Thursday, August 30, 2018

Redskins 53-Man Roster projections

Rob Kelley running hard Thursday against the Ravens. (Mitch Stringer/USA Today Sports)

By Wally 

There are a lot of questions about the Redskins roster such as:  Should the Skins keep Perine and Kelley? Will Cam Sims make the team?   Well, I’ll give it a shot to predict the roster.  There are guys that I believe should make the but due to politics, it won’t happen.  Here is what I came up with.

2 Quarterbacks:  Alex Smith and Colt McCoy
5 Running backs:  Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Kapri Bibbs, Samje Perine, and Robert Kelley
6 Wide Receivers:  Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Trey Quinn, Maurice Harris, and Cam Sims
4 Tight Ends: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, and JP Holtz
4 Tackles: Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, and Geron Christian Sr.
1 Centers: Chase Roullier
3 Guards: Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao and Tony Bergstrom
6 Defensive Lineman:  Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, Tim Settle, Anthony Lanier II, and Ziggy Hood.
6 Inside linebackers: Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Martrell Spaight, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Zach Vigil and Josh Harvey-Clemons
4 Outside Linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson and Pernell McPhee
5 Cornerbacks: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Danny Johnson, and Adonis Alexander
4 Safeties: DJ Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, DeShazor Everett, and Troy Apke
3 Special teamers:  Dustin Hopkins (Kicker), Tress Way (Punter), and Nick Sundberg (Long Snapper)

JP Holtz:  I know keeping JP Holtz would be controversial, but if the team wants to maximize Adrian Peterson’s productivity it would be helpful to have a good H-back. 

DL:  Personally, I would like for the Redskins to keep Phil Taylor over Ziggy Hood because I didn’t like what I saw in the dress rehearsal game with the Denver Broncos.  The running lanes were huge; Taylor could help clog the middle for the inside linebackers.  Ziggy Hood is a guy that the coaching staff likes, and he can play defensive end.

ILB:  The Redskins need versatility with their inside linebacker core.  Foster and Brown aren’t known for pass coverage.  However, Vigil, Harvey Clemons and Dion Hamilton seem too have that ability.  Martell Spaights stood out in preseason.  He is a guy that could step in if there is an injury to Foster or Brown.

WR:  Cam, oh Cam!!! Cam Sims earned his spot.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the team cut him and tried to put him on the practice squad, but he made so many plays during camp and preseason.  The young man has that dog in him.  Also, don’t sleep on rookie wide receiver Simmie Cobb Jr.  If the Redskins can get Cobb Jr. on the practice squad, he could get more of an opportunity compared to Cam Sims.

RB:  Robert Kelley out performed Samaje Perine in the last preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.  However, Perine does have a lot of ability and it’s too early to give up on him.  Perine must fix his fumbling issue.  In my opinion, Kelley’s improvement in the passing game has given him a spot on the roster.  

Now Kelley may have improved but he isn’t a Chris Thompson like back.  With Thompson coming off an injury, it’s essential to have another versatile pass catching running back on the roster.  Kapri Bibbs showed that he can be that guy. 

My 53-man roster is complete.  Tell me what you think. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Respect Gruden

Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports

By Wally

On January 9, 2014 the Washington Redskins hired head coach Jay Gruden to a five-year $20 million contract.  Gruden was known in NFL circles as a highly respective offensive mind.  The season prior to coming to the Redskins, under Gruden, the Cincinnati Bengals were 6th in the league in scoring and 10th in total offensive yardage.  

Gruden did well as the offensive coordinator of the Bengals and helped with the maturation process of quarterback Andy Dalton.  With Gruden as Dalton’s offensive coordinator for three seasons (2011-2013), Dalton averaged about 3,787 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions per season.   After the 2013 season, Gruden decided to take his talents D.C.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, before Gruden, was a quarterback who didn’t seem mentally stable and destine to be a backup.  Cousins in 2013, was 0-3 as a starter—52.3 completion percentage, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.  Under Gruden’s offense from 2015-2017, Cousins became one of the more prolific passers in the National Football League. Through that three-year span Cousins’ averaged 4,392 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  On March 15, 2018, Cousins’ play in Gruden’s offense landed him an unprecedent three-year $84 million fully guaranteed contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins deserves credit for his hard work but some of that should go to Gruden.  Gruden’s play-design to create great passing options make quarterbacks giddy with joy.  Even Redskins backup quarterback Colt McCoy flourished in Gruden’s offense.  The 2010 third round pick out of the University of Texas looked like a bust while playing for the Cleveland Browns.  McCoy had the image of a career backup quarterback— 6-15 as a starter and threw for 21 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with a 74.8 quarterback rating.  In the 2014 season, the narrative on McCoy changed drastically with the Redskins and Gruden. After benching quarterback Robert Griffin III and Cousins, McCoy in five games threw for 1,057 passing yards, had a 71.1 completion percentage and a QB rating of 96.4.  McCoy played so well in the 2014 season, that numerous fans wanted him to become the starter for the following season.  Gruden’s offense helped make McCoy relevant again. 

Gruden deserves more credit for his quarterback friendly system.  Former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay left the team after the 2016 season to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.  Some felt that the Redskins kept the wrong coach between Gruden and McVay.  McVay has described Gruden as a mentor. McVay led the Rams to the highest scoring offense in the NFL.  It’s fair to say that Gruden helped him along his journey to be known as one of the young rising coaches in the NFL.  McVay told Kevin Sheehan and Chris Cooley on ESPN 980 (now called the Team 980) that he considered “Jay Gruden as a mentor” and “a big reason why [he’s] fortunate to be in this role.” Gruden is no legendary coach like former Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, however there is still room for him to grow.

Yahoo Sports developed a coaches’ power ranking. Gruden ranked 27th out of 32 head coaches in the NFL.  Their reason is that in “four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, and one franchise quarterback run out of town.” Those are all good points; however everything should be put in context. If it wasn’t for Gruden, it’s fair to say that Cousins wouldn’t be considered a franchise quarterback.  Last year with the roster dismantled with injuries, Gruden helped get the team to a 7-9 record.  Pundits can nitpick but that alone was an incredible task.  He lost players such as left tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jordan Reed, defensive lineman Johnathan Allen, and running back Chris Thompson—just to name a few.  If this was New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, would he be praised for having a 7-9 record under those circumstances?  Maybe.  Gruden is no Belichick.  He hasn’t won a Super Bowl or even won over nine games in his NFL head coaching career.  Although Gruden doesn’t have Belichick’s credentials, he does have an efficient system like Belichick.

The Redskins will be entering the 2018 with optimism.  They have a new quarterback in Alex Smith and there are doubts that Smith will put up gaudy numbers in D.C.  Smith came off of a career season last year under head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs—67.5 completion percentage, 4042 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.  Why would there be any doubts about the Gruden and Smith collaboration?  By looking at Smith and Gruden’s resume, there is no reason why these two shouldn’t make beautiful music together. Skeptics of Gruden may not think that he’s a great head coach but at least he deserves respect as an offensive savant. If the pundits are questioning Smith, then they are disrespecting what Gruden brings to the table.  Gruden has the 2018 season to prove the naysayers wrong.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

A Super Fit in DC

Howard in DC
Photo: Susan Walsh (AP Photo)

By Wally

During head coach Scott Brooks tenure in D.C., the Washington Wizards haven’t had an athletic rim protector.  In 2016, Ian Mahinmi was signed for that very purpose, but he hasn’t been an intimidator. In the offseason, the Wizards went to a more proven route and signed eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to a two-year $11 million contract. The dude formerly known as “Superman” has a lot of doubters because of his locker room reputation, but as a player Howard could be exactly what the Wizards need to contend for a spot in the NBA Finals.

Many experts will focus on Howard being a locker room disruption, but on the court, you cannot deny the tools he brings to the table.  Last year, with the Charlotte Hornets, Howard averaged about 17 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game.  That was on a team where Kemba Walker was the featured ball player.  In comparison, last season, former Wizards center Marcin Gortat averaged about eight points per game but most importantly he only averaged seven rebounds and a block shot per game.  Putting scoring aside, Howard brings an intimidating force on the boards and a rim protector.  This is something that the Wizards did not have last year with Gortat as the starting center.  

Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said, “Dwight has been known throughout his career as one of the league’s best defenders, rebounders and finishers around the rim.”  He added that “[Howard’s] inside presence and athleticism will give [the Wizards] a much different look and will open up opportunities for the [Wizards] on both ends of the floor.”

Over the past two season, under coach Brooks, the Wizards have been a middle of pack defensive team.  Last season, the Wizard ranked 15th in defensive ratings.  With perennial All-Star point guard John Wall running the break, the Wizards thrive when they can get stops and be in transition. Howard should help the Wizards start their fast break offense with block shots and defensive rebounding.  At the end of the day, defense still wins championships.  The reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors aren’t just an offensive powerhouse, they’re also a great defensive team.  As a former three-time defensive player of year, Howard should provide more of a defensive focus for his teammates.  Regardless if he has lost a step, he is still defensively educated enough to help this team become better defensively overall.  Howard doesn’t have to lead verbally but his defensive and rebounding ability can help lead the charge towards being real contender in the Eastern conference.

Howard will improve the Wizards help side defense with his ability to protect the rim.  His teammates will be able to jump passing lanes and become more aggressive when guarding the opponent man up. The addition of Howard also should make Wall a better defender.  Wall can now press his man up, knowing that if he gets beat he has the big fella there to black shots and cover his back.  Even on high screens and switches, Howard is more equipped to guard a ball handler on the switch compared to the prior starting center.  Defense is Howard’s calling card, but he still has a lot in the tank offensively.

Howard hasn’t played with a pass first point guard like Wall, since playing with Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.  Like Steve Nash, Wall has made it a living in making players around him better such as Gortat.  After averaging 11.1 points per game in the 2012-13 season with the Phoenix Suns, Gortat put up 13.2 points per game with the Wizards and Wall in the following season.  Howard comes into a situation where Wall thrives on setting up his bigs for easy baskets.  Gortat feasted on high screen rolls with Wall for layups and dunks.  Howard will also have that role, but he will add the lob dunk threat.  He flourished in that similar role with point guard Jameer Nelson while playing with the Orlando Magic— where Howard was known as the best center in the game. No one is expecting for Howard to be the Superman here in D.C., but fans should expect a player that will open up the court offensively for his teammates.  Guard Bradley Beal and forward Otto Porter will get more open threes because of Howard screening and diving to the basket.  The screens that he will be able to set for Porter and Beal will create more open jumpers and drives off the dribble.  Brooks can become very creative offensively with Howard in the lineup, screening for several players.  Missed shots is another form of offense with Howard on the boards as well.

Last season, Howard ranked 8th in offensive rebounding.  His skillset, as an offensive rebounder, will provide the Wizards with more opportunities to score.  Howard will not be asked to average 25 points per game, however he will be asked to be an offensive live body for the Wizards.  Wall believes in Howard. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller, Wall said “even though he’s older, he’s still an athletic big.  He still has respect in this league.”  For Wall and the Wizards, hopefully Howard is just what the Wizards need to save the day.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

16 Didn't Come Easy as Wiz Edge Lakers

Ray Rogers AKA USS Blogger

The Washington Wizards recorded their 16th straight home victory last night with a 116 – 108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Entering Thursday night’s contest the overwhelming notion was that the Wizards would win handily over a young Lakers ball club searching for an identity. As a matter of fact, there was very little focus on the Lakers at least on the part of fans and media with everyone pondering whether Washington can climb up to the #2 seed in the eastern conference and/or challenge for a trip to the NBA finals.
Once the game began, it also seemed evident that the Wizards themselves were overlooking these Lakers which entailed a 1st quarter where the Wizards shot just 41% on 12/29 shooting, resulting in a mere 31 – 29 advantage. However, arguably the second hottest team in basketball (behind Golden State) built a 19 point second quarter advantage and at halftime led 58 – 44. It was at this time where many believed this game was over and throughout the third quarter the Wizards maintained their lead, entering the final period up 11.
Then it happened. The Lakers began to make a run and a miracle occurred as the Verizon Center was transformed into Staples Center. It occurred just as quickly as Clark Kent turning into "Superman". While apparent from the start that the Lakers faithful came out in droves, the team’s early fourth quarter surge was resuscitating which saw the Lakers erase the Wizards lead to tie the game 91 - 91 with 9:08 remaining.
Lakers fans however were not the only ones to come to life at this time. So did All Star guard John Wall. Wall outscored the Lakers 8 – 2 including two 3 pointers to put the Wizards ahead 99 – 93. Wall, who entered the fourth quarter just 17 points, finished with a game high 33. We haven’t seen a closer this good in DC since maybe…former Nationals pitcher Chad Cordero. And that’s exactly what Wall is developing into, a closer, which former teammate and current Lakers guard Nick Young acknowledged after the game “He’s taking the big shots now in the fourth quarter, he’s taking over games”.

With Wall emerging as a closer the Wizards are expected to continue this hot streak. The rest of the NBA continues to take notice and teams will now be gunning to end this home winning streak. It won’t be easy for Washington, but with more and more games taking on playoff type intensity, this upcoming stretch can only further the Wizards growth. Next up is the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday February 4th and the team from the “Big Easy” is expected to be anything but easy to defeat.     
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Urban Sports Scene Wizards Lakers Post Game Show

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Make it 14, 'Men in Black' Stay Hot at Home with Win over Celtics


Ray Rogers (@urbansports_Ray)

There was obvious hype entering Tuesday Night’s Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics matchup as result of a post game scrum following their previous meeting on January 11th in Boston. Capping off the drama heading into the much anticipated rematch was the Wizards vow to wear all black on Tuesday which was a promise they kept although if you ask me they weren’t scaring anyone, maybe presenting handsome at best. However, the intent was not to look tough or scary, but to send a message. A message that appeared to include a desire to differentiate this current team from last year’s group that was swept in the regular season by the Celtics. All that was left to do was back up their talk with strong play and most importantly a victory.

Mission accomplished.  

The Wizards quickly established control in a 123 – 108 blowout of the Celtics. The game began with two quick baskets from starting center Marcin Gortat in route to a 33 point first quarter that entailed Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Gortat all scoring 8 points each. Coming out and setting a tone was critical in a game filled with emotion. Postgame, Celtics SG Marcus Smart alluded to the fact that his team allowed the Wizards to become “comfortable” which was critical with the Wizards being winners of 13 straight home games entering Tuesday’s contest.

What was even more impressive in my opinion was the Wizards ability to withstand all of Boston’s comeback efforts. On two occasions in the second quarter the Celtics reduced the Wizards lead to 3 points and in the third quarter cut a 12 point deficit down to six, but each time the Wizards had an answer including John Wall scoring five quick points to push the Wizards lead back to 11 with 1:05 left in the 3rd quarter. The Verizon center was covered in green, but the Celtics’ faithful sat quietly the entire night even during comeback attempts which was in stark contrast to a raucous home crowd. Wizards small forward Kelly Oubre expressed gratitude toward a fan base that is growing with excitement over this steadily improving team.

It would be hard not to cheer for a team winning their 14th game in a row at home, but it’s also the way the Wizards are defeating teams with Tuesday’s win punctuated by a monstrous dunk by John Wall over Celtics center Kelly Olynyk. Yes, it’s safe to say that the Wizards had the better Kelly on this night. A season high 123 points scored, five players in double figures led by Beal with 31, and a convincing, gritty win versus what is becoming a hated rival is giving Wizards fans dreams of a deep playoff run. As the Bullet/Wizards’ great song puts it “that’s the reason I’m a Bullets fan”.            
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Urban Sports Scene Post Game video

Sunday, January 15, 2017

John Wall Developing the Clutch Gene

By Waleo

Last night, the Washington Wizards defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (Sixers) 109-93.  The victory put the Wizards over .500 (20-19).  If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the score you would think that the Wizards just ran away with this game but that would be false.  Sixers’ center Jahlil Okafor did whatever he wanted to do in the first quarter, scoring nine points.  Wizards Center Marcin Gortat had issues guarding him throughout the quarter.  It didn’t get any better for most of the second quarter.  The Sixers jumped out to a 45-32 lead with 6:31 minutes left in the second quarter.  The Sixers’ fan base took over the Verizon Center, chanting the phrase “Trust the Process”—which is a saying used for Sixers Center Joel Embiid who didn’t play.  The Wizards looked sluggish and their own fan base had nothing to cheer for.  All of a sudden it happened, Wizards’ point guard John Wall took over and showed his superman game.

After being down 13 with 6:31 minutes left in the second quarter, Wall and Wizards outscored the Sixers 24-11, which included a key bank shot to tie the game (56-56) going into halftime.  Wall scored 11 points in the second quarter after only scoring three in the first quarter.   Now, that’s called showing up when your team needs you.  But that wasn’t it for the “Great Wall of DC”. 

The Wizards now had the momentum.  The “Trust the Process” chants got lower and lower.   At the 11:36 mark of the third quarter, Wall gave the Wizards their first lead (58-56) since the 8:55 mark of the first quarter (9-8).  The Wizards started the third quarter on a 7-0 run going ahead 63-56.  At 4:42, the Wizards took a nine point lead (71-62), then Wall, to use the term the kids say, went H.A.M.

Wall hit a 3 point shot putting the Wizards up 74-62.  Then followed that up with two more threes.  Wall had three straight three-pointers which equaled nine straight points for the Wizards.  In the third quarter, from 4:13 to 2:32, Wall outscored the Sixers 9-3.  “The Great Wall of DC” closed out the Sixers in the third quarter and put the dagger in the hearts of Sixers fans who invaded the Verizon Center.  After the game, in his presser, Sixers head coach Brett Brown acknowledged that Wall took over the 3rd period.  He did! Wall scored 11 points in the quarter, helping the Wizards outscore the Sixers 30-15. John Wall finished the game with 25 points and sat out the entire fourth quarter.

It’s amazing that not too long ago fans and pundits were asking for Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal to be closer for this team.   The word was that Wall doesn’t have the jumper and skillset to close games out.  Well this season John Wall has proven the haters wrong.  What he did last night and throughout this season lets you know that Wall is becoming that dude which no one wants to see when it’s 5-4-3-2-1.  Currently, John Wall averages 6.7 points in fourth quarter which is 11th in the league.  The fourth quarter is your money quarter and Wall has been money.  Now granted, in Sixers game Wall brought the fourth quarter to the third quarter.  His team need their “superstar” to show out and he did.  This team needed him to end the game and he did.  That is a main element of developing that stone cold clutch gene.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Surging Wizards Continue to Climb Standings with Win Over Indiana


Ray Rogers (@UrbanSports_Ray)

Prior to Wednesday night’s home matchup versus the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards last saw this Pacers team in DC on March 5th dating back to last season. In that game, the Wizards played well, built a double digit lead, lost shooting guard Bradley Beal to injury, had no answer for Pacers SF Paul George, saw their lead dwindle and ultimately lost a close game.  Wednesday night’s game at Verizon center was eerily similar in a game where Beal was again lost to injury, Paul George poured in 34 points, and the Wizards led by as many as 13 points and were ahead 85-74 heading into the fourth quarter.  The Wizards saw their lead shrink to 2 points, however this time the Wizards closed the game strong and were victorious 111-105. What made the difference in the outcome of this game? In my opinion it was largely due to the excellent play of small forward Otto Porter Jr.

Porter netted 22 points on sixty percent shooting that comprised of 50% from three-point range including a huge three pointer that put the Wizards up 99 - 94 with 1:40 to play in the fourth quarter. Porter’s play was so significant in large part due to the loss of Beal as well as the Wizards needing someone to step up late in games. As a reminder, it was Beal who missed a three-point shot that would have resulted in a Wizards victory over these Pacers on 12/19 at Indiana which in ways left this team looking for second option for late game scoring behind all star guard John Wall. Wall was sensational as always scoring a game high 36 points  to go along with 11 rebounds and nine assists. As great as this performance was, help was needed and help was received by way of Porter.

Having a reliable and most importantly a consistent second scoring option will be critical moving forward as result of Beal being injured with such regularity. With this victory, the Wizards moved ahead of Indiana in the standings and hope to be a mainstay in the top eight of the eastern conference.  The league is taking notice of the Wizards improved play following their eighth win in their last eleven games and when talking with Pacers starting PG Jeff Teague after his team’s loss he acknowledged that these games are vital in terms of seeding and playoff implications.  My brief interview with Teague here:  Jeff Teague

Maintaining a focus on moving up the standings and returning to the post season will need to entail the Wizards striving to continue growing in all phases especially team defense and free throw shooting (27/37 on FT’s tonight). Otto Porter, who was 7/7 from the free throw line and arguably the team’s best defender may be the right guy to lead this surge.

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