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Jay Gruden looking for Redskins DE Anthony Lanier to take a second-year jump

Jay Gruden looking for Redskins DE Anthony Lanier to take a second-year jump

When we look at if a team will improve from year to year we often make the mistake of focusing on players brought in from the outside. Who did they sign? Who did they draft? That ignores the fact that teams often make their greatest strides through improvement from the players they already have on their rosters. In particular, players often made great leaps from their rookie seasons to their second years and that improvement can make a team better without adding a new player.

One of the players the Redskins are hoping can make that leap is defensive end Anthony Lanier.

“We’re really, really excited about Anthony Lanier,” coach Jay Gruden said during the NFL meetings in Phoenix this week.

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A double “really” from the head coach warrants a closer look. Nobody was particularly excited last year when the Redskins signed Lanier as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama A&M. While there was some buzz about him during the offseason program and in training camp he was thought to be a practice squad candidate at best. It was a major surprise when he made the 53-man roster in September. The team cut defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis, a fifth-round draft pick, and used the roster spot for Lanier.

“We didn’t want to risk losing a big defensive lineman that has some pass rush ability,” Gruden said last September on the decision to keep Lanier. “We’re going to try to keep him here to develop him.”

Lanier’s development came along slowly. He was inactive the first seven weeks of the season before taking the field for the game against the Bengals in London. Over the next three games he played 48 snaps, most of them in nickel situations. He got three QB pressures and recovered a fumble. While he didn’t have a huge impact, he was showing that he could learn on the job.

He played a few snaps in the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas before he got kicked in the leg, causing an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

The early end to his season did not prevent Lanier from making a big impression on Gruden.

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“We do one on ones almost every day,” said Gruden. “That’s one drill that I watch diligently every day. One on one pass rush so I get to see how our offensive line is doing, that’s how games are won in my opinion. He was a guy who was most difficult for our guys to block. He was not a very natural rusher, either, he was just doing it on pure power, length.

“I think the more he works coming out of his stance, getting off on the snap count, hand usage, all these things that [new defensive line] coach [Jim] Tomsula will work with him, he’s got a chance to be really, really good.”

Another double “really” from the coach. It’s unrealistic to expect huge production out of Lanier, who still will be learning on the job. But if he can stay on the field and pick up four to six sacks and draw some attention away from edge rushers Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette, and Preston Smith he could be quite an asset.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

On Friday the Redskins released veteran cornerback Josh Norman, and on Saturday head coach Ron Rivera explained that the decision allowed the team to get younger at a key position. 

"The big thing is it's an opportunity for us to get younger. Josh is a veteran guy and again, just looking at the young guys that we have, we got to get these guys on the football field and more exposed," Rivera said. 

Rivera spoke to reporters at a charity event in Charlotte, and while everything he said is true, it's also not the full story. Yes, Norman just turned 32 in December, but Washington's decision to cut him was not solely about age. 

Norman was set to make $15 million in 2020, and the team will save $12.5 million on the salary cap by letting him go. And his level of play no longer validated the hefty price tag and probably hasn't for the last two seasons. Norman finished the 2019 season on the bench and only played in rare situations when the other active cornerbacks were hurt. 

As for a youth movement at cornerback, it's coming, ready or not. Quinton Dunbar is in the last year of his deal and will be 28 when the season starts. Fabian Moreau will be in the last year of his rookie deal and will be 26 when the season starts. Jimmy Moreland had an up and down rookie year in 2019 and will be 25 when the season starts this fall. 

Some NFL sources also expect the Redskins to be quite active in free agency, particularly at the cornerback spot. Two names to watch are unrestricted free agents James Bradberry and Bashaud Breeland. Bradberry played for Rivera in Carolina while Breeland nearly signed with the Panthers as a free agent in 2018 before a foot injury voided his contract. 

So sure, the Redskins released Norman in part of an effort to get a younger roster. But there was plenty more involved, Rivera just decided to take the high road with his public comments. 

NOTES: Rivera also got asked about taking the Redskins job earlier this offseason: "It's going well. It's a little bit of a transition obviously as well. It's an opportunity to change things and kind of put things in the way we want to have them done. "

The coach also got asked about the difference between coaching in Charlotte and coaching in D.C. "The area is huge. Compared to here there's a lot of people," Rivera said. "It's very loud. All the restaurants are very loud." True words. 

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How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

Panthers owner David Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera after Week 12 of the 2019 season. Usually an in-season firing means that fans have turned on the coach amid a lost season.

In Carolina, that wasn't exactly the case.

When Rivera was fired, he and his wife Stephanie took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte Observer to thank a number of people and show gratitude for his nine years as head coach of the Panthers. That's unusual.

It seems that many Panthers fans were waiting to get their opportunity to thank Rivera, and on Saturday, it came.

Hundreds of Carolina fans showed up in Charlotte to say goodbye to Rivera as well as raise money for the Charlotte Humane Society. Why? Rivera decided to hold a yard sale of sorts, selling much of his Panthers gear, signed shirts and memorabilia going to the Humane Society. The event raised more than $30,000. 

The whole idea is admirable, and it appears from social media that the execution was a hit. 

Rivera's relationship with Redskins fans is just beginning, but if the crowd in Charlotte is any indication, it should be a fun ride. Winning helps too, and for most of his nine seasons in Carolina the Panthers won. That will build goodwill with any fan base, and in Washington, fans are desperate for some playoff football. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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