newton pass incomplete short right to Jarius Wright.

After the Redskins kicked a field goal to go up by six, Newton led a final drive that kept everyone on edge. Starting with 3:15 to play, Newton was sharp, completing six of seven passes for 50 yards to move the Panthers from their own 16 to second and five at the Washington 16. The Washington defense finally stiffened, and Newton’s next three passes fell incomplete. The last one went harmlessly to the ground, not particularly close to Wright or any other receiver. The Redskins and their fans could finally exhale and celebrate. 



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Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down vs. Panthers

Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 15, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking points

Here are the players who saw their stock go up against the Panthers on Sunday and others who saw their stocks drop. 

Stock up—A few days ago, CB Josh Norman was a penny stock. He had mixed up assignments in the blowout loss to the Saints and take a ton of criticism after the game, much of it warranted. During the Panthers game, he was a blue chip. Norman got his first interception in 20 games and he forced a fumble. There is still a lot of season to be played but for now, at least it’s good to be Josh Norman.

Stock down—They won the game and that’s the quarterback’s main job. But for the second straight game, Alex Smith did not play up to his $18.4 million cap number. He passed for 163 yards. At times you really wondered where he was throwing the ball and/or to whom he was throwing it. They were able to win thanks to Adrian Peterson’s rushing and three takeaways. To Smith’s credit, he protected the ball well and it should be noted he was without favorite targets, Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder. Regardless, it was not a sharp performance by Smith. 

Stock upPeterson came into the game with an injured ankle, knee, and shoulder. Not only did he fight through the pain, he thrived. Six days after he rushed for just six yards against the Saints and sat out most of the second half, he picked up 97 yards on 17 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Peterson did rip off a 19-yard run but mostly it was three yards here, six yards there. It was what the Redskins were expecting when the signed him. 

Stock down—With Thompson out, Kapri Bibbs had his big chance to show what he can do. He didn’t do much. Bibbs, who was promoted from the practice squad earlier this season, picked up 11 yards rushing on two carries and he caught one pass for six yards. There were some high hopes for Bibbs among Redskins fans. For today, he didn’t live up to them. 

Stock up—I know that Daron Payne didn’t make a ton of plays and his streak of games with at least one sack ended at two. But he was part of a defensive front that held Christian McCaffrey, who came into the game averaging 82.3 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) and 5.2 yards per attempt, to 20 yards on eight attempts, a 2.5 per carry average. And he made a remarkable play, which is becoming routine for him, when he made the tackle on a tight end who had taken a screen pass well outside of the numbers. He’s a special talent and his stock will continue to rise. 

The agenda

Today: Open locker room 11:30; Jay Gruden press conference 3:00 

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 6; Redskins @ Giants 13; Redskins @ Eagles 49