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NFC East roundup: The 'beaten down' Cowboys D

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NFC East roundup: The 'beaten down' Cowboys D

Year one of the Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator did not go as hoped in Big D. Rex's brother said as much in a recent interview with ESPN Dallas, coping to poor play calls and heaping to much of the playbook onto his new players.However, he does not regret repeatedly publicly touting his players as the most talented defense in the NFL even though statistical evidence (16th in points allowed) suggested something closer tomiddle of the pack. Oh, and the lack of remorse has nothing to with him being a Ryan boy and that's what Buddy Ryan's kids do. Rob said his beleaguered.troops needed positivity."Those guys had been beaten down so much that, in my opinion, I don't think they had the confidence to go forward," Ryan said.Osi no longer a Giant distractionNow that defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora has agreed to a one-year contract, the New York Giants have put to bed their one lingering off the field issue. We dont have to answer questions about it, Eli Manning said at a charity event Tuesday night. We dont have to worry about it. We just have to worry about playing football.Part of the imposing defensive line that combined with the Manning and the passing game to take the Giants on a magical Super Bowl-winning ride, the 30-year-old Umenyiora finished with nine sacks last season. He tacked on 3.5 more in the postseason. Now thatOsi is sticking around, Giants corner Antrel Rolle says more havoc is to come.We have an outstanding defensive line without Osi, but with Osi there it makes it that much better, Rolle said a charity event on Tuesday.I think we have a great team all the way around, not just the defensive line. Were stacked right now at each and every position.

As long as guys stay healthy its going to be a great run.DRC tackling Eagles outside corner roleDominique Rodgers-Cromartie's first year with the Eagles was fine - but it could have been better. Getting to square off against Philadelphia's dynamicreceivers like Jeremy Maclin should help, especially now that Rodgers-Cromartie is shifting back outside after a a season spent in the slot.Acquired from the Cardinals before the 2011 season, Rodgers-Cromartie was expected to be part of a dymanic cornerback group with Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel. Instead the Eagles collective secondary allowed 27 touchdown passes and numerous red zone completions. Oh, the trio also whiffed on plenty oftackles, 27in all by one estimate.You really can't just work on that during the off-season, as far as just getting the form of tackling down, said Rodgers-Cromartie, who takes over the spot opposite Asomugha now that the team cut ties with Samuel. You can get stronger in the weight room and just go from there. The main thing is getting my feet back under me and focus on covering now.

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 23, three days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview—defense 

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the defense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. I looked at the topics on offense yesterday

Lining up the line

Will Phil Taylor, who seems to be a long shot to make the team after they drafted two nose tackles, get some run with the first and second teams? Also, this is a young group and Jim Tomsula will have a lot of opportunities to teach. Watching him interacting with his line and going over the details of line play is fun to watch.

Spaight vs. Vigil

The two starting inside linebacker starters are safe and the team is intrigued enough by the potential of both Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaun Dion Hamilton to make them likely bets to make the 53-man roster. That leaves Zach Vigil and Martrell Spaight competing for the last ILB roster spot. 

Spaight is a known quantity who has been a mainstay on special teams since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. They kept him over Vigil in the cut to 53 a year ago. But last year when injuries hit, Vigil started over Spaight. In a way, this is Round 3 between the two. 

Ryan Anderson

We know what outside linebacker starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith can do. Pernell McPhee will be good for four or five sacks and perhaps a forced fumble or two. Anderson, who was the team’s second-round pick last year, is a big question mark. He played 193 snaps in 14 games, but he barely dented the stat sheet with no sacks and just 11 tackles. Anderson is a hard worker and they need him to produce.

The pieces of the cornerback puzzle

This is discussed in some detail here by JP Finlay and I’ll look at it later this week. To pick out one detail, I want to see what the rotation in the slot is. Right now the guess is that Orlando Scandrick is the starter but who will be behind him? That’s important because Scandrick has missed 25 games in the last three seasons due to injuries. 

Apke’s progress

Fourth-round safety Troy Apke displayed impressive makeup speed during offseason practices and that let him make some plays on the ball. But he needed that speed too often as he had issues in coverage. You need to be more than just fast to play in the NFL. If Apke is going to be an alternative if injury problems strike Montae Nicholson again, he needs to start making some progress while he is in Richmond. 

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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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 3
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 17
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 40

The Redskins last played a game 204 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 48 days. 

In case you missed it

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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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