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Redskins defense bends but does not break vs. Eagles

Redskins defense bends but does not break vs. Eagles

PHILADELPHIA—It’s kind of like a quarterback being called a “game manager”. No defense likes the term “bend but don’t break”.

But that shoe fit the Redskins against the Eagles on Sunday and they will be happy to wear it as it led to a 27-22 win.

The Eagles outgained the Redskins 383 yards to 334. Rookie Carson Wentz was operating the short passing game like a veteran, completing 32 of 46 passes for 314 yards. Ryan Matthews was efficient, running for 60 yards.

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But the Eagles got the ball into the end zone against the Redskins just once. The defense had the knack for tightening up at just the right time to force the Eagles to settle for field goals.

Or for nothing.

Philadelphia’s second possession made it all the way down to the three yard line before safety Deshazor Everett, who had played only on special teams until this game, picked off a Wentz pass in the end zone. That marked the first time that the Redskins had stopped a team from scoring a touchdown after it had attained a first and goal since Week 3.

They tightened up in the second half, holding the Eagles to just a field goal (Philly’s touchdown came on an interception return for a touchdown). But it got frightening in the late going after the Redskins scored to take a 27-22 lead with just under two minutes left.

The touchdown was a great moment but the finish by the defense was more like a horror movie sequel; call it Scary Movie IV.

The defense started bend and then bend some more. They gave ground all the way to where the Eagles had a first and 10 at the Washington 14 with about 30 seconds left.

It was the fourth time this year that an opponent has had the ball in Redskins territory in the last two minutes down by more than three points but by less than a touchdown. Previously they had held on against the Ravens and Vikings but they broke and lost against the Lions.

“We have been tested in every area that should be tested in situational football,” defensive end Chris Baker said. “I think this game helped us and let us realize that no matter the situation, if we continue to stick together we can find a way to make the play and win the game.”

This was one of the happy endings. Ryan Kerrigan got a sack and strip of Wentz and Trent Murphy picked it up to secure the win.

“It helps that we’ve had a couple, that they know how to react and how to respond,” said Jay Gruden of the hair-raising finishes. “It’s just guys stepping up and making plays and not blinking. It was great. It was a great game.”

Another 14 yards for the Eagles and would not have been so great as far as Gruden is concerned. But the defense came through when it had to and they will gladly take a road division win however they can get it.

MORE: With free agency coming, Eagles fans were very nice to DeSean Jackson

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10 Training Camp questions: Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

10 Training Camp questions: Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

Josh Norman will lock up one of the Redskins starting cornerback positions. Quinton Dunbar will hold the other. Landon Collins will run the secondary from one of the safety spots, and the Redskins better hope Montae Nicholson can command the other side of the deep field. 

In the base 3-4 defense, those four guys will make up the Redskins secondary. But Greg Manusky deploys Washington defense in their 3-4 base less than 40 percent of the time, and that usually means there is a fifth secondary man on the field, usually another cornerback in the nickle package. 

Last year, that was Fabian Moreau. In 2018, he played all 16 games, made 58 tackles and grabbed one interception. He wasn't great, but he was good, and the league noticed. 

For Moreau though, a rangy corner taken in the 3rd round in 2017, he might be best suited to play on the outside. Unfortunately for him, Norman and Dunbar have those roles locked up, and that means Moreau has to keep battling smaller, quicker receivers on the inside rather than using his length and speed on the outside. 

Outside of a devastating, and incorrect, pass interference call against Moreau late in a Week 16 loss against the Titans, the corner played well in his first significant NFL action. But what happens if another player is better suited for the slot corner role?

That player could be seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland.

The Redskins drafted two players in the first round this year, and somehow, Moreland might have gotten more attention than both during minicamp. He's undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs, and he played locally at FCS James Madison in college, but none of that has mattered so far.

He grabbed five interceptions during minicamp and was talked about by coaches and players every day. 

"He’s always around the ball, excellent ball skills, that’s what drew us to him and he’s proven to be quite the athlete," Washington coach Jay Gruden said during the offseason practice sessions. "He’s picked up the system very well. He's playing inside and outside. I’ve been very impressed with him."

Could Moreland really push Moreau for his job? Richmond will be the scene for one of the more interesting position battles in a while. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Moreland's highlights came before players had pads on. He's undersized, and the physicality of the NFL could be a major surprise, especially against the run. Moreau proved he would do his part against the run, which isn't always about making a tackle, but occupying space on the second level. 

Moreland was a great story in OTAs, but training camp is a different beast. It will be fun to see is he's ready for the next level, or if Moreau maintains his spot. 

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Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

The Ohio State University has one of the most prestigious football programs in all of college football.

Year in and year out, the Buckeyes are National Championship contenders, and also produce some of the best NFL players of any school. Ohio State has produced 81 first-round NFL Draft picks in their program history, tied with the University of Southern California for the most of any school.

But for whatever reason, quarterbacks that hail from the Columbus-based university don't tend to usually find success at the next level. The Redskins need this trend to end now. The Burgundy and Gold invested a first-round pick on former Buckeye Dwayne Haskins, who they expect to be their franchise quarterback for the next several years.

The Redskins Talk podcast sat down with Ohio State football beat reporter Bill Rabinowitz last week to discuss Haskins' lone season as the Buckeyes' starter, his leadership qualities, how he's different from past Ohio State quarterbacks and why he might be the first former Buckeye QB to experience real NFL success.

Despite only spending one year as the Buckeyes starter, Haskins turned in the best statistical season of any Ohio State quarterback in program history.  

He shattered the Big Ten record for most passing yards in a season, throwing for more than 1,000 yards more than the previous record holder. He also broke Drew Brees' Big Ten record for most passing touchdowns in a single-season, tossing 50 in 2018, compared to Brees' 39.

"Maybe the most impressive single season by any Ohio State quarterback," Rabinowitz said on Haskins' 2018 season.

Over the past couple of decades, the Buckeyes have had some very successful college quarterbacks, they just were unable to translate it to the next level.

"Ohio State's history at every other position is pretty impressive in the NFL," Rabinowitz said. "Probably the best quarterback they've every produced is Mike Tomzack in terms of a pro career. He was undrafted. Troy Smith looked like he had the chance to do that, but never really panned out in the pros."

Before Haskins, the previous two Buckeye quarterbacks, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, combined to win a National Championship for Ohio State. Neither one has been able to establish themselves in the NFL. Other recent examples include Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller, who both had spectacular careers as Buckeye QBs before switching to wide receiver in the NFL.

But Rabinowitz says Haskins is "on a different level than those guys as a passer." Unlike many of the past Ohio State quarterbacks, Haskins relies on his arm a lot more than his legs. 

Some draft experts were skeptical of Haskins because of the type of offense Ohio State ran, which included a lot of short, quick passes. But Rabinowitz believes Haskins' arm will allow him to be successful in the NFL.

"Sure there were some shovel passes, but [Haskins] made some deep throws that were just spot on," he said. "Just beautiful, majestic throws. Even from high in the press box, you just went 'wow.' There should be no question about Dwayne Haskins ability to make every throw."

Of course, Rabinowitz was asked by the podcast crew the question that will dominate training camp headlines: Should Haskins start Week 1?

While Rabinowitz admitted that he was not too familiar with the Redskins' QB situation, he did say that because of Haskins' lack of experience, "it may be best not to throw him in with the wolves right away."

"I covered Tim Couch with the Browns in 1999, we saw what happened with him," Rabinowitz said. "Carson Palmer with the Bengals, he didn't play at all his first year, and he was a Heisman Trophy winner. I see the benefits. I know it's tempting to have a first-round pick and want to play him, and if he's their best option, maybe he should play. [Haskins] will do everything in his power to be as ready as he can be, but the NFL is different than the college game."

Training camp and the preseason will be telling for Haskins as to how soon Redskins' fans can expect him to be on the field.

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