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Need to Know: Why did the Redskins stick with the 3-4 defense?

Jun 6, 2015, 5:34 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 6, 10 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your questions via email. Hit me up with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

During the course of the week I get some good questions that don’t quite need a full post to answer. So on the weekend I like to empty out the inbox and go through and answer some rapid fire style. The first two questions are from the Real Redskins Facebook page.


I think the better question is, at this point, why change? They already had the personnel for a 3-4 except for the nose tackle and they added a good one in Terrance Knighton. I know that fans are somehow convinced that the 4-3 is, by its very nature, a superior defense. But the facts just don’t back that up. A total of 17 teams are expected to use the 3-4 as their base alignment. Some of those defenses will be good, some will not. But it will be due to the personnel they have and not how they typically line up. If the early looks at OTAs are any indication, however, the Redskins will line up in multiple fronts this year so they will be plenty of chances for the fans to see their beloved four-man fronts.


You can look at this question one of two ways. I think that it will be very tough for any player to make the 53-man roster at quarterback. But I wouldn’t call the position “overloaded” because there are question marks about all three of the players on the depth chart. In fact, I don’t think that any of the positions on the Redskins are overloaded in the true sense of the word. But I do think that, say, an undrafted free agent would find it tough to break through at wide receiver, quarterback, or running back. I think a player could surprise just about anywhere else.

This is asked of Jay Gruden on occasion and the answer he generally gives is that being a dropback passer has to be part of the skill set of a successful NFL quarterback. There are times when you have to drop back time after time and nothing else a quarterback does can compensate for not being able to do that. That’s accurate and I’ll add that nothing really “fit” Griffin last year. He didn’t run particularly well, he didn’t make plays on the move, and the read option was a dud. So perhaps part of the problem is finding that “fit”. Griffin might not be a drop back passer but just like Tom Brady needs to run sometime, performing from the pocket is something that Griffin has to be able to do. Everything else, the mobile QB stuff, can build off of that.

I’ve looked at Morris’ future a few times here and the answer has always that it’s too soon to tell. Gruden speaks highly of Morris and always makes sure to mention that Morris is going to be the No. 1 back. But that doesn’t address the long-term future of Morris as a Redskin. My take on it right now is that it is unusual spend a third-round pick on a running back and give the one you have a big free agent contract if the new guy shows anything. That’s just right now, though. Again, it’s early and a lot will happen between now and when free agency opens up next March.


—It’s been 160 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 99 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 10; Redskins training camp starts 54; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 110

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. troylok - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:09 AM

    With very few exceptions, I don’t think teams will ride running backs into their retirement anymore. It seems guys like Steven Jackson will be almost used up, get cut, and milk out a couple of extra years on another team’s roster. I know Morris has many good years ahead of him, but if you look at him like you would a car, he’s a five year old Taurus with about 70,000 miles. I think they let him go and move to more power runners.

  2. mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    I just dont see alfred morris bein on the redskins team in the future especially if he dont run like hell and show major improvements in pass protection witch he struggle greatly last year…they gonna EAZ matt jones in for the starting job and if alfred morris struggle we might see alot of matt jones…ill say this again alfred morris needed to put on more weight to break tackles like he did in 2012 alfred morris will never be a home run hitter were he runs for 60 or 70 yards for a touchdown thats not his strength.. his strength was breaking tackles cause he was so big and strong and ppl use to have to gang tackle him but now they dont he get tackle by one or two guys and fall to the ground…Alfred Morris was averaging 6 to 8 yards per carry in 2012 now hes averaging 2 to 3 yards that gotta change if he want that big pay check

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      AM is not very big as a running back and never really had much weight in the upper torso. His strength was in his thick legs. He came in at 219 pounds and currently I see him reported at 222 – 224.

      Maybe Rich can “weigh” in on his current weight.

  3. weneedlinemen42 - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    Morris seems like a great guy and a good professional. I’d really like to see him earn a lot of money from his second contract and be set for life after football. I’d like that contract to be with the Redskins because he is at least a very solid starter.

    That said, currently, running backs don’t get paid big money, and after four years of heavy use Morris will have a fair amount of mileage on the clock before he gets a shot at that second contract. So, I’ll be sad if he leaves but not surprised. I would love him to stay, but wouldn’t see it as disloyalty if he choose to explore free agency and took the biggest offer. I want the front office to look after our own veterans, but I accept that the pragmatic choice may well be to acquire running backs through the draft and reserve free agent contracts for other positions.

    • ET - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      I’m hoping both sides find a way to make it work, for the reasons you mention. While Morris can and should get a bigger payday, it won’t be a bank-buster. The team that threw $100 M at a clown like Haynesworth can afford to pony up a few million for a guy who was one of the few bright spots of the past decade.

      • gasngo14 - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:21 PM

        well said ET !!

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:33 PM

      I doubt there is a better human being than AM on the roster. I see his next destination being Atlanta where he’ll fit in well with the zone blocking they are setting up there.

      • ET - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:43 PM

        Are we destined to become the Falcons’ feeder team? Guess it depends on how long Kyle & Co. remain on staff down there.

      • Brandon H - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:23 PM

        Alf has stated. The power run gamehe prefers the power run game.logic there doesn’t make sense.he ll b fine this year and with better qb play/w better line play.he can’t do it all.Drafting M.Jones will probally help ALF to have his best yr yet. HTTR!!

  4. Stephfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    If they don’t resign Morris it’ll be one of the dumbest moves in history in my opinion. Why get rid of a guy who is nothing but a class act and has put up over 1000 yards every season? Has he not done enough? So what if he can’t pass block he can learn. So what if he so called cant catch the ball? But that’s debatable because he did in the probowl but when do the skins ever throw to him? Matt jones is unproven and everyone is ready to make this guy a starter? That’s laughable to me??? Morris is a back you need, a hard running and at the running back position that’s what you need

    • Carl Gray - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      Running backs are a dime a dozen. We can get similar results from Jones or another RB under a decent line. They need their money to re-sign Kerrigan, Williams, Robinson, and hopefully Knighton. Linebackers and lineman aren’t a dime a dozen.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:38 PM

        I think Carl nailed it!

      • Brandon H - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:32 PM

        Y can’t we sign RK,TK,KR,TW, and Alf?what kinda contract do u think Alf will get?I doubt he even asks for a ton of $.I guarantee if Alf has a solid yr,he ll b resignd.Pot Roast is 28 yrs old and isn’t the long term answer at NT.yea he can b solid for anothr 5 yrs but the 1 yr deal tells me they’d like to address NT in nxt yrs draft or resign Pot Roast to a 2-3 yr deal.TW will get the most and Rk should get a nice contract.othr than that the othr guys rnt gona break the bank.KR won’t demand a huge deal.Check the deal that PR jus signed.sumthin simila,mayb a bit more $.not a lot tho.point is that there’s plenty of $ to go around and plenty of ways to make more.consider this too.I highly dount our WR corps will take up ovr $20 M in 2016.eithr PG or DJ will b gone or PG will have a largely reduced salary if he’s won’t b $20 M on WR so there’s $ already saved.The draft tho is where we have to start pickn the right guys,keep drafting replacements/upgrades nd keep cost at certain positions down.

        • Carl Gray - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:37 PM

          That would be nice (I also like Darrel Young being resigned), but in that case we will need to cut Garcon, Roberts, Hatcher, Reed, AND trade Jackson. Morris definitely deserves to be resigned, but we can only do it if our good cap situation allows it. Green Bay is able to re-sign their players constantly, so I guess we can too.

          I predict that Kerrigan and Williams will get long term deals before 2016, Robinson will get the tag, and they’ll try to resign the rest.

          On a second note, Morris, Jones, and Young would be a crushing core for years to come, especially under our new o-line.

        • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:33 PM

          @ Carl

          Morris will get a contract that averages $3.5-$5M a year. It will likely be a four or five year deal. Whether it is here or not remains to be seen but it will get done. Robinson will make about the same. Between Goldson, Hall, Riley, Roberts, Hatcher, and Lauvao. Something can get done. All of the previous will likely get trimmed in some way not to mention Jackson and Garcon. Bottom line: if the team wants Morris, he’s on the team.

    • Brandon H - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      Agreed,Alf has earnd a nice deal from the Skins. They’d b foolish to let him won’t take a contract that ll break their bank.He’s earnd a good amount of guaranteed $.Should b able to resign,Trent,Ryan,and Alf.3 players n their prime.need to take care of our own.I did read where Alf actually took 3 months off nd got more limber and hve read that he looks faster.I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad would b nice for him to b a lil quicker.I love watchin him hlower his shoulder and get bacck to where it takes a gang to bring him down.He ll b fresh tho. U have to have 2 backs n this days NFL really 3. Besides injury, we need specialists. Keep grindin on the D nd wear the othr D down.That w/successfu l Play Action,mthats how we ll b successful.. HTTR

    • mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:17 PM

      For the last two years he only put up 1000 yards cause of the garbage time he played in when the game was out of reach…alfred morris struggle to pass protection witch is picking up blitzes and he struggles to catch the ball…this year he have to show he can do those things better…his numbers lie when you bring up he had 1000 yards every year those yards came when game was already over…redskins can find a better running back alfred morris only shown he can get the ball out of the backfield but when it comes to picking up the blitz and protecting rg3 he struggle bad …he actually got benched one game by jay gruden last year even tho jay gruden wouldn’t say so alfred morris was healthy but was keeping the bench warm …ppl that think alfred morris hasnt done nothing wrong on the field except mediocrity instead of excepting perfection

      • Stephfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:44 PM

        They never throw to him out the backfield and please don’t tell me they do because he doesn’t! Fans and media assume he can’t catch from the backfield but he has proven it. In college and at the pro bowl so you can’t say he is horrible. Alf is the best back we have had since portis. If helu, torrain or any of the other backs we had were any good they would still be here. Regardless I’m an alf fan but it would be dumb to get ride of him for an unproven back like jones. Jones is a good second punch for now but I hope they resign Morris because if we don’t he will go to another team and win. Then we will look stupid like when Devin left and won a super bowl. Or bailey winning more games, brunell going to the saints and winning a Super Bowl. He doesn’t really count though lol but we have let to many good ones just leave

        • 214hof - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:21 PM

          Alfred caught about 6 balls through out his college career FYI… That was one of the knocks on him, that and being on a 1-11 team.

  5. Stephfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    Redskins fans kill me always wanna get rid of good players

  6. Stephfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    Redskins fans i tell u

  7. berniebernard666 - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Morris is an interesting guy. He doesn’t seem to garner much respect around the league. You don’t hear much about him because he isn’t in the Superbowl like Lynch. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed of Adrian Peterson or Lesean McCoy, and yet he has as much or more yardage as any of those players over the last 3 years.

    People talk about him being worn out or getting used up even though Marshawn Lynch was in the NFL for 6 years before Alfred was drafted. McCoy in the league 3 years before Alfred and yet Lesean McCoy just signed a big deal with Buffalo. And Peterson is making 12 million dollars at age 30. So what is all this talk about letting Morris go because of 4 years of “heavy use”.

    Alfred can’t break tackles when he is being stuffed at the line of scrimmage by a 9-10 man line. The Redskins passing game was pathetic last year and nobody respect it which allowed Defensive Coordinator to stack the line and even play safeties and corners up around the LOS. Roy Helu could not block, the tight ends had problems blocking, and I won’t even need to talk about Chris Chester, Tom Compton or the injured Trent WIlliams.

    There is nothing wrong with Alfred Morris. There was a LOT wrong with the rest of the offense. Scott M agrees with me because he has replaced TWO offensive linemen so far and brought in a STRENGTH COACH to help the tight ends and linemen get bigger and badder. Plus, Scott says that “we’re going to take care of our own” which leads me to believe that Alfred Morris will be offered a contract if he has another 1000 yard season.

    • mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      Scot m. Also dont except average play…if he thought alfred morris was a great RB and did everything right he would have taken matt jones in the 3rd round…most of the sacks came from RB not blocking and TE…

      • mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:28 PM

        I ment he wouldnt have taken matt jones in the third round

        • Brandon H - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:47 PM

          How many good RBs do successful teams have? Right… that’s what I thought.We need 2 good backs. Alf does get respect around the league.that’s y he’s an Pro Bowl alternate both yrs he didn’t make it. I really wonder if half these “Fans” that comment,if they even know football or follow the league.its very obvious a lot of fans don’t undrstand everything they need order to make informed intellegent comments. Most that comment here seem pretty sharp,Stefan,Mr.$ a few othrs. The change has startd for our organization,it does start with mindset and attitude at the top and Scot Mc will do us justice,he ll help bring us back.not as far off as sum people think.if RG can ever learn how to read at least half the football field,then mayb learn to read the whole D and where to go when there’s single high Safety dependin on the route combos on the play or if he cs linebackers drop,which tells u cover 2,right off the bat.lil things that a QB learns iin HS.that’s when I startd to learn to read Ds and he should already b better than he is.there’s no excuse to not b getn the ball out on ur 3rd,5th,7th step,depending on play.he learns to read D nd improves n the Film room along with sumthin as simple as sliding,Steve Young comes to mind.A playr like that.doesn’t hve to run all the time but will when needs to. Fans b fans and support the team nd quit tryna bring the team down nd comment on stuff u really don’t undrstand.

  8. shanevalliere19 - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    I think Almo will get his payday with our beloved Redskins. I see him as an Art Monk at running back in terms of not getting a ton of respect around the league though he is in the top five of rushing yards since he has been drafted. He also mirrors Monk in the way he leads, with solid play not glamour. I agree that his play has decreased because of the OL play. When you can stack the box it’s impossible for any RB to gain yards.

    • 214hof - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      I would agree, Morris is a class act. It’s hard to run when nobody is afraid of the pass. Griffin’s struggles last year had a trickle down effect on the rest of the offence…
      Weird how when Kirk was putting up 30+ points the D couldn’t stop anyone, but Griffin struggles to put up 17 points and the D keeps it close… It was frustrating to watch.

  9. bangkokben - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    I would add O-line and an area where it would be hard for an UDFA to make the team. LeRibeus seems to be the biggest beneficiary of Chester’s release and then there’s a bunch of guys we drafted recently.

    • ET - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:52 PM

      LeRibster has a golden opportunity this offseason, much better than anticipated. If he can show a decent pair of hands and some brains at center, he stands a pretty good chance of making the team, which is not something I expected to say. I’ll be interested to see how many center snaps Long gets as well.

      • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:05 PM

        Who would’ve thought LeRibs would even have a chance to be on the team, now he looks like a lock. He now has the most experience of any of the back-up interior linemen. Plenty of younger guys that may unseat him but not likely this year when you consider the inexperience starting on the right side.

      • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:05 PM

        Who would’ve thought LeRibs would even have a chance to be on the team, now he looks like a lock. He now has the most experience of any of the back-up interior linemen. Plenty of younger guys that may unseat him but not likely this year when you consider the inexperience starting on the right side.

  10. Jason - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    Ok for all of you who claim that if a running back can get 1000 yards in a season then he’s worth shoveling out millions of dollars need to understand a few things. First of all, 1,000 yards equals 62.5 yards a game in 16 games so that itself is not a feat anymore. Another things is, look at how many rbs get over 1000 yes these days and tht doesn’t make them elite. Yes, we should retain Alfred Morris moving into the future but at what cost? People keep talking about “why can’t we pay him a few millions” well of course we would pay him a FEW millions but he’s probably want in the neighborhood of 4-7 million a year and that my friend is not worth it. Would you rather sign a Defensive back for that price or replace Morris with a younger faster/stronger running back in the draft in the 2nd -4things round? Morris is not an Elite back and although his consecutive 1,000 yard seasons speak volumes about his consistency you must remember, just because he’s been a bright spot in our team doesn’t mean a whole lot. Its not hard to shine around a bunch of scrubs.

    • Brandon H - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:56 PM

      Jason,u don’t kno ur butt from a whole n the ground bud. Yea 1000 yds isn’t a feat nemore but there probally not a handful of backs mo powerful than Alf. He’s plenty fast enuff and there isn’t but 1 or 2 backs with as good as vision as Alf has.Vision is the most important thing a back can have,that and anticipation. Nd he won’t ask for $7 M. Its the guaranteed $ that will land him,not the per yr cap hit.He s earnd it.nd like I’ve takes 2-3 backs to b many good backs did the pats have or ne othr team that’s been consistanly successful.

  11. James - Jun 6, 2015 at 1:53 PM

    3 reasons why Alfred will get a new contract from Washington next year…

    1. He deserves it! SM has stated that “We’re going to take care of our own”. Morris has always generated a 1000 yard season which I feel like many people take for granted. Even over the last few years with an out of sync offense, Alfred still finds a way to produce.
    2. He’s a humble guy. Though I don’t personally know him, it seems like Alfred isn’t your typical money greedy athlete. I doubt it will take a serious amount of money to convince him to stay in WSH.
    3. Alfred is better than Matt Jones. Sure Jones can catch and block, but when it comes down to running, Alfred is the man. Matt Jones lacks the vision and patience that good running backs have. I’m sure Jones will have success, but I don’t think he’s going to be that workhorse that Morris can be.

  12. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    I think we are starting to make the transition back to a 4-3. They have gotten some smaller linebackers that fit a 4-3 system better, they have a couple Dlinemen that fit the 4-3, and they will be playing multiple fronts. It may take a couple Drafts to get all the players we need but I think we will be running the 4-3 by 2017 or 2018 and possibly as early as 2016.

  13. redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    Alfred Morris is the modern day Art Monk of the team. Great human being, well liked, and excels with limited abilities for NFL standards. I’d love to see him retire here but I don’t see that being possible. It appears coaching is moving away from what he does best.

  14. mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:11 PM

    That cant be the right weight because he look a little slimmer then what he did coming out of college and before jay gruden became head coach alfred morris said he wanted to be in better condition I guess cause he herd the negatives about him not bein a 70 to 80 yards runner…all I know is you could not single tackle alfred morris in 2012 but now you can and its a reason why he average 3 to 4 yards per carry last year when in 2012 he average 6 to 8 yards per carry

  15. mr.moneylover - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    They dont throw to alfred morris cause they dont trust his hands he drop a few any passes…I think in the 49ers game he drop a pass that should’ve been a 20 yard gain…scot m. Dont care about what alfred Morris did in 2012 or last year…all I know is if he struggle in other areas of his game this year scot m. Wont resign alfred Morris…they gave alfred morris catches to chris Thompson last year…I trust scot m. Players over mike shanahan players…mike shanahan drafted one trick players…and the only reason why I say rg3 should start is because I dont trust kirk cousins as a starter because once he lose his confidence its a wrap he will shut down…but back to the running backs…matt jones can catch the ball he can pass protect witch is very important and hes a home hit runner…unlike alfred Morris he can do all three things yea he gotta get his feet wet first in the NFL but I believe he will impress people to the point were you will say we don’t need Alfred Morris…then if we add a RB like trey Williams man OH man alfred Morris will be really in trouble…I wonder when jay gruden say alfred is the starter do he means the same thing when he say rg3 is the starter…because I think its gonna be competition everywhere in training camp…and right now jay gruden said hes very impress with matt jones and tryna hold him back until they put the pads on

    • Brandon H - Jun 7, 2015 at 2:53 PM

      I take it back Mr $lover.ur an idiot.jus hatin on Alf cause ur prolly a cowboys fan that wants him.anothr person shot down ur theory of ALF getn all his yards in garbage time. Which back n the league can get thru a 9 man front?they don’t thro to Alf cause the QB doesn’t xactly kno how to play QB.sometimes the only play is to get it to the check down right away and if our QB could have a better pre-Snap read then he d kno to look downfield then throw ovr to Alf for 5-10 yards.He can catch,jus gota have a QB who knows when to get him the ball.I pull for RG jus think how much easier it’d b to build a team if u already have a QB nd not havin to look for one while playn players like John Beck or Rex Grossman.both smart QBs with not near the arm talent RG has.let’s hope he’s been n the film room all spring,learning to read pre snap and post snap.makes the game so much more fun for a QB when he knows what he’s doin.All u Alf Haters that point out useless unqualified notions of what kinda RB we need,nd we can do better than Alf need to shut up nd watch Soap Operas all day.Ur obviously watchin mo of that than Football.BTW,in 82 the Skins had mo than 1 good back,in 87 they had mo than 1 good back nd u got it,in 91 they had mo than 1 good back.really othr than the 82 team the Skins had been a downfield passing team,hence Gibbs OCn for Air Correall himself.u still need 2-3 RBs to b successful.

  16. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:59 PM

    Everyone commenting that Morris won’t get resigned makes no sense. The guy ran for at least 1,000 yards every year. I feel the only reason they Drafted the guy in the 3rd round was to spell Morris and be there incase Morris gota better offer. You need 2 just incase.

    • mr.moneylover - Jun 7, 2015 at 10:05 AM

      Alfred Morris picked up those yards in garbage time for two years he only had success when rg3 was running the read option

      • timwillhidetimwillhide - Jun 7, 2015 at 12:10 PM

        Teams don’t run the ball when behind. Thats when they thro more wich is considered Garbage time. So what are you considering garbage time? Also I don’t see a RB getting 1,000 yards in garbage time.

  17. kenlinkins - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:04 PM

    Between Garcon, Hatcher, Goldson, Hall, Riley and Roberts there is about $30 million in Cap space just waiting to be cut or reduced in 2016. There will be a ton of money for Morris if he has another good year, even after the Redskins resign T. Williams and Kerrigan. Also, RG3’s $16 million is not for sure. The Redskins could pull the option and resign him to a lower amount if the new GM feels his NFL worth is lower. The nice thing about this new GM is he seem to know what a player should be paid and doesn’t allow his ego to be used against him by players who believe the owner will step in and over pay. If the owner stays out of these things the new GM will have “right sized” the players money by the start of the 2016 season.

  18. obxskins - Jun 7, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    Am is guy we should keep..first he is productive on field and just as important he is a class citizen…he stays healthy! When he goes down he always falls forward…imagine what he will do with a line coach and better line players this year..he will improve his blocking..I will go out on a limb and say Jones makes Young hut the street next year….early and bold prediction…we shall see! Archives

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