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Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Much of the Redskins offseason has been focused on players like Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins, or the addition of guys like Terrelle Pryor and Zach Brown. Further down the roster, however, is where games are won. Here's a look at three players that will have the opportunity to make a big impact in 2017.

  1. Kendall Fuller - Let's be honest: the second-year Hokie had a tough rookie year. He started the season injured, and probably wasn't all the way up to speed when he began playing Week 4. Early on he produced at a good level for a rookie, but quickly, the league saw how to beat him. In a November game against the Vikings, Fuller repeatedly got beat on the inside by Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs. After that, the Redskins coaching staff looked elsewhere for a slot corner. 2017 is a new season, and Fuller will be a full year removed from his knee injury. He still has good vision and hips, an NFL pedigree, and should have the first crack at the slot corner role. If he can produce like many expected from him in 2015 - when he was an assumed first-round pick - Fuller could make a big difference for the Washington defense. Third round draft pick Fabian Moreau might also push for snaps at corner, once he gets healthy. 
  2. Stacy McGee - A new addition to the defense, McGee might be the answer Redskins fans want at nose tackle. Last season was by the far the best of McGee's career, and he emerged as a strong run stopper in Oakland. With his frame, and Jim Tomsula's coaching, McGee might play a big role this fall. His biggest hurdle? Staying healthy. In four seasons in the NFL, McGee has only played 16 games one season. Last year, he was limited to just nine games.
  3. Spencer Long - A free agent at the end of the season, Long comes in to 2017 looking to prove he can be a top tier center in the NFL. He excelled in pass blocking and calling the assignments on the Redskins line, but his run blocking could improve this fall. The literal centerpiece of a strong, young 'Skins line, 2017 will be a big opportunity for Long. Don't forget Washington moved up to draft Chase Roullier from Wyoming in the 6th round, and he played center and guard in college. Life in the NFL always has pressure, and Long will be facing some.

Always something on social: Enjoy the weekend folks.

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Josh Norman compares Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen to 'army tanks'

Josh Norman compares Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen to 'army tanks'

In consecutive weeks, the Redskins held two of the best running backs in the NFL to laughable totals. 

On Sunday, the Redskins limited Ezekiel Elliott to just 33 rushing yards. Zeke's second half was fairly successful compared to the first, where he rushed for only 13 yards. In Week 6, the Redskins limited Christian McCaffrey to just 20 yards rushing. 

Fantasy owners of Elliott and McCaffrey are probably cursing the Washington defense, but for Redskins fans, this is an exciting time. The Burgundy and Gold defense has generated five turnovers in their last two games, both wins, and held the opposition to 17 points in each game. 

Plenty of players are playing well, but much of the defensive success starts up front. And that means Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. First-round picks out of the University of Alabama in consecutive drafts, the two defensive tackles are starting to really be a force up the middle for Greg Manusky's defense. 

"These guys are more compact, like some army tanks," cornerback Josh Norman said of Payne and Allen.

"I love, love having tackles that can get people up off the ball and move them."

So far, the Redskins run defense looks nothing like the same group from last season. Injuries betrayed the Redskins strong defensive start last year, and the units rankings plumetted. The Redskins finished with the worst run defense in the NFL.

That has flipped upside down, and it showed big-time in the win over Dallas.

"You're talking about an excellent running back, a great running quarterback, a physical quarterback, big offensive line," Washington coach Jay Gruden explained about the Cowboys. "And those
guys kept it going. Not only were they stopping the run but they had to rush the passer there nonstop at the end of the game."

For Allen and Payne, the recognition means little. 

Asked about his big game on Monday, notching his third sack of the season and beating the Cowboys for the first time in his NFL career, Allen replied with a stone face. 

"The way we look at it we only have fun when we’re winning," he said. 

Well, for two weeks in a row Allen could have fun. Even if he doesn't seem to be enjoying it too much.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett certainly didn't seem to enjoy facing Payne or Allen.

"Obviously they did a good job defending our run," Garrett said. "We tried to attack in a lot of different ways and they defended it well."

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The Kapri Bibbs touchdown vs. the Cowboys was the very definition of team football

The Kapri Bibbs touchdown vs. the Cowboys was the very definition of team football

The obsession over how football is a team game, and how all 11 guys on the field matter on every single play, can be nauseating at times.

Plenty of things in an NFL contest happen because of one player beating another player. In other instances, it's about a single dude just absolutely screwing everything up all on his own (most often that dude is Blake Bortles).

But on Kapri Bibbs' 23-yard opening-drive touchdown catch vs. the Cowboys in Week 7, a ton of non-ball-carrying Redskins did in fact chip in to help get Bibbs into the end zone. It was one of those plays that just makes you want to scream FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!

The first two 'Skins who deserve recognition on the score are Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff.

Lauvao, who was returning from injury, leaked out with Scherff and Chase Roullier to serve as Bibbs' personal, giant escorts to the goal line. He then showed excellent awareness to peel back and seal off Dallas D-linemen Antwaun Woods, which ended any hopes of a Cowboy catching Bibbs from behind.

The true hero, though, was Scherff. The human wood chipper got pieces of two opposing linemen before breaking out to the next level, diving and knocking Kavon Frazier out of Bibbs' path. Without Scherff's insane effort, the screen pass doesn't even result in positive yardage, let alone six points.

Here's a still image of the first two, key blocks:

Large Redskins weren't the only ones getting the job done in hand-to-hand combat, however. For a screen to elevate itself from solid play to major chunk play, you need receivers doing work well past the line of scrimmage, too.

Well, this screenshot of Josh Doctson and Brian Quick holding blocks at the sticks definitely qualifies as doing work:

And, lastly, there's the center, Roullier. The man who started the entire sequence with a snap from the 23-yard line eventually found himself at the 12, displacing Byron Jones to ensure that the home team's tailback would finish things dancing instead of getting up from the ground:

To enjoy the full FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!-ness of the six-pointer, head to the 23-second mark of this video. Then, take a moment to reflect on all those poor Cowboys who thought they were going to tackle Kapri Bibbs throughout the course of that highlight, because they never really had a chance and that's just so sad for them.

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