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Under pressure: Brian Orakpo

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Under pressure: Brian Orakpo

The NFL is a pressure-packed environment with players fighting every day to keep their jobs and to win games. But some are under the gun more than others. Between now and the start of training camp well take a look at the players who are in the spotlight and under the most pressure to perform. Today its Brian Orakpo.When the Redskins took Brian Orakpo with the 13th pick in the 2009 NFL draft it was widely believed that they got a real steal. And with two Pro Bowl appearances and 28.5 sacks in three seasons they certainly have received solid value for the pick so far.But if the Redskins are going to get out of the basement of the NFC East and into consistent playoff contention they will need more out of Orakpo. They need him to move from being a solid player with great potential to being a great player, maybe even an elite player. Their 3-4 defense is built to pile up sacks and turnovers and it needs a star quality player at the right outside linebacker position to work to its potential.In Orakpos case, star quality would mean getting a dozen or more sacks every year. If those come, he will be getting plenty of pressures and hurries and drawing laundry piles of holding flags (he was among the NFL leaders in the latter category last year).Late last season, Jim Haslett was asked what Orakpo needed to do to take the next step. I think hes got to understand that no matter where he lines up, theyre going to have two guys on him, said the Redskins defensive coordinator. Either theyre going to chip him or theyre going to have two guys on him because theyre going to slide to him. And thats kind of way its been and he gets frustrated.Hes got to learn, like the other great rushers in the league, the Jared Allens or the Dwight Freeneys, theyre always going to have two guys on them. Hes not going to get around it and hes going to have to learn how to beat two guys.Haslet had some more tips for Orakpo. Hes going to have to learn how to work the edges a little bit more and be better under control a little bit more. I think thatll come. Hes targeted.The Redskins tried to make it so that Orakpo got targeted a little less by drafting Ryan Kerrigan in the first round. Kerrigan played well, getting 7.5 sacks after the team just got one from the left outside LB spot in 2010. But Kerrigans presence didnt help Orakpo much as his sack total went from 8.5 to 9.With an offseason of work under his belt now, it is hoped that Kerrigan will take the next step and make teams pay for giving Orakpo too much attention. If opposing offenses have to split their protection to try to devote extra resources to both outside linebackers, both Kerrigan and Orakpo will benefit.But the onus will fall on Orakpo. He is will be 26 this season and he has two years remaining on his rookie contract. Players who get double digit sacks year in and year out and can take over games when their teams need them two can make more money than players at just about any other position except quarterback.If he can shake the double teams and make the move from good to great the payoff will be huge for both Orakpo and the Redskins.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email here and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

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  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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Trent Williams has really good things to say about Alex Smith and Derrius Guice

Trent Williams has really good things to say about Alex Smith and Derrius Guice

The most significant thing to come from Trent Williams' spontaneous chat with the media on Wednesday is that the left tackle expects to be ready for training camp.

But two other topics Williams covered while talking were his initial impressions of new teammates Alex Smith and Derrius Guice. 

And while having one player compliment other players in the offseason is the second-most common thing in the NFL behind the Browns losing games, No. 71 went beyond the normal, clichéd positivity you're used to hearing. 

He was first asked about Smith, a QB he'd only met at the Pro Bowl until these offseason sessions in Ashburn.

“He’s a winner," Williams said. "As you all know, you don’t win in this league without a quarterback, so us being able to have one and have one right now, it does everything for our team and our attitude and the faith we have to win."

Next came a question about Guice, the rookie who looks like the most talented running back to date that Williams will have the pleasure of blocking for. What are his thoughts on the LSU product?

"When you watch him on film it's like he's been here before," Williams observed. "He's a specimen."

As for the 'Skins being able to snag Guice where they did in the draft, the 29-year-old admitted he was quite surprised.

"Extremely lucky to get him in the second round," he said. "I don't know how that happened... It's not going to take very long before people recognize him as an elite NFL talent."

Williams is coming off of surgery, will turn 30 in July and, during last season, spoke about how the injuries he constantly fought through started to take a toll on him. Ready to hear something sad? He's never won a playoff game.

So, for a veteran who's aging like him and who hasn't captured anything of signifigance yet, having confidence and trust in his backfield is paramount. Fortunately, judging by the quotes above, it sounds like Williams is already there when it comes to Smith and Guice.

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