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Redskins’ optimism stems from front four, likely Chase Young addition – Washington Redskins Blog

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The Washington Redskins‘ newcomers on defense didn’t need to search far for optimism. They all pointed in the same direction: to the talented front four. Plus, the newcomers know one more name — Chase Young — could be added to that group via the 2020 NFL draft, boosting their excitement even more.

That is, Young could be added if the Redskins do what most expect and select the Ohio State defensive end with the No. 2 pick later this month. With nearly two weeks before the draft, Young remains the most likely selection for Washington. It’s a choice those who signed with the Redskins this offseason would applaud.

“Hopefully we grab him and bring that pressure,” Redskins safety Sean Davis said. “I hope he can make some noise, put some pressure on the quarterback and make him throw some ducks in the air, make it easy for us on the back end.”

The Redskins drafting Young would make cornerback Ronald Darby happy, too. The more pressure up front, the easier it is to play on the back end.

“I mean, it can do a lot,” Darby said. “The quicker you can get the ball out of the QB’s hands, the more aggressive you can play as a DB and things like that. If you trust your front to provide that pressure, it allows you to play more aggressive with things and [be] more comfortable.”

Of course, the Redskins could trade the selection, but it would take a massive haul to pry away the No. 2 choice. The Redskins have long liked Young, who finished with 16.5 sacks in 12 games last season. He also had 21 tackles for loss, and ESPN’s draft experts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., consider Young the most talented player in the pool.

But it isn’t just Young. Even before his name entered the conversation, the newest Redskins defensive players were optimistic, thanks to others up front, notably tackles Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne and ends Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan.

Washington has switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defensive front, allowing players such as Kerrigan and Sweat to focus more on pass rushing. The Redskins also added a defensive-minded coach in Ron Rivera, who in turn hired Jack Del Rio to coordinate the group.

“You look at the front four that these guys have assembled,” said linebacker Thomas Davis, who spent eight years with Rivera in Carolina, “and not only the front four, I kind of look at the top six or eight guys, I feel like, are capable of going out and completely wrecking the game. As a linebacker, you want to play behind guys that are capable of doing that. That allows you to be free. That allows you to make plays.”

The Redskins’ front applied pressure last season, as Washington registered a sack on 8.5% of pass attempts. That was tied for seventh in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But the team was 21st on sacks per pass attempt on third down. Not coincidentally, the Redskins were last in the NFL on third-down conversions.

Opposing quarterbacks posted an NFL-best 119.4 passer rating vs. Washington on third downs. That’s the highest rating allowed by a defense since ESPN Stats & Info started tracking those numbers in 2001.

Poor communication in coverage contributed to those woes. There was also a lack of creativity up front at times, leading to less pressure. The Redskins have several players capable of applying heat: Allen, Ioannidis and Sweat — all aged 26 or younger this season — combined for 21.5 sacks last season. Kerrigan, who missed four games because of injuries in 2019, had 5.5 sacks. However, he had 37 the previous three seasons combined and will be able to rush more than ever while strictly playing end.

The Redskins can add Young to this mix and, they hope, have a defensive turnaround similar to San Francisco’s. In 2018, the 49ers allowed a passer rating of 116.4 on third downs, second worst since 2001 after Washington’s mark. Last season, opposing quarterbacks posted a 77.9 passer rating on third downs. The 49ers were tied for second overall on third-down conversions.

San Francisco added pass-rusher Nick Bosa; the Redskins could be adding Young. Washington’s secondary remains a work in progress; it’ll take more than Young’s presence to improve. But a stronger pass rush could be a turning point.

Keep in mind, Rivera and Del Rio coached pass-rushers such as Julius Peppers, Von Miller and Khalil Mack. They know the impact of a player with Young’s potential.

“When you’re a DB and you’re looking at the front seven, you know how important that is for your success,” cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “It’s the guys at the front seven that they have up there, that kind of builds to be a part of. Once they called, and my agent talked to me, I couldn’t wait to jump on it.”

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How to watch Monday Night Football classics: Le’Veon Bell’s walk-off TD beats Chargers – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to go for the tie.

So he went for the win, and with running back Le’Veon Bell lined up in the Wildcat, he got it.

With Bell’s outstretched arms, the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 24-20 on the final play of the 2015 Monday Night Football game.

The memorable game will be shown as part of the ongoing series of Monday Night Football classics. It kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN.

“It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will,” Tomlin said after the game. “We had to do what was required to win. Le’Veon gave us an opportunity to win, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the football.

“We have to run the football. We have Le’Veon Bell. We had an opportunity to win the game. We’re on the road in a hostile environment. We’ve got to play to win, and that’s what we did.”

With five seconds left, the Steelers lined up at the 1-inch line, thanks to a big play by quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Heath Miller and an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Chargers.

The Steelers had one timeout to set up for a tying field goal, but they went with a gutsy, winning playcall instead: Bell lined up 7 yards deep to take the direct snap.

He gathered the ball and sprinted to the goal line, muscling his way forward to fight for the final inch needed to score the touchdown. Diving, he broke the plane as his knee landed on a defender’s arm and time expired.

“I got to get it in,” Bell said in 2015. “We still had a timeout left. I was thinking we still have a timeout left, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, maybe if I get stopped, maybe run like 4 seconds off and get a timeout, and we could kick a field goal.’ I wanted to end the game right there.”

The touchdown gave the Steelers a win over the Chargers — and they did it with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline.

While Roethlisberger worked through a left knee injury sustained in the third quarter of a Week 3 win against the Rams, Vick took over quarterback duties. His first three quarters were dismal, but a 24-yard scramble — his first rush of the night — on the final drive of the game helped set up Bell’s winning touchdown. Vick also had a 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton with 7:42 left in the quarter to tie it at 17.

“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Vick said then. He completed just 13 of 26 attempts for 203 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked three times.

The game also featured the return of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, playing in his first game of the season following a four-week suspension for PEDs. He scored his 100th and 101st career touchdowns that night, with the second coming in the high-octane fourth quarter.

The Monday night game marked the Steelers’ first trip to San Diego since 2006 and their final game in Qualcomm Stadium before the Chargers’ relocation to Los Angeles.

With the win, the Steelers moved to 3-2 on the season, and the Chargers dropped to 2-3.

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Tiger Woods’ game, Tom Brady’s wild ride, Phil Mickelson’s antics and Peyton Manning’s interest made for a fun day of golf

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The weather did not cooperate, but that was about the only thing that went wrong Sunday during The Match: Champions for Charity. As Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods held an oversized cardboard check with a total of $20 million written in, they were soaking wet but smiling.

It was a soaked, but successful day at The Medalist in Hobe Sound, Florida, where the legends of golf and football sped around in their own carts, raised considerable funds for coronavirus relief, filled the airwaves with banter and played some good golf, too.

Here are a few takeaways:

Tiger’s game

For the first time in 98 days, we got to see Woods in action. And the last time we saw him, he didn’t look good. Woods shot 77 at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 16 and finished last among those who made the cut at the Genesis Invitational. And he complained that his back was stiff.

When he then skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, there was cause for concern. And when he then skipped the Players Championship, it was easy to wonder if he would be ready for his Masters title defense.

All of it became moot when the Players was canceled after one round and the coronavirus pandemic shut down the PGA Tour. Woods hasn’t played since but neither has anyone else. And the time off has done him some good.

Woods didn’t miss a fairway. His swing looked smooth and in rhythm. He hit some deft pitch shots and a really nice long bunker shot. And all of this in difficult, rainy conditions.

It was just a charity match, but he looked pretty good. Who knows when Woods will resume his schedule when the PGA Tour returns next month, but his game looks good to go.

Phil being Phil

Mickelson did his best to hype the match and went out of his way to say he’d be taking down Tiger — again — in the second of their made-for-TV match encounters. While that didn’t happen, it wasn’t without Lefty doing all he could to make it happen.

Mickelson gave a vintage description of how he would play a pitch shot early in the match when on-course reporter Justin Thomas asked him about it; was clearly on-brand when he gave a shoutout to one of his sponsors on a long-drive hole, then promptly airmailed his tee shot left into the trees; seemed to take great joy in zipping around in his golf cart; then launched a tee shot onto the par-4 11th to set up an eagle putt by Brady; and generally seemed to enjoy himself.

Mickelson hasn’t made it official, but he is expected to play the first event back next month at the Charles Schwab Championship.

Brady’s bounce back

The new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback started out as if he were playing golf in the old Bucs creamsicle jerseys, a comedy of errors at every turn. The weather didn’t help, and Brady got off to a shaky start.

Charles Barkley was giving him grief, and offered up a $50,000 donation to COVID-19 relief if Brady could hit a par-3 green. He missed badly. “I should have said if you could hit it on the planet,” Barkley bellowed.

But as Brady has been known to do, he gathered himself. Even after taking a penalty stroke on the par-5 seventh hole, he holed a 100-yard wedge shot — while his pants split and his microphone broke — to earn a $100,000 donation from Brooks Koepka, who wondered if Brady could even make a par.

And on the back nine, as he and Mickelson attempted to rally, Brady was solid, helping keep his team in the match.

Manning’s enthusiasm

The retired NFL quarterback brought a lot to the second edition of The Match. He was fun and engaging and self-deprecating. He admitted how difficult it was afterward to step into that arena with Tiger and Phil and play a sport for which he is not known. And he hit some great shots, making an early birdie putt to put his team 2-up and hitting a great iron approach shot late to help keep the team 1-up. The Augusta National member acquitted himself quite nicely.

Justin Thomas, announcer

The fourth-ranked player in the world has a lot of golf ahead of him, but the friend of Tiger proved his worth in a cameo TV role. He had no problem dishing on Woods and Mickelson — and Barkley — and he brought some excellent insight as a Medalist member. He came across smooth but is no doubt looking forward to getting back to his day job.

Modified alternate shot

The back-nine format was fun, and it helped keep the Match moving on the back nine as weather and darkness threatened. It also brought strategy to the competition, and allowed for some good drama when Mickelson drove the green at the par-4 11th and Brady drained the putt for an eagle. One scary thought: Imagine if there had been true alternate shot, meaning they could not pick the best drive.

The Match III

It’s almost inevitable. The first match, won by Mickelson in Las Vegas in 2018, came with a $9 million payday. It also had numerous technical glitches, and with just Woods and Mickelson involved, lacked the banter we saw Sunday. The second iteration was a marked improvement, and it was probably livelier and more fun because the players were competing for bragging rights and charity.

Woods and Mickelson formed this partnership a few years ago with an eye on these type of matches.

Next time, put Tiger and Phil together. How about taking on Rory McIlroy and Thomas? The young guys might be favored, but with a big payout on the line, who is to say the veterans won’t prevail?

The real thing

Two weeks. Two made-for-TV, sports-starved-viewer-filling events. All for charity.

Last week it was McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole, and raising more than $10 million for relief efforts.

This time, Tiger, Phil, Manning and Brady doubled that amount in a similar event.

To criticize either would miss the point. Both served a great purpose, a welcome diversion while also offering a huge monetary boost to fight the pandemic.

But now the real thing beckons. Assuming all goes well, the PGA Tour returns in Texas in a little over two weeks. We expect Phil to be there. Tiger’s return is more of a mystery.

The golf will count, however, and a busy season beckons with plenty of obstacles in trying circumstances but plenty of cautious optimism.



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Rodney Smith well-seasoned to compete for RB job with Panthers – Carolina Panthers Blog

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rodney Smith was looking for a three-peat. The new Carolina Panthers running back tweaked his recipe for success from the previous two years, knowing you don’t improve without putting in the extra time and practice to get better. He thought he’d spiced things up with just the right blend of new with the old to remain on top.

But he lost. It wasn’t on the football field, where the former University of Minnesota running back had overcome two ACL injuries. It was the “Running Backs Top Chef Cook Off” held annually by Gophers running backs coach Kenni Burns.

“I rigged it,” Burns said with a laugh. “He couldn’t go out three years in a row as a winner.”

But the qualities that allowed Smith to overcome adversity in football are the same ones that make him a success grilling ribs. He adapts and doesn’t settle. He’s always looking for an edge that will take his game to the next level.

“I’m resilient,” Smith said from his home in Mundy’s Mill, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. “Anytime you get injured and have to bounce back, it’s tough. The unknown variables. Will I play football again?

“I can’t let the circumstance keep me down. That helped me grow into the young man I am now.”

Smith has no illusion of beating out Christian McCaffrey as Carolina’s starting running back. He understands that McCaffrey, who last season became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, is special.

But Smith does have a chance to be the back who gives McCaffrey an occasional break and perhaps holds down the position in case of injury.

None of the players ahead of him on the depth chart are established — Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis and 2019 fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett, who is coming off knee and ankle injuries.

Burns believes Smith’s style, which is not much different than McCaffrey’s in terms of being an all-purpose back, gives him a chance.

“They both can do things outside. They both are great in space. They both have great top-end speed,” he said. “Christian is a little more refined than Rodney, but Rodney can get there for sure.”

The journey

Smith suffered his first ACL injury in his junior year of high school, a critical time for college recruits. Despite recovering to rush for more than 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior, his college options were limited to Minnesota, East Carolina and a few smaller schools.

“If you ask anyone I grew up with, I told them I wanted to go the farthest place away I could go,” Smith said.

That was Minnesota and a cold climate far from what he was accustomed to in the barbecue-friendly South. He was enjoying a stellar college career, too, before suffering his second ACL tear during his redshirt senior year.



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