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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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This incredibly unlikely and quite lucky drive was very key in the Redskins' win over the Jags

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USA TODAY Sports

This incredibly unlikely and quite lucky drive was very key in the Redskins' win over the Jags

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's not a drive that's going to go down in Redskins lore. Hell, it's not even the drive that won the game for Washington in Week 15 in Jacksonville. 

But before Adrian Peterson got rolling and Dustin Hopkins sank a game-winning field goal with no time left, the 'Skins offense put together a very unlikely, very stressful and, ultimately, very important possession that helped keep their playoff hopes alive and helped give Josh Johnson his first-ever win as a starter.

The box score will tell you it was a 10-play, 68-yard fourth quarter march down the field. Don't pay attention to the box score.

Things started with a three-yard loss on a handoff to Peterson. Usually, a loss of yardage of any kind means doom for the 2018 Redskins. Johnson, however, was able to connect with Vernon Davis on the next two snaps to keep the unit on the field.

On the next play, though, Johnson was sacked and lost control of the ball after Byron Marshall was unable to handle a blitzer. Fortunately, Morgan Moses — who didn't have his best game and isn't having his best season — was able to recover the fumble.

Let's be clear: If a Jaguars defender beats Moses to that ball, the Burgundy and Gold leave Florida with a fifth straight L and the calls for Jay Gruden's job become deafening. Luckily, No. 76 got it first.

Johnson's next pass was incomplete, setting up a third-and-15 that felt like a third-and-you-should-probably-just-punt-this-now. That's when the QB dropped back and lofted up a 50-50 ball (that's generous; it was probably closer to a 20-80 ball) in the direction of Jamison Crowder. 

You know what happened after that, and still, it's worth watching the replay anyway:

In a season where it feels like every bounce has gone against the 'Skins, one finally favored them.

"I never had a play like that," Crowder said postgame.

He picked the perfect time to come up with one.

Thanks to that clutch catch, Johnson and Co. jumped from their own 40 to the hosts' 27. A Johnson scramble, a Jeremy Sprinkle grab and a Peterson run advanced things to the 6.

From there, the backup-backup-backup passer picked out Sprinkle in the right flat and hit the tight end in the hands. The second-year target, who had zero catches coming in to Sunday but finished the matchup with three, snagged it, made a quick turn and fell into the end zone.

Hopkins' PAT tied the contest up at 13 and set the visitors up for their eventual 16-13 buzzer-beating victory.

"This team has had enough, even before I got here, where things go not their way," Johnson said at the podium. "So to have something go their way, it's good for everybody in the locker room."

The Redskins are still flawed, and who knows if they come out on top in Week 15 if they're facing anyone other than Cody Kessler. The result in Jacksonville was critical, but likely didn't all of the sudden convince you this squad is ready to fly into the postseason.

But for those 10 plays, a fourth-string QB led a bunch of injured players and backups down the field for a touchdown that saved a season.

Lucky? Sure. Pretty? Not exactly.

Regardless, it was effective. And for the Redskins, effective is a vast improvement from what they've experienced over the past month. 

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It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Redskins played one of the ugliest games of the NFL season on Sunday, but they got an extremely important win, and in the end, that's all that matters. 

Across the league, offenses are getting more inventive and creating new ways to move the football through the air. That didn't happen in Jacksonville.

What did happen was a gutty performance from fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson, a great pass rush, and an opportunistic defense combined to grind out a victory. 

The team overcame some mistakes and proved they will still play for head coach Jay Gruden. There's a lot to unpack, let's dive in. 

1. Not Too Bad:

Josh Johnson played well on Sunday, finishing with 151 passing yards and completing 16 of 25 passes. He connected with Jeremy Sprinkle for a late touchdown to tie the game, and never made the kind of killer mistakes that often bury a team playing backup QBs. 

2. Beast Mode: 

The Redskins defensive front played a monster game, sacking Jags QB Cody Kessler six times. Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen each logged two sacks on Kessler, and Kerrigan moved into second place all-time on the Redskins sack list. Now with 82.5 sacks, Kerrigan trails only Dexter Manley on the Washington franchise list. The defense also limited the Jags to under 200 yards of total offense. 

3. Secret Formula:

The formula for the Redskins when they got out to a 6-3 start was fairly simple; control time of possession and win the turnover battle. That worked on Sunday. The Redskins won the clock battle and forced two turnovers from Kessler. The late interception from Fabian Moreau was a huge play for the Redskins, as it kept the Jags from a field goal attempt when the game was tied at 13 with less than five minutes remaining. Then a good drive from Johnson led to the game-winning 36-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins. 

4. The Curse Continues:

Penalties have been killing the Redskins for weeks, and Sunday's game was no different. The team finished with six penalties for 48 yards, and on a number of first down plays, flags brought the gains back. Morgan Moses added to his league-leading penalty total, a title that nobody wants. The Redskins offensive line is a mess due to injuries, playing their 10th guard of the season, but still, the pace of penalties demands attention and correction. 

5. Not so Special:

 The Redskins defense didn't give up any touchdowns, but the Redskins special teams did. Late in the first half, Maurice Harris got the mistake train rolling when he tried to field a punt with the sun directly in his eyes. Rather than just letting the ball go, Harris attempted a backward over-the-shoulder catch. It didn't work. He muffed the punt and had to retreat about 10 yards to fall on the football. From there, the offense went 3-and-out and had to punt. Then that punt got returned for a touchdown, with a remarkable missed tackle from Byron Marshall. Seriously watch this. 

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