Redskins

49ers lean on Gore's smarts, savvy in key times

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49ers lean on Gore's smarts, savvy in key times

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman wants to be a head coach one day soon, and he already knows at least one person he'd hire on his staff.

Running back Frank Gore.

``I always tell Frank, `Man, when you're done playing, come find me or I'll find you,''' Roman said Thursday. ``Because he's a guy I love working with as a player, and I'm sure I'd love working with as a coach.''

Often underappreciated and overlooked around the NFL, Gore has carried the 49ers through good times and mostly bad the last eight seasons. Coaches are quick to credit the reliable running back's smarts and savvy, doing everything from breaking down film of opponents to scouting potential draft picks.

Gore's latest adaptation has come in the new read-option run game anchored by quarterback Colin Kaepernick that some thought might not suit his style. Instead, Gore surpassed 100 yards rushing in a playoff game for the first time in last week's 45-31 win over Green Bay, and the 49ers insist his knowledge is a vital part of the plan heading into Sunday's NFC championship at Atlanta.

``It's top shelf,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Gore's football acumen. ``Not to categorize it, but I know I have learned a lot from Frank, as well as the other running backs on our team. He sees it. He sees the big picture. He sees the whole picture. He sees it slowed down and he's got a very quick mind. He's able to make quick-minded decisions.''

Despite tearing ligaments in both knees at the University of Miami, Gore has rebounded to become one of the NFL's most durable players at a position that takes perhaps the biggest pounding.

Gore is the franchise leader in yards rushing (8,839) and touchdowns rushing (51) and has been a staple of San Francisco's offense under three different head coaches. His versatility is what makes him special, coaches said, running inside and out and catching passes from all kinds of formations.

``Frank is such an adaptable player that it doesn't take him long to pick something up,'' Roman said. ``He's one of the most gifted, knowledgeable, intelligent football players that I've been around really at any position. He just has a feel and an understanding for the game. It's funny, when you install something or put something new in, he can just see it. It's pretty impressive.''

Until last week, though, Gore's role had seemingly diminished since Kaepernick took over in Week 10 and the 49ers ran more of the Pistol offense.

Gore admits the first time he watched teams such as Oregon and Nevada run read-option plays on television he ``felt like that's not real football.'' With Kaepernick and the 49ers one win from the Super Bowl now, he's become a believer.

``It's helping us. If it's helping us get to where we want to go, I'm with it,'' Gore said. ``I feel like I'm a football player. I'm a ball player. I'll adjust to anything. I just had to be more patient getting the ball. That's about it.''

The 49ers also have kept Gore fresher as opposed to years past when he often wore down late from countless carries.

He split time with Kendall Hunter before the backup suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 12 win at New Orleans. Speedster LaMichael James, the former Oregon standout, has limited Gore's touches since Hunter's injury and had an increasingly expanded role in the Pistol offense.

San Francisco's strategy showed results when it mattered. Gore ran for 119 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against the Packers, even while Kaepernick set a quarterback playoff record with 181 yards on 16 carries.

``Hopefully, they keep looking out for him and 21 keeps getting the ball and I'll just do what he did last week,'' Gore said, referring to his jersey number.

Where Gore goes after his playing days are over is uncertain.

All of 29 years old, Gore doesn't think those days are happening anytime soon. After enduring six non-winning seasons to start his 49ers career, the last two under Harbaugh's guidance have rejuvenated the running back's career.

More than anything, Gore wants to avoid the kind of heartbreak that came with last January's 20-17 overtime loss in the NFC title game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. That doesn't mean he might not still have one eye on the future, often lending his instincts to coaches and even offering his opinion on players before the draft to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.

``I think I'd be a great coach. For one, I love the game of football. I've been around the game all my life, since I was 4. I could tell who is a real football player. I've got an eye for talent,'' Gore said. ``I love being around football. So if Coach Roman ever gets a head job and he wants to hire me, I'll be ready.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown

Sony Michel

Running back
Georgia

Sony Michel is a solid north-south runner who also can bounce outside and pick up yardage. He shared playing time with Nick Chubb last year and still ran for 1,277 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and scored 16 touchdowns against SEC competition. Michel also showed his bona fides in the passing game, catching 64 career passes and showing that he can handle pass protection. 

Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40-yard dash:4.54

Projected draft round:2

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to draft an upgrade at running back. They would prefer one who can catch passes out of the backfield and gain yardage between the tackles. Sony Michel can do both as well as pop for yardage on the outside. There is a good chance that he will be on the board when the Redskins draft in the second round. Since they don’t have a third-round pick, this may be the last chance to get an upgrade in this draft. 

Film review: vs. Notre Dame, vs. Alabama

—The first thing to say here is that the Bulldogs had a quality run-blocking offensive line. Michel frequently had big holes to run through. For his part, Michel maximized his gains when he had a big opening, hitting it quickly and working north-south. 

—He also can pick up yards through just a small crease, again by hitting it with urgency and gaining momentum to drive for the final few yards. 

—Michel didn’t do a whole lot of pass protection in the plays I watched, but he was solid when he did. On one play against Notre Dame, he put a blitzing defensive back on the ground. Against Alabama, he got in the way of likely first-round pick Da’Ron Payne long enough to allow the quarterback to get off a deep pass. To be sure, he didn’t blow Payne away but his block was effective.

—Besides the O-line, Michel also got quality blocking from his receivers. Again, he took advantage, reading the blocks and maximizing the gain. 

—He also can get it done without much help. On third and 20 against the vaunted Alabama defense, he headed up the middle and quickly went outside when he saw no running room. He headed to the sideline with four Alabama defenders and no blockers in sight. Michel found another gear and accelerated down the sideline to convert the third and long.  

—He later converted a third and 10 on a draw play, quickly getting up to speed and zipping through traffic to move the sticks. 

Potential issues: Although he has decent speed, he’s not the home run threat you might want in a back taken in the second round. And Michel isn’t really a power back either, although he can fight for extra yards. 

Despite his limitations, there is chatter that Michel might be drafted early in the second round or perhaps even late in the first. It’s hard to separate the smoke and speculation from reality as we sit a week before the draft starts. But he’s a talented back and if Derrius Guice goes off the board earlier than most expect, a run on runners could include Michel. 

Bottom line: Saquon Barkley is the obvious top running back and he surely will be gone when the Redskins pick in the first round. After that, the Redskins have plenty of options. They like Guice but 13 may be too high for him and he is likely to be gone when their pick in the second is on the clock. Michel is one of a few possibilities there, a group that also would include Michel’s former teammate Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones of USC and others. Without a peek at the draft board in Ashburn, we will just have to wait and see. 

Redskins draft countdown

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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