Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beast of the NFC East

By Waleo

The Washington Redskins are NFC East Champs—“You Like That”.   On Saturday night, December 26th, the Redskins defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-24.   The Redskins came to play.  They went into hostile territory in the form of Lincoln Financial Field and dominated the game.  The game provided a sample of what the Redskins have done all season—which was overcoming adversity, playmakers making plays, and comradery. 

The Redskins’ defense looked shaky during the Eagles’ first drive giving up a touchdown.   The feeling “here we go again” had to resonate throughout the Redskins’ fan base.   The Redskins were playing the Eagles on prime time TV for the entire world to see.  In the past, on prime time TV, they’ve stunk it up.  However this Redskins team is a different beast.  The offense went three and out but the defense stepped up and got the Eagles offense off the field.  That’s a sign of bouncing back.  In the offseason the defense was deemed the weak link of the team. For most of the season the Redskins had to deal with injuries to key players such as DeAngelo Hall, Junior Galette, Keenan Robinson, and Chris Culliver—just to name a few.  But these injuries didn’t stop the defense from playing well down the stretch.  The Redskins had players like Quinton Dunbar, Will Compton, Mason Foster, and Kyshoen Jarrett step up during their run.   Now granted the Redskins are only ranked 24th within total defense, but if you factor in the injuries and moving pieces within the lineup, it’s really a big accomplishment.  
Now back to the clinching game.  After the Redskins’ defense stopped the Eagles’ offense, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins showed the ability to comeback after an initial shaky series.  Cousins connected with tight end Jordan Reed for 50 yards including at touchdown on that series.  Cousins, over the last couple of years, would probably falter in games like Saturday night, but this is a different Cousins.  Last year after throwing an interception to Malcolm Jenkins in the same stadium to cost the Redskins the victory, Cousins play started to become erratic.  One would say that he lost confidence.  He was deemed a guy that couldn’t erase the negative play; however 2015 Kirk Cousins is not that player.  For example, before the first half ended, it seemed like Cousins was about to put the Redskins in a position to take a 19-10 lead against the Eagles.  That didn’t happen.  The Redskins ended the half leading 16-10, because, for some strange reason Cousin kneeled at the Eagles’ six yard line with six seconds left and no timeouts.  That was a negative play.  Cousins may have panicked on that play.  Again Cousins didn’t let that hinder his game.  He continued to play well and finished the game with 365 yards passing and four touchdown passes as well.  Kirk Cousins showed growth and allowed his playmakers the opportunity to make plays.

Cousins does a great job letting his playmakers put their imprint on games.  His connection with Reed is amazing.  Reed, who is a pro bowl snub, has made impactful plays for the Redskins all season long.  He’s grabbed 83 receptions for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns.  The man has been an absolute beast on the field and on Saturday he kept that going.  His performance helped him break the Redskins single-season receiving yardage record for a tight end of 849, set last by Chris Cooley in 2010. He also tied Cooley for most receptions by tight end in a single season with 83 receptions. Against the Eagles, for Reed it was the same ole same ole.  He caught nine passes for 129 yards plus two touchdowns.  He dominated the game and could do whatever he wanted on the field.  Reed wasn’t the only player making plays.  The Redskins’ defense, down the stretch of the season, was making significant plays.  Cornerback Bashaud Breeland forced a fumble out of Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz which was recovered by safety Dashon Goldson.  The play was impactful because it changed momentum of the game.  The Eagles were down 13-10 and were driving.  Breeland has 3 forced fumbles this season.  Another player on the defense who made a big play was safety DeAngelo Hall.  Hall has always made plays since coming to the Redskins in 2008.  On Saturday, he did what Hall doe—he turned a fumble recovery into a 17 yard touchdown which made the score 30-17.   The defense and the whole team came together and that’s why this team won the NFC East.

Head coach Jay Gruden deserves credit for this team coming together.  It wasn’t the sexy thing for the fan base and owner Daniel Snyder but Gruden decided to go with his guy Cousins over then starting quarterback Robert Griffin III.  Cousins has had the backing of his teammates such as defensive end Chris Baker.  When Redskins’ field goal kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point (scores was 7-6 at the time), nobody put blame on Hopkins.  They picked him up and made sure that, that play didn’t decide the outcome of the game.  That’s a sign of playing for one another.  Even RGIII got into the habit.  A guy who has all the reason in the world to be frustrated with how he’s been handled, has seemingly been a great team this season.  When Reed scored a touchdown in the Eagles game RGIII was one of the first players to congratulate him.  From Chris Baker supporting Kirk Cousins as the Redskins starting quarterback to running back Alfred Morris checking his ego to the door and not complaining about touches, this team has shown act of togetherness.

The game against the Eagles showed the world that this Redskins team is a complete unit.  This team has put themselves in an interesting position.  Gruden has to decide if they should play the starters against their hated rivals the Dallas Cowboys?  It’s a good position to be in.  It’s a decision fit for champions.  Also it’s “Dallas Week, which really isn’t that important.  The Cowboys’ season will end after the game and the Redskins will be hosting a NFC wildcard playoff game. This doesn’t seem like any ordinary “Dallas Week”.  Maybe it’s because this team looks confident and ready to take on the world and also Dallas sucks!  This season, the team has shown growth, unity and fine play.  Congratulations to the 2015 NFC East Champions, Washington Redskins.

Check out the Urban Sports Scene Podcast Show every Tuesday from 7:30-9:30 pm ET.  Also Check us out on the Soul~N~Sports radio show on Fox Sports 1340 AM Hopewell, Virginia from 5-7 pm ET.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Some Bright Spots During Wizards' Three-Game Winning Streak

 By Colby Giacubeno

1.    Defense

The defense the past three games has been a night-and-day comparison to when the Wizards were struggling towards the end of November and beginning of December. Throughout their three-game winning streak, Washington has allowed 97 ppg, which would rank in the top-5 overall if they sustained that effort throughout the season. Due to the early struggles, the Wizards currently sit 25th in the NBA allowing an average of 105 points per contest. Even though the NBA as a league is becoming much more offense oriented, winning games still comes down to one thing—defense. Just ask the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors.

 2.   Garrett Temple 

As Bradley Beal continues to miss games due to a flare up in the right leg that he has struggled with since his rookie season, a reserve player had to step up ready to produce in the starting lineup. Temple exceeded expectations by all costs by averaging 21.3 points and 5.3 rebounds through the past three games. For his career, Temple’s scoring average is just 3.8 ppg, so to see him explode for these three games was a pleasant surprise for the Wizards. If he can sustain his high-level of play off the bench once Beal returns, it will make the Wizards that much more dangerous of a team heading forward.

3.   The Rookie

Because of the plethora of injuries, the Wizards had to turn to playing their rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. starter’s minutes. With Otto Porter out due to a thigh injury, the Wizards’ first-round draft pick heard his name announced with the starters for the past few games and has performed well. Oubre Jr. is averaging 8.7 points and six rebounds 25 minutes of play throughout the past three games. It seems as if he is becoming more comfortable within the offense and is benefitting off John Wall’s ability to penetrate and create open shots. Oubre Jr. has connected on all eight of his three-pointers during the winning streak. Playing Oubre Jr. this much this early wasn’t in the cards for this team, but it is great for his overall development to play meaningful minutes now so that he is adjusted to it for the future.

4.   The Usual 
Even though John Wall and Marcin Gortat make up 2/3 of the main core for the Wizards and are expected to play flawlessly each night, it is still worthy to give them notice. Wall is back to playing like an MVP candidate as he was early on in the season. He has posted 17.7 points and a ridiculous 15 assists per game during the winning streak. In a home win versus Sacramento, Wall dissected the defense for a career-high 19 assists, beating his previous high of 16. Gortat has had to log big minutes as well with Nene still out nursing a calf injury. In 38.3 minutes per game, Gortat is averaging 19 points, 11.3 rebounds, and three blocks. Similar to Wall, Gortat had a monster outing against Sacramento finishing with 27 points and 16 rebounds against one of the league’s best big men in DeMarcus Cousins. Even with logging huge minutes the past three games, Gortat still manages to beat his matchup up the floor every possession, which usually results in an uncontested lay up. 
The Wizards will look to extend their winning streak to four games as they take on the Brooklyn Nets Saturday at 4:00pm ET. 

Check out the Urban Sports Scene Podcast Show every Tuesday from 7:30-9:30 pm ET. Also check us out on the Soul~N~Sports radio show on Fox Sports  1340 AM Hopewell, Virginia from 5-7 pm ET.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wizards Acquire Sharp-Shooter To Address Lack of Depth

By Colby Giacubeno
Today the Washington Wizards officially announced the signing of small forward Jarell Eddie. Eddie has been playing in the NBA D-League the past two season for the Austin Spurs. In 11 games this season, he has averaged 14.1 points in 29 minutes per game.  

Eddie was signed by the Wizards to address their lack of depth on the wing. It is well-known by this point that the Wizards have experience a plethora of injuries to main rotation players in Bradley Beal, Gary Neal, and Otto Porter. The Wizards only played seven players in their last game against the Kings, and that cannot continue for long.

Eddie is known for being a sharp-shooter from deep, which is what the Wizards need considering their best outside shooters are dealing with injuries. So far this season for the Austin Spurs, Eddie was shooting a blistering 52.5 percent from three. He was also the D-League’s All-Star 3-point champion in last year’s event.  John Wall and Ramon Sessions are perfect point guards for the 6-7 swingman due to their ability to penetrate and create open shots for teammates.

To clear a roster spot, the Wizards waived C Ryan Hollins. Hollins appeared in just five games, earning three starts and averaging 1.6 points and 2.2 rebounds for the Wizards.

Tonight, the Wizards will face the Memphis Grizzlies in hopes to extend their current winning streak to three games. Tip-off is set for 7:00pm ET.

Check out the Urban Sports Scene Podcast Show every Tuesday 7:30-9:30 pm ET.  Also check us out on the Soul~N~Sports radio on Fox Sports 1340 AM Hopewell, Virginia from 5-7 pm ET.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Acceptance of Kirk Cousins

By Waleo

Sunday, December 20, 2015, had to be a special moment for Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins.   Cousins threw for four touchdowns and ran for one in a Redskins’ victory over the Buffalo Bills 25-35.  He had a quarterback rating of 153.7—almost a perfect rating.   Cousins had his best pro game but what really stood out was the acceptance and love from the Fed ex crowd towards the quarterback.
Remember the movie Gladiator with Russell Crowe?  Maximus (played by Crowe), was the main gladiator who slayed all of his combatants but at the time he did not entertain the crowd.  Maximus received advice from retired gladiator Proximo about winning the crowd.  Well, on Sunday Kirk Cousins won over the crowd.  This all started earlier in the season with him leading a game winning touchdown drive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  After that game, Cousins ran out to the Redskins’ locker room yelling “You Like That.”  From that day the phrase “You Like That” has been used throughout Redskins’ nation.  Even teammate Chris Baker uses the phrase pretty frequently, but on Sunday all of Fed Ex was chanting “You Like That” after every Cousins’ big play.  

Over 80,000 fans were in attendances chanting Cousins’ trademark saying.   Cousins has come a long way from being Robert Griffin III’s backup.  He has the opportunity to win the NFC East title if the Redskins beat the Eagles Saturday (December 26th).  This would be the Redskins first division title since RGIII led the team to the title in 2012.   One can only imagine the happiness Cousins feels right now.  He is now accepted by a fan base that didn’t think that much of him as a starting quarterback.  Now he has that same fan base chanting his phrase during home games.  That’s pretty cool.   What if Cousins wins Saturday?  What if the Redskins win a playoff game?  How would the fan base act?  Cousins would probably just ask “YOU LIKE THAT.”  The fans would probably respond with “YES, WE LIKE THAT.”  Congrats to Kirk Cousins for being accepted by the Hail to the Redskins nation!

Check out the Urban Sports Scene Podcast Show every Tuesday from 7:30-9:30 pm ET.  Also check us out on the Soul~N~Sports radio show on Fox Sports 1340 AM Hopewell, Virginia from 5-7 pm ET.

The Wizards' Struggles Could Lead to Changes

By Colby Giacubeno

The Washington Wizards came into the 2015-16 season regarded as one of the teams in the Eastern Conference that could realistically contend with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Already 25 games into the season, and that isn’t the case at all. 

 The Wizards are currently 11-14, good enough for the 12th seed in the East. The new uptempo offense that succeeded tremendously in the playoffs last season has done the complete opposite this season. John Wall is still having an impressive season individually averaging 19.9 points, 9.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game, but it obviously hasn’t been enough to consistently come out on the winning side.

Bradley Beal is struggling again with a stress fracture injury that has haunted him since his rookie season. The injury has forced him to miss eight games already. Nene and Drew Gooden have been missing games dealing with a calf injury, Otto Porter is dealing with an ailing thigh, and Alan Anderson has still yet to step on the floor as a Wizard since undergoing ankle surgery.
The injury bug bites a handful of teams each season, this just so happens to be the Wizards’ year for it. But even with injuries, the expectations behind this team aren’t going to disappear for that excuse. If the Wizards want to be in any running for Kevin Durant next summer, they have to show him they are willing to do whatever is needed to win. Where do they go from here? 

There have been whispers about head coach Randy Wittman’s job security all season long. Watching this team play makes it seem like they aren’t buying into what Wittman is telling them. Wittman has continuously called out his players post-game about being too soft or not doing what they practice. That type of behavior doesn’t sit well in the locker room. The only problem with firing him now is depending on a coach from the bench to step in as an interim. None of the coaching staff besides Wittman has head coaching experience, so would it really be the right move to make? 

There have been a number of teams announcing that their players are on trading blocks. Dwight Howard in Houston may be dealt before the trade deadline, New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson, and now Boston Celtics’ David Lee. I’m not sure any of these players really make sense for the Wizards right now, but if you had to choose, Dwight Howard would make the biggest impact. 

Trading for Howard would mean having to give up possibly both Marcin Gortat and Nene. Is a guy who has proven to be injury prone and hard to satisfy worth giving up the future with Gortat? Some think so. 

It’ll be interesting to see what the near future will hold for the Wizards. One thing is clear—a change has to be made. What change will that be? We can only wait and see.

Check out the Urban Sports Scene podcast show every Tuesday from 7:30-9:30 pm ET. Also check us out on the Soul~N~Sports show on Fox Sports Radio 1340 AM Hopewell, Virginia from 5-7 pm ET.