<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Capital Games]]>Copyright 2017https://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/capital-games http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington https://www.nbcwashington.comen-usSat, 18 Nov 2017 09:26:33 -0500Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:26:33 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[4 Things to Know About Streaking Wizards]]> Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:09:05 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Washington+Wizards+GettyImages-872295672.jpg

Four thoughts on the surging Washington Wizards following Wednesday’s 102-93 win over the Miami Heat and ahead of Friday’s rematch at Capitol One Arena.


We’ve now seen a world where the Wizards stopped being polite on defense and started getting real. Washington is 4-0 since Nov. 9. They are holding opponents to 93.5 points per game during the winning streak, the second best mark in the league, and 39.5 percent shooting from the field. All four foes scored fewer than 100 points. Last season the Wizards never kept opponents below 100 more than two games in a row.

This stretch of games wasn’t exactly a murderous row -- all four teams entered with a losing record -- but the Wizards already lost games to a 1-win Mavericks squad and others headed for the draft lottery. Those setbacks weren’t about the offense.

An engaged John Wall is often the first step for success. He’s been better of late and we’re not talking about those chase-down blocks no matter how fun they are. Actually, if the point guard would focus more on playing his opponent with good fundamentals -- Wall often lets a dribbler drive by so he can angle for a steal from behind or lags back anticipating the block -- the Wizards might be consistently stingy. Over the past four games, they’ve been just that.

Stat of the Day

Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, the Wizards are 22-3 when holding opponents under 100 points including 6-0 this season. We know and, more importantly, they know playing good defense isn’t some far off fantasy and the reward is all kinds of nice.

Mahinmi Madness

The Wizards didn’t trail the Heat Wednesday night 80-73 with 9:47 remaining solely because of their backup center. That Ian Mahinmi committed two turnovers and a foul within a 31-second span right as Goran Dragic made three consecutive baskets to put Miami up seven didn’t help.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks quickly called a timeout. When play resumed, the 6-foot-11 big man along with backup point guard Tim Frazier stayed on the bench while Wall and Morris re-entered. Fast-forward to the 5:52 mark and Washington led 88-83. They never trailed again.

The turnaround wasn’t solely because Mahinmi sat, though the small-ball lineup, an option in part because Miami center Hassan Whiteside (21 rebounds) was resting, with Morris at center allowed for better defensive switching. Then again, it sure felt like good things happened once Mahinmi went out. It rarely feels like good things happen when he’s on the floor.

Any Mahinmi conversation comes back to the massive and increasingly uncomfortable four-year, $68 million contract he signed with Washington last season. Forget the overpay and that the Wizards got caught up in last summer’s free agent frenzy. That’s obvious. The real issue is Mahinmi simply isn’t providing much production regardless of his salary.

He’s here for defense and rebounding. His presence was felt during a healthy 25-game stretch last season. Mahinmi grabbed a season-high nine rebounds in Monday’s rout over Sacramento, but there have been few standout performances.

Meanwhile, Jason Smith played only two minutes during the four games.* Is Brooks playing Mahinmi over Smith because of that contract? Yes, and no. The Wizards committed a chunk of their salary cap to him. They need more, even if it’s just for another team to maybe say they’ll take him off the Wizards hands along with just one first-round pick.

The season is still young, but it's starting to get old constantly thinking the Wizards might be better off if Mahinmi sits. They’d certainly be better off if he starts producing consistently and stops trying to make offense moves outside of three feet from the basket.

*Mike Scott oddly received zero minutes against Miami. Perhaps in anticipation of no practice on Thursday, Brooks shortened the rotation from nine to 10, leaving Scott as the odd man out.

Pushing Porter

Virtually every conversation I’ve had with colleagues or league sources about what stands out with this team thru 14 games focuses on Otto Porter. There’s some pleasant surprise about the starting small forward not letting the weight of his new four-year, $106 million contract negatively impact his game. There’s also the obvious extra confidence that shows in his stats and body language.

The next step is obvious: Getting Porter more involved late in games.

He’s tracking for career-highs in scoring (16.4), rebounding (7.5), steals (1.8), field goal percentage (57.6)and 3-point shooting (50.0). Porter ranks sixth league-wide in effective field goal percentage, which gives more weight to 3-pointers. All the production comes despite the Wizards rarely running plays for Porter, though he takes the third most field goal attempts per game behind only Beal and Wall.

However, Porter ranks eighth in fourth quarter field goal attempts despite playing the second most minutes. Against Miami, he didn’t take a shot despite playing eight minutes, 33 seconds of the final period.

When folks think the Wizards still lack a “Big 3,” it’s largely because Porter doesn’t take over games overtly late. That’s not completely in his nature, but there’s clear improvement with Porter being assertive, especially with the second unit. Against the Golden State Warriors, he was arguably the best player on the court for either team.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[4 Things to Know: Washington Redskins v. Minnesota Vikings]]> Sun, 12 Nov 2017 07:24:13 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins_Camp_Trent_Williams_Returns_to_Camp_a_Vegan.jpg

The Washington Redskins (4-4) return home for their Week 10 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (6-2). They do so with ample momentum following Sunday’s stunning 17-14 upset over the Seattle Seahawks. They also enter with plenty of injury uncertainty on both sides of the ball. Taking down a fellow NFC playoff contender riding a four-game winning streak won’t be easy, but would certainly be helpful. Last week’s heroics go for naught if the Redskins drop their third home game of the season.

Here’s a look at four things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at FedEx Field.

Get in line

The Washington Redskins are poised for another week of random along the offensive line, yet there is hope for some if not all four starters who sat out Sunday’s loss at Seattle. The biggest news involved left tackle Trent Williams returning to practice Friday after sitting out the past two games with a kneecap injury.

Third stringer T.J. Clemmings took over as quarterback Kirk Cousins’s blindside protector with Williams and Ty Nsekhe sidelined. Results were at best mixed. There’s no confusion over Williams’ value for the offense. The question is simply can he go.

“I think he is trying it out [to] see how it feels,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “The big thing is with him is one, he has to feel comfortable enough we can be effective. He’s played at such a high level his whole career, I think with the pain he has been having he just doesn’t feel like himself. If he feels like he can go, I’m sure he will go. He’s the toughest guy on this football team.”

If Williams isn’t ready, Nsekhe might get the call assuming he can return from a core injury that kept him sidelined since Week 3. Washington certainly could use either against Minnesota pass rusher Everson Griffin.

Right guard Brandon Scherff (knee) and left guard Shaun Lauvao (stinger) are “questionable” after not playing last week. Center Spencer Long (knee), out the past two games, received the same designation along with right tackle Morgan Moses (ankle), who has played through his injuries.

Scherff looks like the best bet for Week 10. Arie Kouandjio performed nicely at left guard last week and rookie center Chase Roullier now has two starts on his resume.

Case for Kennum

The Vikings are atop the NFC North despite being down to their third-string quarterback, but Case Keenum has kept the offense moving. The journeyman is performing like a true starter, completing 63.9 percent of his passes while avoiding major mistakes (three interceptions in 233 attempts). Having a strong wide receiver tandem in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen along with quality tight end Kyle Rudolph helps. Same for the recent emergence of dual-threat running back Jerick McKinnon

There is a new element this week as Minnesota activated Teddy Bridgewater, for the first time this season. At some point the Vikings will want a closer look at their true starter. That’s probably not this week, but will Keenum start feeling the pressure.

Rush hour

Minnesota’s offensive line is allowing a mere 1.2 sacks per game, the second-best mark in the league. However, right tackle Mike Remmers (concussion) won’t play Sunday. We’ll see if the Redskins can take full advantage considering they only have four available defensive linemen as of Friday. The Remmers injury provides an opening for edge rusher Preston Smith, who is second in sacks (4.5) behind Ryan Kerrigan, but hasn’t any one since Week 6

Will the Doctson deliver again?

Josh Doctson’s diving 38-yard catch on the Redskins’ final drive set up the game-winning touchdown. The hope is the play also set up the second-year receiver with enough positive vibes to overcome a strange start to his career, one that left many skeptical about his future.

Doctson has a tremendous size-speed combination. The Redskins have moved him ahead of Terrelle Pryor on the depth chart. That catch reminded all of his capabilities. Now can Doctson deliver the consistency.

“He is a confident, young player. He is just waiting for an opportunity to break out,” Gruden said. “He is not a selfish guy. He is just a quiet guy and just goes about his business just waiting to perform at a real high level. As a starting receiver in the NFL, I think he is pretty high. I think from a statistical standpoint people are waiting for him to have the 10-catch for 200-yard performance and three touchdowns and I think those days are coming.”

Minnesota has allowed only nine passing touchdowns and ranks seventh in passing yards (201) allowed per game.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

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<![CDATA[Redskins Showtime Overtime: Vikings Preview]]> Fri, 10 Nov 2017 12:39:43 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Seahawks1.jpg

The Redskins Showtime crew gets you ready for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. News4’s Carol Maloney, former Redskins running back Clinton Portis and ESPN 980’s Kevin Sheehan and Steve Czaban give us an idea of how the ‘Skins can build off last week’s big win in Seattle, and the panel is quite animated from the very start!

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patrick Ewing Coaches First Georgetown Game Sunday]]> Fri, 10 Nov 2017 12:02:43 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Ewing+splitscreen.jpg NBA great and Basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing has returned to his alma mater and is coaching Georgetown University’s men’s basketball team. Here is a look back at Ewing’s career.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Sports Junkies Mention 'Playoffs' After Huge Win in Seattle]]> Wed, 08 Nov 2017 19:41:52 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020806803_1200x675_1091691075845.jpg

In this week’s “The Good, the Bad and the Junkies,” the Sports Junkies from 106.7 the Fan weigh in on the Redskins huge victory in Seattle and look ahead to this week’s game against the Vikings. They’re even talking playoffs!

<![CDATA[4 Things to Know: Washington Redskins v. Seattle Seahawks]]> Fri, 03 Nov 2017 13:41:30 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/854627652.jpg

The Washington Redskins (3-4) look to snap a two-game losing streak Sunday in Seattle against a Seahawks (5-2) team that has won four in a row. Here are four things you need to know ahead of the 4:05 p.m. kickoff.

All Able Men Report to Duty

Injuries ravaged the Redskins’ lineup and depth over the past two games and things may not improve much in Week 9. The injury report lists a whopping 21 players with several missing practices throughout the week. Tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) is out. Overall, no name tags required this week, though free agent defensive tackle Arthur Jones joined the roster. However, nobody should use pens when projecting availability or lineups in Seattle.

Three starters on the offensive line sat out the 33-19 loss to the Cowboys and three might be the number against the Seahawks, but with a twist. While right guard Brandon Scherff (knee) is progressing toward a return, left guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger) won’t play after starting against Dallas.

Meanwhile center Chase Roullier is set for his second career start. Fellow rookie Tyler Catalina could flop from one guard role to the other. That is unless he becomes tasked with left tackle duties should third-stringer T.J. Clemmings (ankle) take a step back before kickoff. Wild, wild stuff.

Communicating, both verbally and instinctively are the true challenges for a line on any given week. The verbal part will be all kinds of challenging playing in one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums. The instinctive part is almost impossible with so many new bodies.

“They know things without even having to communicate,” Catalina said of the veterans. “You throw two, three different guys you’ve never played with, it’s going to be a slow start.”

Tight end Niles Paul (concussion) is also out while wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (knee) are among the uncertain for Sunday.

Wrangling Wilson

Rank NFL starting quarterback in terms of frustrating opposing fan bases and Russell Wilson might be the No. 1 seed.

There’s the traditional passing – 15 touchdowns and 2,002 yards in seven games – that causes problems. Wilson threw for four touchdowns and 452 yards in a thrilling 41-38 win over Houston in Week 8. But Wilson’s wheels cause the real headaches.

The mobile quarterback helps move the chains on the ground – he’s rushed for at least 25 yards in five of seven games – but mostly he avoids pass rushers behind a leaky offensive line. Help arrived before the NFL’s trading deadline with left tackle Duane Brown, but keeping focus on Wilson in the pocket will be paramount for the Redskins front-7. Ryan Kerrigan will be challenged to add to his team-high six sacks.

“I think you’ve got to be cautious of your pass lanes and trying to make sure you’re in those pass lanes as a defensive lineman,” Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “Overall, we’ve got to make sure we harass him in the pocket and make sure we cage him a little bit.”

Run, At Least Try

Washington’s offense revolves around quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. That won’t be different Sunday even though Seattle has one of the league’s better secondaries led by cornerback Richard Sherman. Yet if the Redskins can’t even pretend to show balance with the run game, things could get ugly.

Things have certainly gone backwards since rushing for a season-high 229 yards against the Rams in Week 2. From there the weekly totals have dropped each game: 116, 111, 94, 75, 49. Starter Robert Kelley hasn’t been healthy much of the season. Rookie Samaje Perine appears overmatched for now. Chris Thompson is a true playmaker, but he’s not built for a heavy workload between the tackles.

Regardless, the Redskins must try, even behind a beat up offensive line. They attempted only 14 runs with backs against Dallas, five in the second half. Keeping the ball on the ground helps keep the clock moving, which isn’t a bad thing on the road as a seven-point underdog, but also helps set up Cousins for play-action chances. Averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry for a second consecutive week won’t work, but neither will simply giving up on the ground.

The New Guy

Noting Arthur Jones’ arrival isn’t about fixing the defensive line. The 31-year-old hasn’t played in the league this year. It’s about simply getting bodies. The veteran was added after Matt Ioannidis busted his hand against Dallas, which came after Jonathan Allen’s possible season-ending foot injury in Week 5. This unit is much improved this season, but that’s largely based on the two young linemen. Now they’re out.

Seattle’s offense is incredibly one-dimensional these days. The standard running game with their backs isn’t working; the Seahawks are 27th in yards per carry (3.7). Good bet they try fixing their issues against defensive line that is missing some key players and adding a new one.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats Manager Martinez: 'We're Here to Win the World Series']]> Thu, 02 Nov 2017 19:27:10 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Dave+Martinez+Washington+Nationals+110217.jpg

First-time manager Dave Martinez knows that the Washington Nationals hired him with one goal in mind.

Martinez started his new job by speaking repeatedly about winning a World Series.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo introduced Martinez at a news conference in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park Thursday.

The Nationals have never won a postseason series, but Martinez said, “This team doesn't lack much.”

Martinez has been a bench coach in the big leagues for a decade, most recently with the Chicago Cubs. He also played 16 years in the majors.

Rizzo calls Martinez a “perfect blend of the old school” with the use of analytical statistics.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards Host Struggling Cavaliers Friday]]> Thu, 02 Nov 2017 17:40:13 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Wizards+Cavaliers+GettyImages-667622356.jpg

The Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers played the NBA’s game of the regular season last February, an overtime thriller won by the eventual Eastern Conference champions. Many league thinkers believe these two squads are the East’s best this season with the Cavs still the clear team to beat. Entering Friday’s initial meeting of the 2017-18 campaign, neither squad is playing at such a high level.

The Wizards lost a defense-optional game Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns 122-116 despite holding a 22-point lead in the first half. Yet at 4-3, Washington’s world looks down right optimal compared to Cleveland. The new-look and sliding Cavaliers (3-5) have dropped four in a row, the last three by an average of 19.3 points.

Maybe this meeting won’t have historians pondering a placement on some all-time list. Considering the season is barely two weeks old, even matching triple-doubles from the team’s stars or a last-second game-winner, the result won’t matter much come March or April and certainly not in the deep playoff month of May.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good moment for the Wizards to get things right. There’s never a moment to overlook any team led by LeBron James.

“Nobody in their right mind would look past the Cavs,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Thursday’s practice. “They have so many talented players. They’re going to figure it out.”

Correcting their flaws is the mindset for Washington after its worst loss of the season. After holding the Suns to 15 points in the first quarter, the Wizards allowed 107 over the remaining 36 minutes.

“The film never lies,” Brooks said. “We have to have individual pride before we can have team help. Right now, we have to get better individually guarding guys.”

The youthful Suns, playing for an interim coach after the organization fired Earl Watson following a 0-3 start, didn’t buckle in the final minutes against a team many view as a true threat to ending Cleveland’s reign.

“For us to sit here and act like we’re somebody… We haven’t proven nothing, we haven’t done nothing,” Bradley Beal said following the Wizards’ third loss in four games. “We got to stay aggressive at all times. We have to realize we’re a targeted team. Teams want to beat us. Until we get that in the back of our heads, we’re going to continue to play this way.”

John Wall backed up his teammate’s comments Thursday.

“We’re not that great of a team. We haven’t accomplished anything, like Brad said. “You have to learn how to step up to the plate and finish the job when it’s there."

Defense is certainly an issue for Cleveland. The Cavs rank 26th in scoring defense at 111.9 points per game. That was with center Tristan Thompson, who reportedly will miss several weeks with a left calf suffered in Wednesday’s 124-107 home loss to the Indiana Pacers.

While the Wizards kept the core intact from a team that won 49 games, the Cavaliers dramatically altered their roster, most notably by trading All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to the Celtics. Working in headliners Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green with holdovers James and Kevin Love hasn’t been smooth.

“They’ve got a bunch of new players. They’re trying to adjust. They’re figuring out how they can all blend in,” Brooks noted before mentioning the most important factor when facing Cleveland. “When LeBron is on the court, there’s a problem.”

James’ banked 3-pointer to force overtime is the lasting image from February’s 140-135 Wizards loss. The four-time league Most Valuable Player remains a force 14 seasons into his career, averaging 25.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.9 assists through eight games. Any plan against the Cavaliers starts with him. At least the Wizards will have their desired pieces to contend with James available.

Otto Porter, Washington’s third-leading scorer and the NBA leader in steals, returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s loss. He will be on the court for the opening tip Friday. Same goes for Markieff Morris, who will make his season-debut following hernia surgery on Sept. 22 and after serving a one-game suspension

Brooks anticipated Morris playing around 15 minutes in his return. Getting the team to play a consistent 48 minutes is the challenge. Washington has blown double-figure leads in each of its three home games and during road loss against the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.

“I tell our team all the time, the easy part is to play hard, the hard part is to play well,” Brooks said. “We have some really good players that make the hard part pretty good also. Fortunately for me, our staff, and our group, it never has to be talked about a lot. Hopefully we can get back to playing with some toughness, some physicality for 48 minutes instead of 24.”

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Banged Up Skins O-Line Could Mean Rookie's First NFL Action]]> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 13:30:28 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins+GettyImages-853297134.jpg

Four starters along the Washington Redskins’ offensive line sat out Thursday’s practice with various tears, strains and sprains. Therefore, bet on reserve Tyler Catalina playing in his first NFL game Sunday. Just don’t wager on where he lines up.

The undrafted free agent’s versatility helped him earn a surprise roster spot. Catalina played left tackle at the University of Georgia, meaning he knows that terrain should Washington’s Pro Bowl starter Trent Williams sit with a painful torn kneecap. The other tackle, Morgan Moses, rolled both ankles in Monday’s loss to the Eagles.

Right guard Brandon Scherff (knee, back) and center Spencer Long (knee, quad) left Philadelphia hobbled. Long gritted through pain in the 34-24 setback just so the Redskins would have five linemen available. The unit entered thin with Catalina (concussion) and Ty Nsehke (knee) inactive.

The Redskins won’t practice in pads ahead of Sunday’s rivalry game against the Dallas Cowboys. The why is obvious. There aren’t enough big bodies available.

“Yeah, it has its challenges, that’s for sure,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “You know, you walk out of the tunnel with Long, Nsekhe, Scherff, Williams and Moses and those guys aren’t practicing, it’s a little bit different when you go in the huddle. Guys have to step up.”

Those guys include Catalina, who hasn't played an offensive snap this season. The uncertainty of where he’ll line up adds another layer of prep for a long-awaited opportunity.

“That’s definitely the toughest part,” Catalina said of not knowing his exact role against a Cowboys defense tied for sixth in the NFL with 21 sacks.

The line doesn’t simply protect quarterback Kirk Cousins in the pocket or open holes for the ground game. They've provided stability for an offense seeking its 2017 identity, especially with production lacking at wide receiver and the running game grounded in recent weeks. There’s little stable about the line a few days away from a game with division and potential playoff ramifications.

“I think the focus is on getting the new guys ready and making sure they understand the nuances of the position and the nuances of our offense,” Cousins said. “Trying to make sure that as a unit -- as 11 guys -- we are working as one. … So we focus more on the guys who are in there and making sure that it’s moving smoothly with whomever the 11 are that are in the huddle.”

Gruden said on Thursday of the injured starters, “They’re all a concern but I’d say Long is probably the biggest concern. I don’t know how long Long will be out." The answer is at least one week as Gruden announced Long out for Sunday while starting inside linebacker Mason Foster was headed for shoudler surgery and the IR.

No Long Sunday means another rookie, Chase Roullier, would make his first NFL start.

Washington added more interior line depth by signing Tony Bergstrom to the 53-man roster this week. T.J. Clemmings is the primary backup at tackle until Nsekhe returns. Catalina is the fill-in-the-gap guy.

“I can play any position on the offensive line. That’s how you stick around,” said the 6-foot-4, 330-pounder. “That’s how you last in the league, the more you can do.”

Catalina needed some gaps filled in after a blow in last week’s practice put him in the league’s concussion protocol program. He doesn't recall the moment he suffered the injury. Fortunately, the training staff recognized the symptoms and yanked him from practice. "Got a little confused, dazed,” Catalina said.

Now that he’s cleared the cobwebs and has been cleared for action, there’s no doubting Catalina will remember whatever happens Sunday.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Catalina said. “It’s a dream come true, to step on the field and play in the NFL. Never want it to come because of injury, but football is a physical game. I’m just doing everything I can, all the little things before and after practice with Coach (Bill) Callahan and really just looking forward to my shot, my chance to play well and contribute to the team.”

Good bet Catalina contributes Sunday. The how and where is a mystery.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and FanRag Sports, and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins Showtime Overtime: Skins vs. Dallas]]> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 10:28:52 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020663543_1200x675_1082495043969.jpg

The Redskins Showtime Crew looks ahead to Sunday’s showdown with the Cowboys. News4’s Carol Maloney, former Redskins Running Back Clinton Portis, Steve Czaban of ESPN 980 and USA Today’s Mike Jones get into what this game means for the season and preview a new segment on the show this week, “Brutally Honest Jay.”

<![CDATA[Banged-Up Redskins Face Short Week Before Game vs Cowboys]]> Tue, 24 Oct 2017 20:36:10 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-865609306.jpg

The Washington Redskins' injury situation is so bad that coach Jay Gruden would rather give players an extra day off than practice and possibly make it worse.

With another pivotal NFC East matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Redskins won't practice again until Thursday because their injured players could use the rest.

Just along the starting offensive line, tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, right guard Brandon Scherff and center Spencer Long are battling injuries that will at the very least limit their effectiveness if they're even able to get on the field.

Williams continues to play with a severe right knee injury that will likely require surgery, Scherff sprained the MCL in his left knee and hurt his lower back, Long has knee and quadriceps tendinitis and Moses sprained both ankles.

All of those injuries except Williams' occurred in a 34-24 loss at the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, and backup offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe remains out after surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Gruden said on a conference call Tuesday there's a chance Scherff can play with a brace on Sunday against Dallas but knows the injuries up and down the roster will affect his team's preparations for the Cowboys.

``I don't have any linemen, so there will have to be some changes made,'' Gruden said. ``The majority of these guys will run through a brick wall for the Washington Redskins, that's for sure, that's why I love this group. But I also have to be smart and make sure I understand that this is a long year and I've got to make sure that these guys are healthy.''

Injury concerns also include linebacker Preston Smith's groin, safety Stefan McClure's hamstring and rookie cornerback Fabian Moreau's hamstring, while cornerback Bashaud Breeland (knee), running back Rob Kelley (ankle) and linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) all played through some pain Monday night. Cornerback Josh Norman (rib), safety Deshazor Everett (hamstring) and backup offensive lineman Tyler Catalina (concussion) are expected to return to practice later in the week.

With so many injuries mounting, Gruden will focus on walkthroughs, meetings and some more 7-on-7 drills to allow players to get up to speed but not endure more physical pounding.

``We'll get our work in,'' Gruden said. ``Right now it's most important to let them know who we're playing, obviously, let them know what they're doing defensively, what our plan of attack is on both sides of the ball and then trying to get the reps the best way we can with the amount of bodies we have available.''

Operating behind a patchwork offensive line, quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked four times by the Eagles. That challenge isn't getting any easier. Dallas ranks seventh in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.

``It's an expectation throughout the season that you're going to be having to reach into your depth. Maybe not as much as we have had to at tackle and some of the positions, but you do expect it to happen at some point,'' Cousins said after the game. ``I was proud of the way our offensive line continued to battle. Several of them came back out and kept playing and showed a lot of toughness and grit against a very good defensive line that was rotating in a lot of players and keeping guys very fresh and that certainly made it tough on our guys.''

While Gruden said an MRI exam gave Washington some good news on Scherff, he acknowledged there's some concern about Williams playing through a significant injury. Williams is known for playing hurt, but there's a line where it affects his play and could hurt one of the game's best left tackles in the long term.

``That's something that I have to rely on the trainers to make that call and Trent to make that call,'' Gruden said. ``First off, we have to do right by Trent. And then the big thing is finding out from a longevity standpoint, how much this could affect him if it does or not. That's something we have to take into account and then make a good decision.''

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sports Junkies Reflect on Monday Night Loss, Look Ahead to Cowboys]]> Tue, 24 Oct 2017 20:20:00 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020637364_1200x675_1080736323892.jpg

The Sports Junkies from 106.7 the Fan weigh in on the Redskins' Monday Night loss to the first place Eagles, and look ahead to Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

<![CDATA[DC United Comes Up Short at RFK Stadium Finale]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 19:30:30 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-516738750.jpg

The D.C. United soccer team lost their last RFK Stadium game against the New York Red Bulls.

The newest member of the team, Paul Arriola, scored D.C. United the first point of the game 44 minutes in. It was Arriola's first goal for D.C. United.

In the 75th minute, with D.C. United down a man, Gonzalo Veron scored the Red Bulls their second point. 

The team lost two to one in the season and stadium finale.

D.C. United has played 22 seasons of soccer at RFK Stadium, according to the team's website. They plan to play future games at Audi Field, which is set to open at Buzzard Point in 2018.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins: Striking Balance with Suddenly Wobbly Roster]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 10:51:26 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/uspresswire-redskins-josh-norman.jpg

Too early in the season for a must-win game? Perhaps, but there’s plenty at stake in Monday’s NFC East match-up between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Win on the road and the Redskins (3-2) move within one half-game game behind the first place Eagles (5-1). Lose and the gap is greater than the actual records because Philadelphia will own the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their season sweep. The Eagles triumphed 30-17 at FedEx Field in Week 1.

Washington’s team that day had its core pieces intact. That won’t be the case Monday with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (Lisfranc foot surgery) out for at least eight weeks and cornerback Josh Norman (ribs) set to miss a second consecutive game. How do the Redskins replace all that talent? What’s the key battle? Let’s examine these aspects and more in the Week 7 things to watch.

Help wanted

Norman was the biggest loss for Washington’s secondary in Sunday’s 26-24 win over San Francisco, but not the only. Five others dealt with or suffered injuries, including Bashaud Breeland. Washington’s other starting outside cornerback exited with a knee injury. Breeland is listed as “questionable” for Monday after limited practice work all week.

If Breeland can play, he’ll see plenty of Alshon Jeffery while slot corner Kendall Fuller matches up with Nelson Agholor with Quinton Dunbar on the other side. If Breeland is out or limited, third-round pick Fabian Moreau enters as more than a fourth corner. Though the rookie offers tremendous athleticism including needed speed to keep up with Eagles speedster Torrey Smith, Philadelphia likely throws his way when possible.

Getting by quarterbacks like journeyman Brian Hoyer and rookie C.J. Beathard is one thing. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (seven touchdown passes in last two games) is among the most dialed in passers this season.

As for the defensive line, Washington must find ways to replace the powerful Allen, who typically received the most weekly snaps within the group. Matt Ioannidis (3.5 sacks) is arguably the most improved player on the team through five games. Now another second-year player, Anthony Lanier, gets his shot. Lanier, who played four games during his rookie season, is expected to be active on game day for the first time this season.

“Nothing different,” veteran lineman Ziggy Hood said of the approach without Allen. “It’s Anthony’s job to do it better than Jonathan did. That’s all predicated on how he works this week and what opportunity he get out there. And what a great opportunity for this young man to get a chance to play on a Monday night game.”

Bruising running back LeGarrette Blount tallied 344 yards on the ground (6.14 ypc) over Philadelphia’s last four games.

The matchup

Redskins coach Jay Gruden desires a balanced approach offensively. Doing so against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense makes that hope challenging. Led by all-world lineman Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia is allowing a league-low 65.7 yards per game.

The leader of perhaps the league’s top defensive line, Cox had a strip-sack and a fumble return for a touchdown in the opener. Yet sending double-teams his way might not be enough – and that approach opens space for others including pass rusher Brandon Graham (four sacks).

“They push the pocket well,” Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff said of the Eagles lineman. “Inside guys, outside guys can keep that quarterback in. They’re all powerful guys. They’re a pretty good matchup. We’ve got our work cut out for us and we have to be on the same page Monday.”

Scherff’s personal page reads seek and destroy. The Pro Bowl guard – and Cox’s primary foe come Monday night -- added more to his game this season in the run game and out in space.

“Yeah, I think every week he does something on tape where you scratch your head and are you’re like, ‘Wow,’” Gruden said. “He’s run blocking. He’s double-teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him"

The expected return of running back Robert Kelley (foot) should bolster the ground game. Washington running backs averaged a mere 2.6 yards in the season opener, but also only received 13 carries versus 40 pass attempts from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Balance works best for this offense. Getting the best of or at neutralizing Cox and the Eagles will help Gruden stay the course.

Catching on

The Redskins passing game hasn’t clicked consistently this season, which is why a matchup against an Eagles defense allowing the fifth most yards in the air comes at the right time. Fantasy football owners cannot trust Terrelle Pryor right now, but uncertainty with Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (ankle) offers hope. Of Pryor’s 29 targets this season, 11 came in Week 1. He hauled in six for 66 yards.

Extra point

Kicker Nick Rose makes his NFL debut after replacing Dustin Hopkins (hip) on the active roster – and on the road, on Monday Night Football, in the never-hospitable Philadelphia. No pressure, kid.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and FanRag Sports, and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: CSNPhilly.com]]>
<![CDATA[Dusty Baker Will Not Return as Washington Nationals Manager]]> Fri, 20 Oct 2017 11:35:56 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Dusty+Baker+GettyImages-860304386.jpg

Dusty Baker will not return as the manager of the Washington Nationals in 2018, the team announced Friday. 

Baker has been with the team for two years and is the sixth field manager in the team's history. 

In a statement Friday, the Nats thanked him for leading them to their first back-to-back division titles. Last week, the Nats fell to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of their NL Division Series.

"He is one of the true gentleman in our sport, and we thank him for the successes that we enjoyed together over the last two years. We wish him nothing but the best going forward," said the Lerner family, who owns the team.

The Nats have never had the same manager for three straight seasons, News4's Carol Maloney reports. 

Before coming to the Nats, Baker also managed teams in San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati. 

The team says the contracts for the coaching staff have also expired. The search for a new manager will begin immediately. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC United to Say Farewell to RFK Stadium on Sunday]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 09:06:28 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-516738750.jpg

Washingtonians will say goodbye Sunday to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, the 21-year-long home to the D.C. United soccer team.

The Black-and-Red will play their final game at the stadium on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. against the New York Red Bulls.

Originally named D.C. Stadium, the facility opened in 1961 for baseball, football and concerts, according to the RFK Stadium's website. The Washington Redskins played there for 35 years.

Now the arena will begin a new life. Events DC, the city's sports authority, is planning an almost half-billion-dollar makeover of the area after D.C. United moves out next year. These plans include multipurpose fields and a sports and recreation complex, plus neighborhood shopping and a Robert F. Kennedy memorial, Events DC President Greg O’Dell told News4.

The soccer team will upgrade to shiny new turf once the Audi Field opens in 2018. The stadium, located at Buzzard Point in Southwest, D.C., will fit 20,000 people, feature 31 luxury suites, a bike valet and 500,000 square-feet of retail and residential space, according to the D.C. United team website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards Preview: Porter Signed, Sealed, Delivers?]]> Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:04:20 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Wizards+Celtics+Game4.jpg

More Washington Wizards 2017-18 season preview thoughts ahead of Wednesday ‘s matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. Check out Part 1, which includes why John Wall is set for his best season and yet won’t crack the Top 5 in NBA voting and the bench upgrades aren’t apparent for everyone.

New Contract and Chill

Otto Porter isn’t the rest-on-his-laurels type, so don’t fear the small forward switching to cruise control after signing a four-year, $106 million contract this summer. What does seem different entering his fifth season is the comfort level. Whether that’s the money coming his way, personal growth or extra confidence after the best year of young career, Porter appears more at ease on and off the court.

That will translate into a scoring average rise for the fifth-straight season, assuming the 3-point shooting decline after the break was more blip than reality. One of the NBA’s most efficient players (0.6 turnovers in 33 minutes per game), the slim forward is also a sneaky good rebounder thanks to his penchant for knowing where the ball will carom.

The next step? Creating his own shot off the dribble. That will take pressure off Wall and Beal and provide coach Scott Brooks with a central figure offensively when the guards need a rest. Seeing as Wall stated this week that Porter is the most improved player on the team, sounds like that next step is coming.

If the Starters’ Defense Doesn’t Improve, Could Ian Mahinmi Starting Help?

While best in the league in points per possession defending transition, Washington often labored in half court sets. The Wizards ranked 24th in field goal percentage defense last season. All six teams below them missed the playoffs. They stood 27th in defensive rating (110.7) after the All-Star break, with the starters (29th) the primary offenders, and 29th in opponent 3-point shooting (38.8).

Individually there’s no overt weak link. There’s also no consistent standouts unless Wall focuses on that more often. There is one player on the roster whose career is based on defense and rebounding: Ian Mahinmi.

Injured much of last season, his return after the All-Star break along with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic dramatically improved the second unit’s net rating.

Don’t infer this means starting center Marcin Gortat should be benched. The “Polish Machine” is a durable, screen-setting force who averaged a double-double last season. He’s also never been considered a rim protector and isn’t built to chase perimeter bigs. The latter point also strikes Mahnimi as neither interior bigs are built for the modern NBA. Of the two, Mahinmi does offer more defensive fluidity overall and a stronger presence in the paint.

On the wrong side of 30, Mahinmi won’t be tasked with heavy minutes regardless. There’s a case for Gortat starting considering his role in the potent offense. There’s also no logical second option for any of the other four starters should the defensive woes carry over. Markieff Morris can handle some minutes at the 5 when he returns from hernia surgery, but replacing him at the 4 becomes tricky. If coach Scott Brooks seeks a fix and wants a true center on the court, especially late in games, a swap of bigs might be the best hope.

Going 55

Washington came one win shy last season of 50 for the first time since the 1978-79 season. That number would serve as a franchise milestone, but 50 wins might be enough to improve on last season’s four seed. Get 55 and perhaps the Wizards host at least two rounds of the postseason and maybe even the Eastern Conference Finals. For that to happen, they need good health, standard improvements from their main players and a major leap from Kelly Oubre Jr.

The 21-year-old forward is the only draft pick from the past four years on the roster. That makes him the primary source of youthful upside, certainly beyond the starters. Oubre’s physical gifts, namely his go-go gadget arms, adds to the hope. Yet the kid barely played late in the Celtics playoffs series –- six seconds in Game 7. The reasons were clear.

Oubre entered the NBA with limited basketball instincts and they haven’t improved enough. Poor shot selection, dribbling into traffic, missteps in team defense concepts. He shot a dismal 28.7 percent on 3-point tries last season.

The left-hander spent the summer tweaking his shooting form and working on his previously nonexistent right-hand on dribble-drives. Additional maturity should help his overall hoops IQ.

Oubre will play alongside Porter and the starters in a lineup that was incredibly effective last season. He’ll be the go-to threat on the second unit if these personal upgrades are real. He’ll be on the bench games if they’re not.

In the End

For the first time since the 1970s, Washington wins 50-plus games. Let’s go with 52.

The path for a deeper run may have opened on the NBA's opening night after Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a brutal ankle injury. Should the teams meet in an epic playoff rematch, John Wall gets to prove he's a better leading man than Kyrie Irving. How the Wizards defend big man Al Horford on the outside in that series – and similar players all season -- remains a mystery, but they overcome.

Then come the Cavaliers. Let’s see how Cleveland puts together all its new pieces, including guards Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas, who will miss a chunk of the season with a hip injury. Until further notice, LeBron James rules the East. Washington is in position to rise above if James actually suffers an injury for once. That’s what it will take. Otherwise, their NBA Finals wait continues.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Preview: Redskins Heavy Favorites Against Vengeful 49ers]]> Sat, 14 Oct 2017 07:46:06 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/854627652.jpg

The Washington Redskins (2-2) return to action Sunday (1:00 p.m.) at FedEx Field for a Week 6 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers (0-5).

On paper and according to the weekly betting lines, the Redskins have a soft landing spot following their Week 6 bye. In the parity-heavy NFL, there is no such thing. In this case, there is plenty of background drama as well.

Pierre Garcon, Washington’s top receiver last season, faces his former team for the first time since signing a free agent contract with San Francisco this offseason. 49ers rookie head coach and former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gets a shot at revenge against the team that sent him and his father packing in 2013.

There’s also the never-ending reports that a reunion looms between Shanahan and Kirk Cousins should the Redskins quarterback actually reach free agency next offseason. Sounds like fun.

Here’s a look at four other things to watch in Sunday’s matchup.

Cover Up

The bye week, though earlier than desired, came at a nice time for the Redskins considering the injuries suffered in the 23-20 Week 4 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football. The break likely gave left tackle Trent Williams (knee) enough time to recover, though the Pro Bowl is listed as “questionable” after not practicing all week.

Time off wasn’t enough for others. Cornerback Josh Norman (ribs) was ruled out, while starting running back Robert Kelley (ankle) and safety Deshazor Everett (hamstring) are listed as “doubtful” on the weekly injury report.

Quinton Dunbar replaces Norman in the starting lineup and rookie Fabian Moreau will likely receive his most extensive NFL action. Everett’s absence would limit Washington to only three safeties unless another rookie, Fish Smithson, is activated from the practice squad.

There’s no good time for injuries, but in terms of the pass defenders, this isn’t the worst of weeks. San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer present something of a challenge in that he’s experienced. He’s also well traveled for a reason. The 49ers entered the week tied for 29th with four touchdown passes and rank 27th with 6.2 yards per attempt average.

Running for Daylight

Running back Chris Thompson has turned into arguably Washington’s top offensive playmaker this season – 7.1 yards per carry, team-high 235 receiving yards. However, the Redskins prefer limiting his workload to 25-30 snaps. That was true even when Kelley missed the Week 3 win over Oakland with a rib injury. That means rookie Samaje Perine (3.1 yards per carry) and Mack Brown will handle early down work with Kelley out.

The 49ers defense allows 366.4 yards per game (28th), but they have forced a league-high six rushing fumbles. Perine has struggled with ball security early this season and won’t have a long leash even without Kelley.

Welcome Back

Despite five productive seasons, the Redskins showed little interest in retaining Garcon this offseason. Perhaps that makes sense long-term, but for now, they miss the physical wide receiver. That’s not just because Garcon ranks eighth in the league with 379 receiving yards on 28 receptions.

The combination of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson hasn’t come close to replacing Garcon’s steady presence. Washington also lost one of its most intense players.

“Yeah, he’s always been angry. [Pierre] was angry at me the whole time he was here,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden joked. “I think that’s what people appreciate about him. When you compete with him or against him, you see the anger that he plays with on tape. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing for a wide receiver.”

Without Norman, the primary coverage duties likely falls to cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

Don’t Sleep on the Underdog

The Las Vegas smart guys installed the Redskins as an 11-point favorite over the 0-5 49ers. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s certainly rare. Washington hasn’t been a double figure favorite since 2009.

The winless start and the point spread hides the fact that San Francisco has lost its last four games by a combined 11 points. There is talent in their defensive front-7 in the form of three recent first round picks: defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, pass rusher Solomon Thomas and inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

Offensively, running back Carlos Hyde (332 yards) ranks among the league-leaders. While Garcon is the primary receiving target, Marquise Goodwin averages an impressive 17.4 yards per catch.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cousins Continues to Evolve as a QB Like Shanahan Expected]]> Wed, 11 Oct 2017 19:28:24 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Kirk+Cousins+GettyImages-856835640.jpg

Kyle Shanahan believed in Kirk Cousins before the quarterback believed in himself.

Cousins was a fourth-round pick the same year the Washington Redskins traded up to draft Robert Griffin III second overall. As Cousins focused on making the team, Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and his dad, Mike, as coach helped set his sights higher, and he hasn't forgotten that.

“Kyle believed in me when it was just potential,” Cousins said. “There was no production. I hadn't done anything to earn his belief and he believed in me.”

As Cousins faces Shanahan's San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, he's a much more polished player but exactly on the progression his former mentor expected.

“I feel like he looks like the same guy I've always seen,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “Obviously the more you play, the more opportunities you get, the better you get with reps. But he looks exactly like the guy I remember from practices out there.”

Shanahan only got to oversee Cousins' development for two seasons before being fired as part of a sweeping regime change. In 2012 and 2013, Cousins completed just 56.2 percent of his passes and had eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Since then, with some help from Gruden and now Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, Cousins has completed 67.2 percent of his passes with 71 TDs and 33 INTs and twice has thrown for over 4,000 yards in a season.

Cousins is 29, but Gruden still called him a “young quarterback.” Cousins feels that way, too.

“I've developed every area of my game from the end of year two to now in the middle of year six,” Cousins said. “Everything from protections, audibles, understanding the run game, reads, coverage recognition, blitz recognition, just how to handle a 16-game season and how to win in this league, how to play on the road. There's so many elements of being a quarterback that as I've played, I've picked them all up and I feel like every year I take another step.”

Many have linked Cousins' next step to Shanahan. Cousins is playing a second consecutive season on the franchise tag and faces another decision point next spring.

Shanahan was careful not to praise Cousins too effusively but said he's accurate delivering the ball, isn't worried by the pass rush, is tough and can go through route progressions very easily. Gruden figures Cousins will get better at reading defenses and adjusting to coverages as he gets more snaps.

Teammates already see that evolution in Cousins over the past five-plus seasons.

“With experience has come maturity,” third-down back Chris Thompson said. “I can think of games where my second year when he had to come in after Griff had his injuries and everything, he was a little nervous at times. I think he would agree with that, as well. He was a little nervous and now it's just like everything flows better because he's had the time, he's had the experience.”

Veteran tight end Vernon Davis isn't worried about Cousins continuing to handle the physical rigors of the NFL and compared his mental improvement to that of now Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

“He has all the physical attributes he needs in order to play this game, but mentally I feel like he's going to keep on improving mentally, kind of like Alex Smith,” Davis said. “Alex had some rough years in San Francisco. It's all in your mindset. ... If Kirk has the passion and desire to get better, then he's going to keep getting better.”

One thing that's already different in Cousins' mindset is being a father after his wife, Julie, gave birth to their first child Sept. 29. Cousins recalled Drew Brees writing in his book that he was better at time management after having a child and that now 49ers strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright said a player becomes his best self after he's married.

Cousins hopes the same is true now that he has his son, Cooper, at home.

“I think you could maybe even become a better football player after that happens,” Cousins said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sports Junkies: Shanahan, Garcon Return to FedEx With 49ers]]> Mon, 09 Oct 2017 17:20:20 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020463838_1200x675_1066655811856.jpg

The Sports Junkies from 106.7 the Fan weigh in on an injury-filled Week 5 in the NFL and what lies ahead as the Redskins come off the bye to face the winless 49ers, a matchup chock full of drama as Kyle Shanahan and Pierre Garcon return to FedEx Field. Also, why should we be thanking the Junks for Alex Ovechkin’s hot start?

<![CDATA[Nats Rally With 2 Homers in 8th Inning to Even Series]]> Sat, 07 Oct 2017 20:20:10 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-858761492.jpg

The Washington Nationals rallied with five runs on two home runs in the eighth inning to even their series with the Chicago Cubs 1-1 Saturday.

The Nats entered the bottom of the eighth inning down 3-1, but Bryce Harper tied the game with a two-run dinger followed by a three-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman to put the game away 6-3.

Pitcher Sean Doolittle came on in the top of the ninth inning to record the save.

In a game in which all the runs were scored on homers, Anthony Rendon started it off with a solo shot in the first inning to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

But the Cubs tied it with a home run in the second inning and took their 3-1 lead with a two-run homer in the fourth.

The bats for both teams stayed pretty quiet for the next few innings as the Nats managed only one more hit off Cubs starter Jon Lester, and Nats starter Gio Gonzalez only surrendered one other hit over his five innings.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nationals Take on Cubs After 3-0 Loss]]> Sat, 07 Oct 2017 17:09:10 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/100617+gio+gonzalez.jpg

Is tonight the Nats' night?

The Washington Nationals are taking on the Chicago Cubs again Saturday night, after losing 3-0 in Game 1 of their National League Division Series.

Veteran left-handed pitchers Gio Gonzalez, of the Nationals, and Jon Lester, of the Cubs, match up in Game 2.

Lester, who's 13-8, was set to start for the defending World Series champions against 15-9 Gonzalez.

On Friday, two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was pushed back to Game 3 because of a tender hamstring.

Lester won his final two starts, allowing one run over 11 innings, after compiling an 8.22 ERA in his previous five games. He is 9-7 with a 2.63 ERA in his postseason career.

Gonzalez said he had been preparing to pitch Monday at Wrigley Field until he was told Wednesday to get ready for Game 2.

On Friday, the Cubs opened defense of their first World Series title in 108 years by beating the Nats. 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo produced RBI singles in the sixth inning for the first two hits off an otherwise-dominant Strasburg. Hendricks was even better, giving up only two singles in seven strong innings.

Rizzo added an RBI double off reliever Ryan Madson in the eighth. Carl Edwards Jr. threw a perfect inning and Wade Davis finished the two-hitter for a save.

Strasburg didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the sixth. Javier Baez reached on third baseman Anthony Rendon's error to start the inning and was sacrificed to second by Hendricks. One out later, Bryant drove in the first run with a single to right-center and went to second when Bryce Harper missed the cutoff man.

The next batter, Rizzo, singled to right in front of a diving Harper to make it 2-0.

With a heavy beard and a lot of sweat on a muggy, 77-degree night, Strasburg dialed up his fastball to 97 mph and occasionally used an unhittable changeup. To cheers of "Let's go, Strasburg!" from many in a sellout crowd of 43,898, he held the Cubs without a hit for 5 2/3 innings and wound up with 10 strikeouts, a playoff record for the Expos-Nationals franchise.

In only his second postseason appearance -- remember the shutdown of 2012 and the arm injury of 2016? -- the righty showed precisely the sort of power and poise that made him the No. 1 pick in baseball's amateur draft. Until, that is, the sixth inning. That's when everything changed in a matter of minutes.

Until then, the Cubs managed only one baserunner, and that was via a walk. But Baez led off with a bouncer that Rendon gloved, then bobbled while trying to transfer it to his throwing hand. It was Rendon's first error since July 22; he made only seven in 145 regular-season games.

After Hendricks' bunt moved Baez to second, 2016 NL MVP Bryant lined Strasburg's 60th pitch, a four-seam fastball, to right-center for the game's first run. Harper's throw missed the cutoff man, and Bryant took second. Two pitches later, on another fastball, Rizzo sent a sinking shot to right, where Harper came up just short trying to make a diving catch, and suddenly it was 2-0. As pitching coach Mike Maddux came out for a mound visit with Strasburg, Rizzo whooped it up at the bag, high-fiving first base coach Brandon Hyde.

Strasburg wound up allowing those two unearned runs in seven innings, with three hits and one walk.

Hendricks went about things differently -- his best fastball is about 10 mph slower than Strasburg's -- but was every bit as good. The slender righty from Dartmouth, who led the NL in ERA last season, did not give up a hit after the second inning. He walked three batters and struck out six.

In the Washington ninth, Ryan Zimmerman was called out when catcher Willson Contreras' throw hit the player in the back as he ran to first on a dropped third strike.

While the Cubs are no longer the "Lovable Losers'' after last year's championship, the Nationals were the NL East champions for the fourth time in six seasons but have yet to win a playoff series.

Their undoing in the past has often been poor hitting and bad relief pitching, and it was the former that was most glaring this time.

Yes, Harper -- wearing shoes with "Pray for Las Vegas" written on the side following the recent mass shooting in his hometown -- did single in the first inning, but was 0 for 3 in his other at-bats as he tries to regain his timing after returning recently from a long injury layoff. Rendon, Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Jayson Werth were a combined 0 for 17 with three walks.


Less than a half-hour before the game, the Nationals announced that assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. The team said the suspension is connected to a legal matter. The 42-year-old Jones retired as a player in 2008 after 10 years with four teams.


House Majority Whip Steve Scalise threw out the ceremonial first pitch, less than four months after the Louisiana Republican was shot while practicing for an annual charity baseball game featuring members of Congress. Scalise returned to the House last week.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats Fans Travel Far to Root for the Home Team]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 17:47:54 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Nats_Fans_Travel_Far_to_Root_for_the_Home_Team.jpg

Washington Nationals fans are putting their hopes on their home team and traveling far and wide to see them faceoff against the Chicago Cubs. News4's Wendy Rieger, Doug Kammerer and Julie Carey report from Nats Park.

<![CDATA[Nats Fans Pumped Up for Playoff Game]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 17:24:05 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Nats_Fans_Pumped_Up_for_Playoff_Game.jpg

Wendy Rieger shares some baseball history, Doug Kammerer has the game forecast and Julie Carey spoke with some hardcore fans who can't wait to cheer for their team.

<![CDATA[Nats Fans Burn Sage Outside Ballpark]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 16:48:16 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Nats_Fans_Burn_Sage_at_Ballpark_to_Rid_Curse_of_Postseasons.jpg

A group of Washington Nationals fans went to Nats Park to burn sage in the hopes of clearing any bad energy from past postseason losses. News4's Wendy Rieger reports alongside Tommy McFly with 94.7 Fresh FM.

<![CDATA[Cooking Up a Win: Nats Exec Chef Shares Post-Season Platter]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 12:08:09 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Cooking_Up_a_Win.jpg

Excitement is building here as we count down to Game 1 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats have a whole lot planned, including a delicious things to eat. News4's Chris Lawrence checked out the many, many choices.


<![CDATA[Nats Get Ready for Game 1 of Playoffs]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 05:33:16 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Nats_Game_1_of_Playoffs.jpg

The Washington Nationals are getting ready for Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs. News4's Eun Yang is live at Nats Park.

<![CDATA[Nats Pick Strasburg to Pitch Game 1; Scherzer Start Unknown]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 04:35:15 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-841025258.jpg

Stephen Strasburg will start Game 1 of Washington's NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs, Nationals manager Dusty Baker announced Thursday, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer might not pitch before Game 3. 

Scherzer tweaked his right hamstring during his last regular-season start and bypassed planned bullpen sessions during workouts at Nationals Park on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Lefty Gio Gonzalez did throw off a bullpen mound Thursday, making it seem likely he would start Game 2 on Saturday. The series opens Friday night at Washington. 

General manager Mike Rizzo said the team would not decide on a Game 2 starter until later Thursday. Baker said either Scherzer or Gonzalez would get Game 2, and the other Game 3. 

"A lot of it depends on our evaluation of Scherzer," Baker said. 

For the second day in a row, Scherzer threw on flat ground in the outfield but did not go through a bullpen session off a mound, which starters usually do two or three days before a game. 

Baker had said Tuesday that the plan was for Scherzer to test his leg in the bullpen Wednesday; on Thursday, Baker again said Scherzer would have a bullpen session. 

"When you have a nagging injury, every day is important for our trainers to evaluate it, put hands on him, and see if he's still sore or if he's feeling great,'' Baker said. 

Because of days off in the schedule, whoever pitches in Game 2 could be available on regular rest to start Game 5, if there is one. 

Asked whether that could be a factor in the decision of when Scherzer is used, Baker said: "Is that worth taking a chance - and if you get past the first round, then are you jeopardizing the second round? So you have to kind of weigh both. But the health of Max, I think, is No. 1.'' 

The Cubs already announced their pitching plans, saying Wednesday that their rotation would be Kyle Hendricks in Game 1, Jon Lester in Game 2, Jose Quintana in Game 3 and Jake Arrieta in Game 4, if there is one in the best-of-five series. 

Scherzer is a two-time Cy Young winner, including taking the 2013 AL honor while with the Detroit Tigers. This season, he topped the NL in strikeouts with 268 and finished second with a 2.51 ERA, while leading the Nationals in wins at 16-6. 

Strasburg, meanwhile, has been just about as dominant in 2017, going 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 204 strikeouts - and particularly terrific down the stretch, with a 5-1 record and 0.84 ERA in his last eight starts. 

"This is what we brought him here for - to be a No. 1 starter in the playoffs. He's been our horse," Rizzo said. "He has the repertoire, character and makeup to be a No. 1 starter." 

Game 1 will be just the second career postseason appearance for Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in baseball's 2009 amateur draft. 

The right-hander went five innings in a 2014 game against the San Francisco Giants, but otherwise was shut down for the 2012 playoffs a year after having Tommy John surgery, then was sidelined by an arm injury at the end of last season. 

"I'm excited for the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs again. It's one thing you really can't take for granted," Strasburg said, "and you've got to make the most of every opportunity you get." 

Baker didn't exactly describe the 6-foot-4 Strasburg as sounding all that excited when told about Friday's start. 

"He doesn't really show disappointment or happiness, either way, really," Baker said. "Because I called him in before I got here, and I just said: 'Hey, man, you're starting Game 1. You probably figured that.' He had that same look when he left my office as when he came in."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Skins Don't Love Early Bye, But Timing Is Good for Injured]]> Thu, 05 Oct 2017 17:14:09 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Josh+Norman+GettyImages-630776470.jpg

Perhaps the Washington Redskins players feel different about an early bye week after Sunday night’s physical game at Kansas City. Less than 48 hours prior, the consensus was clear: Sitting out Week 5 isn’t ideal.

“The closer you can get it to the end of the season, I think the better,” defensive lineman Ziggy Hood said. “Probably prefer Week 8 or 9.”

“You always need a break. This game is physical and is hard on your body. At the same time, it makes for a long stretch after the bye week,” said fellow lineman Stacy McGee, noting the Redskins have 12 games remaining without a true break going forward.

Most of the players -– and the head coach -- offered similar stances when asked when they would prefer a rest week. Ultimately, they have no say in the league-created schedule, so what can you do?

“It’s as good a time as any,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s a bye. I think you would rather have it later, but it is what it is.”

The Buccaneers and Dolphins had their byes moved to Week 1 because their game was canceled due to Hurricane Irma, but this period is league’s first true bye week. The Redskins, Falcons, Saints and Broncos drew the short straw.

At least that’s the way running back Chris Thompson sees it based on his response to a question about whether there’s any positive with an early bye.

“There is absolutely no argument for having a bye week this early,” the Redskins’ top playmaker through four games stated unequivocally. “I feel bad for Tampa and Miami because they don’t get one. That has to be the worst thing ever, especially at this level, to not be able to have a bye week. Then for us to have one after four games and then be on a 12-game stretch, that’s hard.”

The Redskins also had a Week 5 bye in 2013, the last season under former head coach Mike Shanahan. Washington flamed out, finishing 2-10 over the final 12 games with a season-ending eight-game losing streak. The break came around the middle for the next three seasons: Week 10, 8 and then 9 in 2016. During the last two campaigns, the Redskins went 10-6 after the bye including 4-4 last season.

“Last year we had it right in the middle of the season,” Thompson continued. “That’s the perfect time. We don’t really count preseason. Some guys that do, they say we had (training) camp and the four preseason games and now four (regular season) games. After three months of football we’re getting a bye week, which is cool and then we have three more months, which is perfect. I just think after seven or eight games, you get your bye week right in the middle, that’s perfect.”

Injuries are unpredictable. Considering how many they suffered in Week 4, perhaps the Redskins now consider the early bye a blessing. Cornerback Josh Norman suffered a rib injury that could sideline him multiple weeks. If he returns for the Oct. 15 contest against San Francisco, then Washington's top defensive back won't miss any games. Starting running Robert Kelley, left tackle Trent Williams and safety Montae Nicholson were also among the battered.

As for how to handle the break regardless of when it arrives, the primary take away from the veterans is simply to get away.

“Go hang with your family. Just relax,” Hood said. “Go to a different city, hang with friends. Get your mind away while you do an active recovery. Stay active in the gym, whether that’s yoga, massage, cardio, something like that to get your body back feeling good. You’re not going to get out of football shape in a week unless you just blow it.”

One schedule quirk offers some hope. Washington hosts the New York Giants on Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) and then plays Week 13 at Dallas the following Thursday (Nov. 30). The next game, at the Los Angeles Chargers, won’t come until Dec. 10.

“We’ll get four days off or so (after Dallas). It’s like a semi-bye week right there,” Thompson said. “It may work out, but I’m not a fan of having it this early.”

For two players, the timing couldn’t be better, though for non-football reasons. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and right guard Brandon Scherff are new fathers. As in the kids, both boys, were born just before the Redskins headed to Kansas City.

“I’m going to take advantage of the bye week,” Scherff said. “Come in to lift (at Redskins Park) and then go home and spend as much time with him as I can, just hang out. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Nats Host Haunted Pep Rally to Exorcise Playoff Demons Past]]> Wed, 04 Oct 2017 19:18:19 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/Nats_Host_Haunted_Pep_Rally_to_Exorcise_Playoff_Demons_Past.jpg

The Washington Nationals turned Nationals Park into a haunted pep really to exorcise demons of playoffs past. Sherree Burruss checked it out.

<![CDATA[Josh Norman Tells All, Sees All]]> Tue, 03 Oct 2017 12:56:22 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020382991_1200x675_1060146243692.jpg

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman got off to another great start this season. He shared an offseason secret with Carol Maloney: The decision to have PRK laser eye surgery. Few outside the Redskins knew about his procedure, not even his own mother.

<![CDATA[Sports Junkies: Big Win for Redskins Shows Team's Potential]]> Mon, 25 Sep 2017 18:56:34 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020302086_1200x675_1054700611867.jpg

The Sports Junkies from 106.7 the Fan provided their take on the Redskins win over the Raiders. What the guys are saying about the hot topics from Sunday’s primetime victory, including big performances by the defense and running back Chris Thompson.

<![CDATA[Sports Junkies: What Went Right, What Went Wrong in Redskins Win]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 18:54:50 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020219876_1200x675_1049361987727.jpg

The Sports Junkies from 106.7 the Fan join forces with News4 Sports to discuss the Redskins big win over the Rams and look ahead to next week’s matchup with the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

<![CDATA[Redskins Rewind: The Good, the Pain, the Stats From Week 2]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 13:25:00 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Rams2017.jpg

The Washington Redskins did a few things on Sunday. Most obviously, they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 27-20 despite playing on the road, suffering several injuries and facing former offensive coordinator/play caller and wunderkind Sean McVay. Turns out that the Redskins could indeed thrive despite McVay knowing everything about coach Jay Gruden’s thoughts and feelings, or whatever the narrative was entering the pivotal Week 2 matchup.

  • Watching a Redskins team run and run and run some more was a throwback to the John Riggins era and when the NFL had a team in Los Angeles. Oh, wait, never mind. Robert Kelley (78 yards), Chris Thompson (77) and Samaje Perine (67) all had their moments as Washington had three players rush for at least 65 yards for the first time since 1957.
  • Kelley, on his way to a monster performance, exited in the first half with a possible fractured rib. Losing “Fat Rob” even for a little bit would be a blow and could lead to the Redskins elevating Mack Brown to the active roster on game day. However, the real intrigue from Sunday involved the effective run-blocking from the line and tight ends plus Gruden’s commitment to the ground game. Perhaps the latter was a mere one-off, Gruden’s way of crossing up his former protégé McVay. Regardless, if those two scenarios remain in play, the Redskins have a good chance for success Sunday night in Week 3 against a Raiders defense allowing 4.8 yards per carry thru two games.
  • Kirk Cousins struggled completing passes of 20 yards or more in the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. By struggling we mean he didn’t complete any, none. Good news: He solved the problem Sunday – by not throwing a single pass over 19 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Ha, that’s sarcasm folks, though effective enough against Los Angeles. The passing game remains a work in progress, which is problematic considering it was the offense’s strength over the past two seasons. There’s a chance for more problems depending on tight end Jordan Reed’s shoulder injury update.
  • Three played all 50 snaps on defense: Safety D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and inside linebacker Mason Foster, who did so despite dislocating his shoulder. Foster had the shoulder popped back into place and then helped the Redskins move into a first place tie in the NFC East with a game-clinching interception.
  • Cornerback Josh Norman (44) and inside linebacker Zach Brown (46) likely wouldn’t have missed as snap for a second week in a row, but both were among the players banged up Sunday. Norman roughed up Rams running back Todd Gurley with his patented “Peanut Punch,” causing two forced fumbles. For all the legitimate hype with his cover skills, Norman’s willingness and effectiveness in the run game remains vital. Perhaps that’s his way to land new haters.
  • Gruden was telling the truth. Josh Doctson did indeed play more in Week 2 even though the wide receiver was limited all week in practice with a tight hamstring. Doctson received 29 snaps, just one less than Ryan Grant and not terribly far behind starter Jamison Crowder (38). Oh, he also had more targets this week. Well, target as in one, his first of the season, on yet another unsuccessful fade pass around the goal line. Doctson did play more, perhaps played through an injury and contributed as a run blocker. Progress, at least a little.
  • Preston Smith registered a sack for the second consecutive week. The edge rusher had only 4.5 sacks last year and his first one didn’t come until Week 7.
  • Training camp Superman remains in Clark Kent mode. Terrelle Pryor’s 23-yard catch and run on the final possession set up the game-winning touchdown. It was only his second reception of the day as his percentage of Washington’s overall targets plummeted from Week 1. The Redskins need more for the talk of no more DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to go away.
  • Pro Football Focus gave defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis the best overall grade among all Washington defenders Sunday thanks to four quarterback pressures on just 19 pass rush attempts according to PFF. Reminder: The Redskins released their 2016 fifth-round pick before Week 1 last season and then added him to the practice squad where any other team could have snagged the former Temple standout. Lucky for Washington, nobody did.

[[445431293, L]]

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Harper's Heroes: Kids Battling Cancer Spend Day at the Ballpark]]> Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:05:32 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020145417_1200x675_1044958787796.jpg

News4's Carol Maloney meets Harper's Heroes -- kids battling cancer who get to spend a day at the ballpark with Nationals star Bryce Harper.

<![CDATA[The Sports Junkies: Redskins Opener, Nationals Clincher]]> Mon, 11 Sep 2017 18:34:26 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000020130552_1200x675_1044323907646.jpg

The Sports Junkies from 106.7 the fan recap the Redskins' season opening loss, look ahead to the next game and weigh in on the Nationals' playoff chances after they clinched the division.

<![CDATA[Tailgate 101: Getting Ready for the Redskins Home Opener]]> Fri, 08 Sep 2017 06:33:23 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins_Home_Opener.jpg

The Redskins biggest fans are getting ready for the team's home opener. News4's Molette Green has more on how to throw the perfect tailgate. 

<![CDATA[Redskins Preseason Recap: Offense Still Lacking Rhythm]]> Sun, 27 Aug 2017 19:14:52 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Derek+Carrier.jpg

The Washington Redskins completed their third preseason game on Sunday with a 23-17 win against the Cincinnati Bengals. You already know the result isn’t relevant. Many recognize the third preseason game is the most important of the standard four because it serves as the final test drive for the starters. What’s clear is the Redskins Kirk Cousins-led offense needs a tune-up and quick.

Passing Game

Gloria Estefan once sang, “The rhythm is going to get you.” She clearly didn’t have the Redskins starting offense during the 2017 preseason in mind.

One stat and one possession explain why’s there should be legitimate trepidation with the Cousins-led attack as the Sept. 10 season opener draws closer. With the starting offense on the through three games, Washington went 3-and-out in nine of 15 possessions, including a trio on Sunday. The last one, the Redskins’ first of the second half, came against the Bengals’ backups.

Washington gained one yard on its first three possessions. An illegal shift penalty wiped out a potential first down on the opening series. Pressure on Cousins led to an intentional grounding on third-and-long, ending the second possession. Then, after a Cincinnati turnover came a four-play drive for minus-two yards then ended with a field goal.

Pass protection was spotty. Same for Cousins’ pocket awareness, though that wasn’t a factor on Vontaze Burfict’s 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor had a nice 17-yard catch in traffic, but also dropped an easy attempt and continues showing he’s still learn the position nuances. He wasn’t alone with a drop, but don’t put all that on Cousins’s poor stat line (10 of 19 for 109 yards, interception).

Practice time for the next two weeks becomes crucial with backups set to face Tampa Bay in the preseason finale on Thursday. Any current panic over the passing game could look silly with a strong showing against the Eagles. If that happens, it will occur with zero momentum.

Runner Runner

Robert Kelley is the Redskins’ starting running back and will be Week 1 against the Eagles. No, head coach Jay Gruden hasn’t stated that so directly, but that’s been the obvious case all summer. That Kelley had 51 yards on 10 carries including a 21-yard burst against the Bengals’ starters should solidify any doubt creeping in from the outside.

Whether Samaje Perine eventually takes over is another story and one that won't unfold until deeper into the season.

Stout Enough

The Bengals opened the game with a 15-play, 87-yard touchdown drive. Let's just say the Redskins defense looked much better from there. Cincinnati's starting offense went fumble, punt, punt on its final three drives of the half. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland and inside linebacker Martrell Spaight were among the defensive standouts.

In and Out

Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) and pass rusher Junior Galette (hamstring) made their long-anticipated preseason debuts. Both seemingly exited without any setbacks. Reed is the straw that stirs the drink for the Redskins’ offense. The two weeks of practice time will be nice for his reintegration, but all looked fine. For Galette, his presence is key for a pass rush that is now without Trent Murphy. For now, both avoiding additional injury is all that matters. … While those two played, wide receiver Josh Doctson and linebacker Ryan Anderson (stinger) did not. Doctson missed sometime this summer with a hamstring injury, but there was no sense the 2016 first rounder would sit out Sunday. …

Nose tackle Phil Taylor, one of the feel-good stories of the summer, exited in the first quarter with a left quad injury and did not return. … Rookie center Chase Roullier started in place of Spencer Long (knee surgery) and held up. There were no obvious snap exchange gaffes with Cousins and the sixth-round pick had positives with run blocking. … Safety Fish Smithson remains a roster long shot, but the undrafted free agent also keeps making plays including an interception in the second half.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins Rookies Moreau, Nicholson Strike in Debut]]> Sun, 20 Aug 2017 18:06:55 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Redskins5.jpg

Moreau and Nicholson isn’t the name of a D.C. law firm, midday radio show or a Las Vegas showroom act. We’re not talking about a 1980s R&B duo, a political ticket or a buddy cop flick. Truth is, no single act connects these two names together. Yet it’s hard thinking about Fabian Moreau separate from fellow rookie defensive back Montae Nicholson – and how this twosome could impact the Redskins’ future.

The Redskins drafted Moreau, a cornerback from UCLA, in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Nicholson, a Michigan State safety, came one round later. Both arrived with injuries – pectoral for Moreau, labrum for Nicholson – that would keep them out of all offseason practices.

The roommates underwent treatment and rehab work, often simultaneous. Both made their training camp debuts Aug. 13. Both played their first NFL game in Saturday’s 21-17 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers.

So when Moreau made the first splash play between the tandem, forcing a fumble with a perfectly timed hit on Green Bay punt returner Trevor Davis, Nicholson felt energized.

“(Fabian) doing that definitely got me fired up because we’ve kind of built a bond together,” said an ear-to-ear grinning Nicholson in the Redskins locker room at FedEx Field. “He made the tackle, but it was like I made the tackle. Definitely excited.”

Moreau’s 4.35 speed and passion for special teams put him in position for the big blow.

“I saw (Davis) catch the ball. Just shoot my shot and hit him,” Moreau said of the timing.

Somebody else expressed enthusiasm postgame with the play of the young defensive backs. Head coach Jay Gruden singled out the pair when discussing Washington’s defensive effort against Green Bay.

“I think Montae, and I think, I was pleased with Fabian. They played some extensive minutes, they played pretty good I think,” Gruden said. “So, there’s some guys that I’m really anxious to see tomorrow on tape.”

The play-by-play recap shows Moreau got beat on a 38-yard pass to Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis, setting up Green Bay’s second touchdown. The film Gruden watches will show the 6-foot corner in solid position on the play. The throw from quarterback Brett Hundley was just better.

Moreau struck an appropriate humble tone for a rookie when asked about his defensive debut.

“I’ve got to make more plays," he said. "Limit them to less yards, less catches. It’s something I need to work on.”

He also tipped a cap to reality and hope.

“I just have to get used to it,” Moreau said of the NFL game of which he’s barely been indoctrinated. “Get accustomed to it all. Each and every play, each and every game. Get more used to it, get more reps. It’s coming though.”

Washington’s top corner believes what’s coming is legit.

“Yeah, I mean you guys see it, too,” Josh Norman said of Moreau’s potential. “So it’s no joke what he’s putting out there on the field. Obviously, he’s going to be a great talent in this league to come. But he’s still going to work on some things. We’ll get him better each and every day. He’s going to work with us. We’re going to get him to the level he needs to be.”

That work began with the mental game and with Nicholson by his side.

“Montae and I have been working together ever since we got here,” Moreau stated. “On the same page.”

The Redskins have ample cornerback and safety depth, meaning the rookies might not receive much defensive work early on. Special teams prowess will put them on the game-day roster. Moreau already showed he’s got that in his bag. “I love it,” he said.

The real hope is this pair along with safety Su’a Cravens become future building blocks for a Washington secondary that leaked over the years more than the current White House. Do that and a Moreau-Nicholson combo is one Redskins nation will support. We’ll see about the buddy cop flick.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>