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Bradford has 2 TDs to lead Rams over Bucs 28-13

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Bradford has 2 TDs to lead Rams over Bucs 28-13

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The St. Louis Rams are getting accustomed to Janoris Jenkins doing special things when the rookie cornerback gets his hands on the football.

Jenkins scored his fourth touchdown of the season Sunday, returning a first-half interception 41 yards to help the NFL's youngest team stay in the running for a winning record with a 28-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

``I'm just trying to make plays for my team and just trying to be accountable,'' said Jenkins, a second-round draft pick who has scored on three of his four interceptions and also returned a fumble for a TD. ``Every man has got to do his job, and I just want to be able to do my job for these guys I'm out there with.''

Jenkins took advantage of receiver Mike Williams slipping to the ground to pick off Josh Freeman's sideline throw. He did a tight-rope act to stay in bounds, then took off up the field.

The Rams weren't surprised where he wound up.

``I just turn and block, just like in practice. I don't even have to look, and then I turn around and see him in the end zone,'' defensive end Chris Long said. ``He's a special talent, a dangerous player when he's got the ball in his hands.''

St. Louis (7-7-1) won for the fourth time in the past five games, with Sam Bradford throwing for a pair of touchdowns and Steven Jackson rushing for 81 yards and one TD to move within 10 yards of reaching 1,000 for the eighth consecutive season. Tight end Lance Kendricks scored on an 80-yard reception and finished with four catches for 119 yards.

A victory in next week's finale at Seattle will give the Rams their first winning record since 2003.

That's a huge step for a team that won two games in 2011.

``We've got seven wins now,'' first-year coach Jeff Fisher said. ``I don't think many people thought we would do that, but we've got a chance to get eight, so that's what our focus is.''

Bradford connected with Kendricks on the first play of the third quarter to build on a 14-6 halftime lead. The Rams' defense did its part, too, with four interceptions and five sacks.

The offense turned two of the turnovers into touchdowns.

Despite the victory, the Rams were eliminated from playoff contention. But with a winning record still within reach, players were in a festive mood after the game.

``Obviously it's frustrating,'' Bradford said of not making the playoffs. ``That's why you play the game. You play for the opportunity to win championships. You obviously can't do that if you don't get into the playoffs, so it's a little bit disappointing.''

It's nice, though, to still have something to play for next week.

``This is a chance to finish out on a winning note and a chance to be undefeated in the division,'' Fisher said. ``If we're able to do that, I'd say then we can jump into the offseason with optimism for next year.''

Tampa Bay (6-9) turned the ball five times and was stopped on downs twice inside the Rams 10 en route to its fifth straight loss. The Bucs also had five turnovers the previous week in a 41-0 loss at New Orleans.

Freeman completed 30 of 54 passes for 372 yards and one TD, however, the Bucs simply were unable to overcome his mistakes.

The fourth-year pro has thrown eight interceptions in the past two weeks after only having three passes picked off over the previous eight games.

``I've got to take the blame as the quarterback,'' Freeman said. ``Saints game, this game, not really the brand of football I want to play.''

NOTES: Tampa Bay outgained the Rams 429 yards to 285. ... Bradford was 13 of 27 for 196 yards, one interception and no sacks - ending a stretch in which the St. Louis quarterback was sacked in a league-high 30 consecutive games. ... Freeman has thrown for 3,843 yards, a Bucs single-season record.

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

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do. 

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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.