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Diehl back on starting line for champion Giants

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Diehl back on starting line for champion Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Veteran offensive tackle David Diehl is back in the New York Giants' starting lineup, except it wasn't the way he wanted.

Diehl was thrust back into the front line in the fourth quarter of Monday night's 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins when Sean Locklear suffered a major knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

Locklear had been one of the most productive free-agent acquisitions this season. Signed to back up Will Beatty and Diehl at the tackle positions, he started nine games. Two came on the left side because Beatty had back problems early, and seven on the right side after Diehl had an early knee injury and then a shoulder problem.

Locklear played so well, that some wondered whether the 30-year-old Diehl might lose his job to the injuries.

That's not an issue anymore with Locklear on injured reserve. Diehl is back and excited to be playing in the stretch run as the Giants (7-5) look to nail down their second straight NFC East title.

The job resumes Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (5-7) at MetLife Stadium.

``I'm just excited to get out there and play football and feel good, feel ready to play and help our football team win games,'' Diehl said. ``We've got a four-game stretch and it starts this weekend.''

Diehl isn't your average backup taking over for an injured player. He's a 10-year veteran who started every game for the Giants from the time he was drafted in the fifth round in 2003 until late in the 2010 season when hip and hamstring injuries forced him to miss four in a row.

He started every one last season as the Giants won their second Super Bowl since 2007. He even moved from left guard to tackle late in the season when Beatty had an eye injury.

``You know he is going to be prepared,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. ``You know he is going to know exactly what to do. He is going to compete and you know he is going to be physical. Thank God we have him. We are about as thin as you can possibly be.''

The injury leaves second-year pro James Brewer as the backup tackle and the jumbo blocker in goal line situations. He has only played in two games in his career.

Diehl returns with the Giants in a very familiar situation. They've been inconsistent of late and need a late run to guarantee a chance at repeating. Heading into Sunday, New York has a one-game lead over Dallas and Washington in the NFC East with four games to go.

``Obviously we've been in this situation before, so people are always going to say that,'' Diehl said. ``Did we want to put ourselves in this position? No, absolutely not. Last week was an opportunity that we lost and we can never get back, but the only way to bounce back from it is this Sunday.

``To come out and play this game the best we can, play smart football and come away with a win. Keep building from here. We believe in one another. We believe in the guys in this locker room. When we play our game and we're at our top, we think that nobody can stop us.''

Diehl isn't bitter about not starting last week. His shoulder limited his practice time and Locklear deserved to play. Diehl instead played special teams and watched the offense most of the game.

``It's a role that I'll never get used to,'' Diehl said. ``When your opportunity comes back, you come back, and you come back strong. Most importantly, you play as best as you can to secure it.''

Beating the Saints isn't going to be easy. New Orleans has won the last three against New York, with the last two games being blowouts. The difference this time is the game is being played in New Jersey instead of the fast, indoor track of the Superdome.

``We haven't played them at home in a while,'' Diehl said. ``To go there, it's a tough place to play when you go out there and play in the Superdome. They play extremely well at home, so it's nice to, number one, have home field advantage; playing them here, in our house. Most importantly, we need to feed off the energy of the crowd and give them something to cheer about.''

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NOTES: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee), safety Tyler Sash (hamstring), tight end Travis Beckham (knee) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee) did not practice Thursday. ... Coach Tom Coughlin said linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee) is close to playing for the first time since mid-October. ... Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said the Saints kicked the stuffing out of the Giants - or something like that - in a 49-24 decision last year in New Orleans.

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 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.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196