Redskins

Colorado, Arizona State rested and ready after bye

Colorado, Arizona State rested and ready after bye

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) The Colorado Buffaloes are coming off their first bye week since Jon Embree took over the program two years ago. It may not help.

Arizona State is also rested and rejuvenated after its own bye and the Sun Devils bring another dynamic offense to Folsom Field along with a pass rush that has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

The Sun Devils (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) have three players ranked in the top 40 in the nation in sacks per game in junior tackle Will Sutton, sophomore linebacker Carl Bradford and junior defensive end Junior Onyeali. The three combined for six sacks in their 27-17 win over Cal on Sept. 29.

``That's a good combination to have when you're getting that inside pressure along with pressure from the edge,'' said Embree, whose Buffaloes (1-4, 1-1) host the Sun Devils on Thursday night. ``They'll pressure. They'll bring their linebackers; they'll bring their corners, occasionally a safety blitz. They have all the different kinds of pressure.''

Buffs quarterback Jordan Webb said, ``I think the offensive line is really prepared. We've got some schemes that will help us. I think I have full faith in our offensive line. I have every game. I think we'll continue to improve. Getting hit, a lot of that is on my back too, I have to get rid of the ball quickly.''

The game is on ESPN, giving the Buffs a potential recruiting boost - or a chance to show a national audience just how far they've fallen since their heyday.

Colorado is 2-0 on Thursday night games at Folsom Field, having beaten Stanford in 1990 and West Virginia in 2008, but the Buffs are more than three-touchdown underdogs this week.

Arizona State is averaging 38.4 points per game with Taylor Kelly running new coach Todd Graham's up-tempo offense, and the Sun Devils' defense is superb despite a lack of depth at cornerback, leading the Pac-12 in scoring defense (13.6 points), total defense (276.2 yards) and tackles for loss (9.8 per game).

Not exactly the prescription for all that ails the Buffaloes, who got off to another disappointing start this season and are coming off a 42-14 loss to UCLA at home two weeks ago.

At least the Buffaloes caught a break this year: last season, they played 13 straight weekends.

``It's been good for us, we're excited to get some guys back healthy, allow us to address a few issues, tackling and turnovers,'' said Embree, who gave his players a Friday-Saturday furlough. ``We did a lot live tackling. To the players it may not have felt like a bye, because we had a lot of live periods within practice and it was good to do that.''

The Buffaloes could get a big boost if fifth-year free safety Ray Polk can return from an ankle injury he sustained in the opener, leading to an out-of-sync secondary that was burned time and again in the Buffs' 0-3 start in non-conference games.

``When he went down in the CSU game, I know in my heart if he would have been in there, their two touchdowns don't happen just because of the communication issue,'' Embree said. ``That's how big it is having someone like Ray Polk in the game.''

The Buffs, who are giving up a league-high 39.4 points and 309 yards passing per game, also expect to get linebacker Doug Rippy back from a sprained knee.

The key for the Sun Devils is to not look ahead.

After playing the Buffaloes, the Sun Devils get No. 2 Oregon in another Thursday night game at home. Then comes UCLA, which has been in and out of the polls, followed by road games against 10th-ranked Oregon State and No. 11 USC.

Considering the Sun Devils lost six of their final seven games last season after a 5-1 start, this week's game is one they can't afford to look past.

``I have said this earlier in the year that coming back from adversity is hard; I think handling success is harder,'' Graham said. ``I think you have to stay hungry, you have stay focused on what you are doing, you have to stay motivated on the opponent that is right in front of you, so those are the things we have talked about.

``I haven't gotten any sense that our guys are overlooking Colorado.''

The Buffs are looking beyond this game in one sense- ``With recruiting and exposure, it's huge,'' Polk said.

``One of the reasons I came here is that I saw it as kind of a ground zero for a program, something you can build off of your hard work and the efforts of your teammates,'' Polk said. ``It's kind of a challenge that we extend out to our recruits: Can you come to a place and know that you built something of your own instead of taking something that has been passed down? It's a program where you can build something and refurbish something to what it once was.''

An upset of the Sun Devils would have immediate implications, too.

``Shoot, we win this game and we're tied for first in the Pac-12 South,'' Polk said. ``It's huge regardless of what preseason handed us.''

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AP College Football Writer John Marshall contributed.

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Reach out to AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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The Redskins aren't big on analytics but the numbers are likely to influence their top draft pick

The Redskins aren't big on analytics but the numbers are likely to influence their top draft pick

There are always surprises in the NFL draft, but the 2018 edition may be the most unpredictable in years. There are a few factors at play here and they will affect who is available to the Redskins in the first round and who they end up drafting there. 

One factor is analytics. Not all teams have a big analytics department but all 32 are aware of the trends in the game. One is that teams no longer emphasize establishing the run early in games. Teams pass in the first quarter on about 57 percent of the snaps. That run-pass ratio is about the same as it is during the other three quarters. It’s still a passing league from the opening kickoff until the clock hits 0:00. 

So why, then, is Vita Vea, a pure nose tackle who likely will be of limited help against the pass, a possible top-10 pick who the Redskins reportedly would like to take at 13? 

The way it looks now, Vea is going to be one of the best available players with a significant drop off to any players associated with the passing game except quarterbacks—wide receiver, left tackle, edge rusher, and outside cornerback. 

The Redskins might rate Vea as more valuable than other teams because of how weak their rushing defense is. Teams ran at them on 47 percent of first-quarter plays, taking advantage of the weakness. This kept up through all four quarters; teams ran against the Redskins on 46 percent of the plays compared to 42 percent of all plays league-wide. Washington’s vulnerability against the rush may push Vea and probably Da’Ron Payne up on their draft boards even if they are of limited utility in the nickel defense. 

Here is one more example of the numbers and talent affecting this draft. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick played a variety of positions in Alabama’s secondary. The consensus opinion is that his best NFL fit is slot corner. Traditionally, that is not a first-round position because it’s has been a role, a part-time position. 

But the view is shifting. Offenses take 62.6 percent of their snaps with three or more wide receivers on the field. That number only counts true wide receivers, so you can add a percentage point or two in for when a running back or tight end lines up out wide. As you would expect, a comparable number of defensive snaps (65.3%) are with five or more defensive backs on the field. The Redskins were in line with this. Slot corner Kendall Fuller played nearly 66 percent of the snaps last year. 

Since you will utilize your slot corner on nearly two-thirds of your plays, if you can get a good one with the 13th pick you shouldn’t hesitate just because of the old view of the position. When you add in the fact that Fitzpatrick can play safety and outside corner as well the Redskins could well pull the trigger if he’s still there. 

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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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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.

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