Redskins

LB Matthews expected back for Packers

LB Matthews expected back for Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers expect to have linebacker Clay Matthews back in the lineup Sunday against the Chicago Bears and coach Mike McCarthy couldn't be happier about it.

``I thought he looked good all week,'' McCarthy said Friday after the Packers held their last practice before the game. ``I look for Clay to play and make an impact in the game.''

Matthews practiced the last three days without incident. The team's top pass rusher has missed the last four games because of a recurring hamstring injury.

``It's different speed when you're out there at game speed, but I think he's had a good week of practice building up, so I'm anxious to see him out there playing,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

The first-place Packers (9-4) are looking to clinch a second straight NFC North title by beating the second-place Bears (8-5). Capers and McCarthy both suggested Matthews could have his playing time limited against Chicago.

``Potentially,'' McCarthy said. ``I think it would be smart to watch his reps. It's something that we've talked about with him personally and just a number of guys coming back (from injuries). This is a very important game, but there's more left to be played after this game.''

Green Bay could be forced to make some more changes on their offensive line. Right guard Josh Sitton had a hip injury flare up and was held out Friday. He is questionable for the game.

``After talking with Josh, I'm not real concerned about it,'' McCarthy said.

Offensive lineman T.J. Lang is probable after missing Green Bay's last game with an ankle injury. Lang had been moved from left guard to right tackle after Bryan Bulaga suffered a season-ending hip injury last month.

But Lang might be returning to his former spot Sunday since the coaches have liked what they have seen from undrafted rookie Don Barclay at right tackle after Lang was injured. Lang is in favor of starting again at left guard.

``That's obviously where I have the most experience, so that's probably where I feel most comfortable,'' he said.

McCarthy, wouldn't divulge his plans for how the offensive line would shake out Sunday.

Lang said he took an equal amount of reps in practice this week at guard and tackle. Evan Dietrich-Smith, who has been starting at left guard since the switch of Lang to tackle, also worked some at center and right guard in practice this week.

NOTES: The Packers listed S Charles Woodson (collarbone), WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring), RB James Starks (knee) and DE C.J. Wilson (knee) as out for Sunday. Woodson hasn't played for nearly two months after suffering a fractured collarbone. . Capers laughed when asked about the compliment given to him by Brandon Marshall. The Bears WR, who has an NFL-leading 101 catches, said Capers was Green Bay's ``player MVP'' for devising a scheme that held him to two catches for 24 yards in the Packers' Week 2 win. ``I don't listen to a lot of things that go on before and after the game,'' Capers said. ``One of the things that 27 years (as an NFL coach) teaches you is you kind of focus on the things that you control and move on because there's normally a lot more said than is actually done.''

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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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