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Daniels solid season gives Texans another threat

Daniels solid season gives Texans another threat

HOUSTON (AP) Last season, Owen Daniels thought he had finally returned to the player he was before tearing a knee ligament in 2009.

After comparing film from then and now, the Houston Texans tight end realizes he wasn't quite there yet.

``I can look on film and tell a difference with the way I'm moving this year compared to last year,'' he said. ``I could probably show anybody and they could probably recognize it. So that's what I like seeing. I'm excited to see that, and hopefully I can continue to look like that and continue to move around well.''

Now that he really has returned to form, Daniels has re-emerged as of the top tight ends in the NFL, and gives the Texans' powerful offense another threat.

``He's playing right now as good as I've ever seen him play since he's been with me, and he's played pretty darn good in the past,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. ``Hopefully - we keep our fingers crossed here - he stays healthy. He's on his way to a big year.''

Daniels made the Pro Bowl in 2008 after catching 70 passes for a career-high 862 yards. He had 519 yards receiving and a team-leading five touchdowns in 2009 before injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the eighth game of the season.

He was progressing well in his rehabilitation from that injury before doctors discovered a stress fracture in his right kneecap, which slowed his progress. He returned to play 11 games in 2010, but his 471 yards receiving were the fewest he'd had since finishing with 352 as a rookie in 2006.

Daniels started 15 games and had 677 yards receiving a year ago.

``I know I felt pretty good at times last season,'' Daniels said. ``I felt like I was wearing down toward the end of the season, but sometime during last season I felt pretty good and felt more explosive. Definitely this offseason with what I was doing, I felt really, really good.''

That good offseason work has carried over into the season where he is fourth in the NFL among tight ends with 416 yards receiving and four touchdowns. His work has led some to compare this season to his Pro Bowl year of 2008.

``I think I'm more complete, honestly,'' he said. ``I'm playing a lot better against the run, a lot better in pass (protection) than I was back then. I know I'm stronger than I was back then ... I feel as good as I did back then.''

Houston's star receiver Andre Johnson has been impressed with Daniels this season, and sees a difference from last year.

``You can tell he's much more comfortable out there when he's running with the ball,'' Johnson said. ``His running form and everything, he looks like he's much more comfortable. He's running a lot faster and things like that. Sometimes when you have those injuries it just takes a little time to get back comfortable, especially when it's dealing with knees and stuff like that.''

Daniels loves playing with Johnson, and he knows he benefits from playing with someone who has more than 10,000 yards receiving in his career.

``His game has helped me out a lot,'' Daniels said. ``The success I've had has a ton to do with what `Dre's doing out on the field.''

Johnson is often double-teamed, which leaves players such as Daniels in single coverage.

``I take pride in beating man-coverage, so just what he does out there gives us a lot more opportunities to make plays,'' Daniels said.

The AFC-leading Texans (6-1) return from their bye this week to play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Houston is fourth in the AFC in yards per game with 371.4 and second in points a game with 30.9. But Daniels feels like the unit can be much better.

``There's a lot of things we need to work on, like starting faster,'' he said. ``Those last few weeks before the bye we didn't really get off to really great starts offensively. It took us a few series to get going. It was almost like we were waiting for something to happen before we got going. So if we get off to a faster start like we were earlier in the year and putting a great drive together and getting points right off the bat is big.''

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. The tipoff time has not been announced, but the game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington.

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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