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Acrobatic Lloyd key part of Patriots passing game

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Acrobatic Lloyd key part of Patriots passing game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Needing a deep receiving threat, the New England Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd.

They ended up with an acrobat.

``He moves his body in ways that most people can't,'' Patriots safety Steve Gregory said Friday. ``He makes catches that make your jaw drop.''

Such as his grab on Tom Brady's pass that he caught at waist level while racing down the right sideline Sunday night. It gained 53 yards in a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Or others Lloyd made earlier in the season, twisting his body while airborne and managing to get both feet inbounds.

He's made 67 passes catches - some remarkable, some routine - and has two games left to get the 10 he needs to match his career high. He set it in 2010 with Denver, where current New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was head coach.

Lloyd's first chance comes Sunday when the Patriots (10-4) visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12). New England wraps up the regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins.

The 10-year veteran brought the ability to catch long passes that the Patriots had hoped Chad Johnson could contribute last year. But in his only season with the Patriots, Johnson (known as Chad Ochocinco then) struggled to learn the offense and made just 15 catches.

Lloyd had 10 receptions in one game this season, against the 49ers. He also set a career-high with 190 yards receiving in that game and his big play set up the touchdown that completed the Patriots comeback from a 28-point deficit and tied the score at 31.

``He's had a good season. He's been running very good routes,'' Brady said. ``Brandon had a lot of opportunity the other night and really took advantage.''

Just two weeks earlier, he caught only one pass. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 23-16, but there was talk that Lloyd's role was diminishing.

``All the games are different,'' he said. ``The games plans are different. The matchups are different. I prepare every week the same. It's just the way the games shake out sometimes.''

That speculation disappeared the following week in a 42-14 rout of the Houston Texans when Lloyd had seven catches for 89 yards. He was wide open down the middle for a 37-yard TD grab, and also was near enough to recover a fumble by teammate Danny Woodhead in the end zone for another touchdown.

``You want to be downfield blocking and keeping some of those late hits off the ball carrier and being around just in case the ball pops out,'' Lloyd said.

Gregory saw his athleticism while with the San Diego Chargers, where he spent his other six pro seasons. He was in the same division while Lloyd was with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010 and the first four games in 2011 before he was traded to the St. Louis Rams.

``You could be in good position'' covering him, Gregory said, ``but the ball could be thrown in a place where he can move his body to go get it and it kind of takes you out of the play.''

That athleticism was there when Lloyd was on the track team at Blue Springs High School in Missouri. His leaping ability was evident when he competed in hurdles races and the high jump, clearing the bar at a personal-best of 7 feet, 2 inches.

``I was a high jumper in high school and college,'' he said, ``so that shows how much agility that I do have and I think that all factors in.''

Shifting his body to soar over the bar is impressive. Doing it while trying to elude a cornerback, leaping for a pass and staying inbounds is a greater challenge.

``I know when I'm running out of room,'' he said. ``I just try to get my feet down secure the catch and go down.''

It's a challenge Lloyd thinks about a lot.

``I think about the spatial awareness that I want to have when I'm catching the ball, the positions that I'm in,'' he said. ``Those are the things that I think about and I visualize in my personal time.''

His catches have been particularly important because of injuries that have sidelined the Patriots star tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski has missed four games with a broken left forearm but practiced on a limited basis all week and is one of 19 Patriots listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Aaron Hernandez missed six games this season with an ankle injury but has played in the last four with 28 catches in that span, 10 of them against the 49ers.

But none of those catches were as acrobatic as some Lloyd makes.

``The first thing we said when he got here was he was almost like a worm,'' safety Devin McCourty said. ``He could just torque different positions to make some catches.''

At least McCourty was prepared to face that in practice. His twin brother Jason is a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans and had played against Lloyd.

``My brother texted me. He was like, `he's good,' `' McCourty said. ``He said, `not many people talk about him but we played them and it was just tough to cover him all game.' There are definitely other good receivers in this league, but I don't think anyone that's like him.''

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197