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Three-And-OUT : Kansas CB Dexter McDonald Jr.
by Chris Russell
Apr 24, 2015 -- 2:23pm
ESPN 980
Kansas Cornerback Dexter McDonald Jr. recently visited the Redskins in between visits to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. 
If you notice one them in common with several of those teams - the Redskins, Packers and Raiders have some of the same philosophies that were all rooted in Wisconsin from the Ron Wolf family tree. 
That might be worth noting or it might be something and shed some light on what kind of prospect McDonald is.
The night he arrived in Northern Virginia, he joined me on ESPN 980 to talk about his path to the draft and his journey. As we do with our radio draft guests, we'll play a little "Three-and-Out," which of course is music to the ears of a defensive player.
CR: How would you describe your play? 
DM: "Me being 6'1 and me having the advantage that I do on height rather than most corners, I always try to be as physical as I can during the games and always try to put my hands on wide receivers to disrupt the time between them and the quarterback. 
CR: Are you better in man or zone coverage?
DM: "I would say I'm comfortable in both but me coming from Kansas where I played man over 90% of my snaps, I would say I'm more comfortable playing man.
CR: Does it matter to you where you get selected of where you go? 
DM: "I would never worry about if I go drafted or free agent or If I have to fight on special teams or scout team, I think that my mentality is  for sure  go in and prove that I'm capable of making a roster and helping any team I go to to win a Super Bowl. That's the mentality I have and that's the chip I'll always keep on my shoulder. 
The entire interview features McDonald's thoughts on the pro-style coaching he received at Kansas and how he views himself compared to Richard Sherman. 
Who knows if McDonald will be successful at the next level, but there's something about him besides his size (which is obvious) that strikes me. As I said during the interview, he plays with a swagger and like his hair is on fire. He seems to close on the ball well and locate the ball really well. 
Maybe he'll be a safety ultimately but after running an unofficial 4.38, that's corner speed. The Redskins would be wise to pull the trigger and see if they can come up with the next big thing. 
Thanks to Jared Robins for his help with the McDonald interview. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Robert Griffin III: A Split Decision
by Chris Russell
Apr 24, 2015 -- 11:04am
ESPN 980
We usually only see an official "split decision" in boxing and lord help us if we see one next Saturday night in Vegas between Manny Pacquiao and that guy I won't mention the name of. 
However we could see one in the NFL next week. Probably more than one, although no team will ever admit it. 
The Redskins might be and probably are facing a split decision. 
Do they exercise the fifth-year option in 2016 for Robert Griffin III or do they protect themselves (to a large degree) and roll the dice on Griffin's future? 
The answer to that is complicated. Quite complicated. 
Here's the deal. If the Redskins want to avoid drama and controversy, while giving their starting quarterback as much confidence as you are going to possibly see given (considering the circumstances) -- the Redskins SHOULD exercise Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option. 
The option would cost the Redskins over 16 million dollars in 2016 and they would secure Griffin's services at reasonable values for the next two years. 
Of course, this is where the complications come in. The option is guaranteed for injury only. 
Sounds like a great thing, right? 
Until you realize that the Redskins would be on the hook for all of the 2016 salary and the cap hit if Robert Griffin III is injured at some point during the year and the key element as it has been explained to me is this: It "all hinges on his ability to pass the end-of-year physical." 
OK. Let's take a look at this. If Robert Griffin III suffers an injury that prevents him from passing an end-of-year physical, you are not allowed to cut an injured player. 
Of course, the Redskins could make sure that he passes an end-of-year physical regardless of any injury incurred in the 2015 season because after all, what would stop them? 
The only thing that could potentially stop them is a grievance filed on behalf of the player by Griffin's agent, Ben Dogra, and the NFLPA. 
The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement spells out the following in Article 7, Section 7:
"The entire Paragraph 5 (not included) salary for the Fifth-Year Option shall be guaranteed for injury-related termination only, effective upon the Club's exercise of the option. The entire Paragraph 5 Salary for the Fifth-year option shall be guaranteed for skill, injury and Salary Cap related termination if the player is on his Club's roster at the start of the player's fifth League Year."
The way this nonsense has been explained to me is this: Robert Griffin III would not be eligible to be released by the Redskins if he fails his end of 2015 season physical because he is "guaranteed" money for injury. 
To use an example, but clearly not the same exact circumstances: The Redskins were able to release Barry Cofield with a waived/failed physical designation as we first reported on ESPN 980 because he was eligible for the injury protection benefit as a vested veteran who was not guaranteed any new money in the next league year. 
Griffin is not in that same boat. Clearly. 
League sources polled on Thursday continue to say there is a "certain level of risk" involved for the Redskins, but one league source told me Thursday evening, "If it was me running a team, I would probably exercise it." 
The same source however cautioned that  he would be on a short leash in more ways than one.  The Redskins would have to monitor the situation as best they can to make sure that Griffin did not suffer a season ending injury that would prevent Griffin from being able to pass the end-of-year exam. 
That could mean benching him late in the year and adding all sorts of intrigue to a team that is terrible at handling anything chaotic. 
That's assuming what most of would assume, which is this: Griffin is unlikely to be in a position where a 16 million dollar one year investment would be an automatic no-brainer like it was for the Colts and Andrew Luck.
Earlier this week, Mark Maske of the Washington Post wrote that it seemed likely the Redskins would pick up that option. What we don't know is who and what side is fueling that report. 
An important element for certain. Normally an agent would not be pushing for a fifth-year option. However, Griffin's agent Ben Dogra may be hoping to lock in that money (as best he can) for 2016 because he knows the future is at least mostly cloudy. 
Is it somebody from the Redskins? Well...I would be surprised considering the Redskins mantra of doing everything they can to keep the media in the dark. I can't rule out certain elements that are at play here. I'll choose to leave it at that. 
It should be pointed out that the Redskins could simply not pick up the option and deal with the potential public relations hit. 
If I'm being completely honest, I think most fans would understand that decision and not be upset. There will be some, but probably not enough to make it bad. 
I should also point out that the Redskins have never been averse to making decisions in which they weighed how the public will react in a negative manner. If they think it will sell tickets and jerseys, they are all in on that train. 
From everything that I know and that I  can see - I just could not risk picking up the fifth year option. I just can't. Robert Griffin III publicly admitted last week that he would be at peace with that decision. 
I'm sure that privately in his mind it is a split decision as well. If Washington doesn't pick up the option, he is playing for not only his Redskins future but also his NFL legacy in 2015. That could be a disaster or it could be a major pay day. 
Or if they pick up the option, Griffin is theoretically locked in for another two years but he's really still playing for his Redskins career and NFL future in 2015. He might view it as this: If he's playing for his future in 2015 in pretty much every way, he would probably prefer to be able to be a free agent after the upcoming season. 
He might be thinking about a big pay day and a lucrative deal that is better on paper than what Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton signed with their respective teams. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Breaking Down the Redskins 2015 Schedule
by Chris Russell
Apr 21, 2015 -- 9:27pm
ESPN 980

 The Washington Redskins 2015 schedule is far from what I would call easy. At least in my eyes.

They open with two games at FedExField and close with two in a row on the road inside the division. Washington also has three dreaded primetime games. 
Normally, you would prefer as many road games earlier in the year and home games later in the year. I'm not sure if that will have any effect on Washington but it certainly could be a factor if they are in playoff contention. 
A huge if, but still everyone starts at (0-0). 
The Redskins host Ndamukong Suh and the Miami Dolphins at FedEx to start the season at 1 PM on Sunday September 13. 
The Dolphins not only have Suh, but also stud corner Brent Grimes and the always excellent Cameron Wake.  This one could be a 10-7 slugfest into the fourth quarter and could be a really telling test for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense. 
The Redskins lost in Houston last year in the season opener, but 24-21 in season openers since the 1970 merger. They're also on a two game losing streak in season opening games.  They are 30-15 in home openers for whatever that is worth. 
A team that pummeled Colt McCoy and the Redskins offense into submission visits FedExField the next Sunday in Week two. The St. Louis Rams and their very fast, physical and aggressive defense that dominated Washington last December visits Landover after Suh and the Dolphins leave town. YUK. 
The last time the Redskins hosted two games to start the year? 2011. They won both, but also only won three more games the rest of the way. 
After what figures to be two very physical defensive opponents, the Redskins have a short week to travel to East Rutherford and visit the Giants on Thursday Night Football. Never easy to take on a divisional opponent that is also playing for their coach and quarterback's future on a short week. 
The Redskins are back home in Week four for Philadelphia before visiting Atlanta and what figures to be a high octane offensive attack coordinated by Kyle Shanahan and led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. 
The first five games feature two very good defensive attacks followed by what should be three excellent and scary tests for the Redskins revamped defense. 
Week six is the first set of consecutive road games as the Redskins are back in East Rutherford for second time in a few weeks against the new look J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. 
New York has what should be an excellent defense once again. The Redskins are back home for Tampa in Week 7, a team that completely dominated them in 2015. The Bucs could have Jameis Winston as their quarterback by the time this game comes around. 
Washington then hits the bye weekend after seven games plus four preseason games and a couple of weeks of camp. This is about as perfect timing as you could probably ask for. 
The Redskins return from the bye and get the special privilege of visiting the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in Foxboro. Maybe they can say hello to Aaron Hernandez at his new home, just a mile or so away from Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots road game is followed by two NFC South opponents with the Saints at home (why can't we get a trip to New Orleans instead of Atlanta?) and then a trip to Carolina and Cam Newton in Week 11. 
Following Thanksgiving, the Redskins will host two divisional opponents in the Giants and then the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football on December 7th. It's the 17th meeting between the two teams on MNF, with each team winning eight games. 
I can tell you this: Nobody likes playing primetime and Monday night games because of the schedule and the short turn-around, but it is much better for the Redskins to play a Monday night game at home instead of on the road. 
Washington then heads to what should be frigid Soldier Field in Chicago against John Fox and Vic Fangio's rebuilding defense. That will be interesting because there's just no way to know who will be at quarterback for Chicago. Then again, is there ever any way to know the answer to that question for any team, including the Redskins? 
After the short week and trip to the Windy City, it's back to Landover for the final home game of the year and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are led by Rex Ryan and new running back, LeSean McCoy who has had plenty of good memories in front of the burgundy and gold faithful. 
One thing that should be pointed out is how good the Bills defense already was before Ryan took over. Look out!
The Redskins finish the regular season with two straight road games. Another short week  and a third prime-time game (Saturday) sees Washington in Philadelphia the night after Christmas. 
The Redskins finish up the year at Dallas in what could be flexed to a primetime game again because it is more than possible that the Cowboys will be playing for at least a playoff spot. 
The Redskins? Who knows. If they are playing for something other than ruining the Cowboys season, that's all you can really ask for. 
I don't like this schedule at all. I think the Redskins would be fortunate to get out of the first quarter of the season at (2-2) and then back to back road games in Atlanta and against the Jets doesn't provide me with a whole lot of hope. 
After that, you might think the schedule softens a little but it really doesn't with road games in New England and Carolina. 
Home games against the Giants and Cowboys are obviously not going to be easy but at least they are at home, during a critical juncture of the season. 
Chicago and Buffalo might offer the best back-to-back chance to fire up a late winning streak but while those teams feature poor offenses, their defensive units could be a really dicey matchup. 
Obviously the two divisional road games are not a fun way to end the year but it's not exactly like any schedule has really worked well for the Redskins.
The bottom line is this. Teams are completely different now than they will be in December. 
If I had to offer a very preliminary prediction, I am going with 7-9. Way too many questions and for a 4-12 team, this schedule does not set up well in really any way for my liking. 
Chris Russell - - 

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1-on-1 with Georgia Tech Guard Shaquille Olajuwon Mason
by Chris Russell
Apr 18, 2015 -- 9:04pm
ESPN 980
Shaquille Olajuwon Mason was born on August 28, 1993. That's right. He was athletic royalty from the start. 
Shaquille O'Neal was the pre-eminent low post force for his era in the NBA. He was the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 1992-1993, right before Shaq Mason was born. 
Hakeem Olajuwon arrived on the NBA scene long before O'Neal. He was part of the "Twin Towers" and made the 1986 NBA Finals before leading the league in rebounding (twice) and blocked shots (three times) including that fateful 1992-1993 season. 
Naturally,  Shaquille Olajuwon was then born and after Hakeem won his first title in 1994, his two namesakes then met in head to head in the 1995 NBA Finals with "The Dream" prevailing for his second title. 
"Shaq" as Mason prefers is trying to cast his own footprint in professional sports after being a key cog in Georgia Tech's run-heavy offensive line
I have no idea where Mason will go or wind up, but to watch him play at the Senior Bowl and then to watch some tape on him, he's got something about him that I like. 
So I reached out to him because going one-on-one with Mason seemed like the perfect thing to do, right? 
CR: You opened up some fresh eyes at the Senior Bowl..How important was that experience and were u pleased with your performance?
SM: The senior bowl was very important for me to show that I can transition into another offense and show my pass protection. I feel that I did very well in Mobile, but there's always room for improvement.
CR: What has the process been like for you? Frustrating? Fun? Satisfying? 
SM: The process has been very fun. I've enjoyed it a lot just taking it all in and soaking up all the knowledge I can from each team and coach I meet with, definitely has been a a great experience and a blessing.
CR: It seems like you were able (when I’ve watched you) to sink your hips, get low and punch/or thrust your hands inside a defender in pass pro…How hard is that to do consistently?
SM: That's definitely a part of my game that I'm confident in but It's not hard at all to do consistently. It all comes with preparation and repetition.
CR: Do you believe coming from the system you guys ran at Georgia Tech that it will help you or hurt you on the next level? 
SM: Most think that it will hurt me but I feel that it will help me because of the physicality and athletic standpoint of the game.
CR: Obviously your name is based off of two hoops icons but if you could have lunch with just one – Shaquille O’Neal or Hakeem Olajuwon – which would it be?
SM: If I could pick I think I'd go out to lunch with Shaq. 
CR: How do you get away from football? 
SM: Spending time with my daughter is the perfect get away from football.
Chris Russell - - 

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Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders : An Epic Showdown
by Chris Russell
Apr 15, 2015 -- 3:42pm
ESPN 980
It is on! The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs which is by far the best post season of any sport, college or pro, begins a two-month journey tonight to the holy grail. 
The greatest trophy in all of professional sports. Lord Stanley's Cup. 
There are many good first round matchups across the league like Chicago and Nashville and north of the border, Montreal and Ottawa. 
However there is none in my book that even approaches what should be the greatness of the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals. 
Obviously, that's the series most people in the Washington, D.C. area care about the most and unlike other misguided members of the media, I am here to tell you that this will be the best hockey in the first round and also the truest test of one's grit and character. 
I. The Caps are different and that's why this year SHOULD be different:
It is complete and utter laziness for anybody to suggest that this Capitals team is the same as any other. Do me a favor. Do some homework and actually watch a game first. 
You will see that there is no comparison. None. It's a waste of time to even try to compare it, but the Caps are better defensively (clearly) and enormously better in goal than they ever have been. 
Alex Ovechkin is more responsible. The power play is killer. I believe they have greater depth in scoring and they are reasonably healthy. 
2. The two teams are as even as you are going to find:
Both have 101 points, but the Islanders had two more regulation wins. The two teams split the season series, but the Caps wound up with the tie-breaker advantage for home ice in head to head. 
If post season history between the two teams means anything, the Islanders have won five-out-of-six series between the two. It doesn't. 
The always outstanding Mike Vogel has wall-to-wall coverage of the Caps on Monumental Network while a very talented young reporter, Daniel Friedman of WFAN & CBS-New York has more on the Islanders. 
3. The Caps are better in between the pipes than the Islanders AND better than they have been during the "Rock the Red" era: 
The irony here is that Holtby is better because his defense is better and deeper this year but also because of the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak by the Caps late last year in their failed playoff bid. 
Halak of course, signed with the Islanders in the summer and has been mostly good during a franchise defining season for the Isles in their last season at Nassau Coliseum. 
Holtby started 72 games to lead the NHL and racked up 41 wins along with nine shutouts. According to,  the last goaltender to lead the league in games played that won a Stanley Cup was Grant Fuhr almost 30 years ago. 
Holtby who struggled with his stick handling and puck possession (Yes a goalie) earlier in his career seems to have completely figured that part out. He's had very few bad games and is the horse you need to have to make a deep run. 
Halak is best known for being lights out for Montreal in their upset over the Caps in the 2010 playoffs, but he has bounced from St. Louis to Washington and on to the Islanders this year. 
He is fresher than Holtby, playing in only 59 games and he won 38 of those. The problem? His save percentage of .914 is 23rd best in the NHL and his 2.43 GAA is also 23rd. 
New York has blown several three-goal cushions this year and Halak allowed ten goals in his final three starts. He was very good on the road in Pittsburgh, stopping 37-of-38 shots and blanked the awful Sabres but gave up a very shaky game-winning goal in Philadelphia late in the regular season. 
One other important number? The Islanders have only won 78.1 % of their games when leading after two periods. That's 22nd in the NHL. 
4. As Alex Ovechkin goes for the Caps, so must John Tavares for the Isles:
Tavares scored three goals and had two assists in six playoff games for the  Isles in 2013 against the  Penguins. Tavares was fourth in the NHL in goals at 38. Ovechkin was obviously number one at 53. Tavares had 48 assists and was a plus-five for New York. He had 13 power-play goals compared to Ovechkin's league leading 25. 
Tavares has four goals in his last five games. 
5. The Isles have plenty of playoff savvy but....
Don't believe the hype that the Islanders are young and totally inexperienced  for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  
They have 13 players from their last playoff trip plus Garth Snow  imported Johnny Boychuk (79 games), Tyler Kennedy (76 games), Nick Leddy (54 games), along with Halak's experience. 
Make no mistake - the # 1 storyline in this series going in is the health of stud defensemen Travis Hamonic who is day-to-day with a lower body injury. Even if he comes back, where will he be at? 
Hamonic averages 21:47 of ice time per game, and chipped in five goals and 33 points in 71 games for New York. He was a plus-15 for the Islanders. He also has scored four goals and five assists in 17 career games against the Caps including two goals this season. He also contributes to the Islanders penalty kill and at times power play. 
New York is 22-7-3 when Hamonic leads them in ice-time. 
6. If the Islanders can stay out of the box, they have a chance:
The Capitals are obviously very good on the power play (# 1 in NHL, 25.3%). The Islanders have allowed three power-play goals in their last 18 games (39-of-42). The real problem is New York was 26th overall in penalty kill at only 78%.  Ovechkin has the league leading 25 power play goals. 
For full disclosure, I grew up on Long Island and have always been an Islanders fan and always will be. The team has a special connection to my heart. That's the truth. 
However, I live and work in Washington D.C. and I want the Caps to make a strong run that I know they are capable of. 
I haven't made any secret of this. Barry Trotz and I share a common bond as we have teenage sons with Down Syndrome and we have been able to spend some time together a few times this season, so i am rooting especially hard for Trotz. 
Can you just want a great series and a great game? I think so. 
I'm picking the Washington Capitals in SEVEN games to beat the Islanders in what should be a terrific series. Both arena's are really, really loud so I think that will cancel each other out and the better and deeper team should win. 
Especially the one with the better goaltender and the one that has a clear advantage in extra-man opportunities. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Three-and-OUT : Clemson LB Stephone Anthony
by Chris Russell
Apr 12, 2015 -- 2:29pm
ESPN 980
Last week, I had the chance to speak with one of the best inside linebackers in college football last year and a guy who will make a nice impact on the next level. 
Stephone Anthony from Clemson is a play-making stud. He was part of a pretty good defense at Clemson but don't let that fool you. 
The entire interview covers Anthony's respect for his teammate Vic Beasley, whom many Redskins fans are licking their chops for and who Stephone idolized as a child. 
In case you can't listen to the whole interview, here are three questions and answers from our time together for easy reading purposes.  We'll finish strong with an OUT, for our weekly in-season staple. Isn't that  how every linebacker wants to finish a series? 
1. How important was your Senior Bowl experience? 
SA: "It was extremely important for me. It was a chance for me to get down here and compete with different guys, some of the top guys in college. Overall, a great experience. I got a chance to show what I really could can do. I showed that I can play the game of football and that it comes naturally to me."
2. Blitzing Florida State. Did you do that regularly or was that game specific? 
SA: "A little bit of both. Coach (Brent) Venables does a great job of mixing it up and bringing different people in. Try to get us on a best matchup. The Florida State game --  it was my time. We felt like we had a  matchup over the ball and we tried to exploit it."
3. How do you learn from a mistake or a play against you early in the game?
SA: "You become more aware of it.  You become more aware on the field. You definitely remember that play and try to get back. You try and make another play."
OUT: There's just something about Anthony at the next level that I like more than others. I am sure I am missing something elsewhere, but I love his ability to get downhill and explode to the football. If it was a run play (Clemson was 5th overall in run defense) or attacking an open gap and putting major heat on the quarterback, I kept thinking he would look great paired with Keenan Robinson. 
Go ahead, judge for yourself. My friends at have Anthony isolated for you in easy to watch cut-ups. 
I would highly recommend the Florida State tape for your first look. 
Chris Russell - - 

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