McElroy goes from third-string to starter for Jets


McElroy goes from third-string to starter for Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Greg McElroy has thought about this moment for years, ever since he was a young boy in Texas pretending he was Troy Aikman.

McElroy could imagine nothing greater in those days than being just like one of his idols, throwing the football around and helping an NFL team win games. Fast-forward a few years, and here's McElroy now: starting Sunday as the quarterback for the New York Jets.

``I did it,'' a beaming McElroy said Wednesday. ``I got here and I'm very grateful and excited about this opportunity.''

The game against the San Diego Chargers will mark the first NFL start for McElroy, who is stepping in for the benched Mark Sanchez and leapfrogging backup Tim Tebow on the Jets' depth chart. Rex Ryan made the decision Tuesday to go with the team's seventh-round pick last year out of Alabama, and now McElroy gets a chance to show the Jets if he might be part of the franchise's future.

``I don't look at it like anything,'' McElroy said. ``Obviously, it's one game at a time. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, your role changes every day and every minute. You never know what the situation is going to be. ... Just enjoy right now, live in the moment. That's what my Dad said when I talked to him, `Live in the moment. Enjoy this. You've been dreaming about this your whole life.'''

McElroy, who led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona when he replaced Sanchez late in that game three weeks ago, took the first-team snaps at practice Wednesday.

Ryan hasn't decided on who the No. 2 quarterback will be Sunday - Sanchez or Tebow. All that matters for now is that McElroy, in the coach's mind, is No. 1.

``I definitely think I want to see what Greg can do,'' Ryan said. ``He's a winner. He's been a winner his whole life.''

He certainly has. McElroy helped lead Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas, to a state title in 2005. Four years later, the University of Alabama rolled all the way to the national championship with McElroy as the quarterback.

Still, there were knocks on his size - he's 6-foot-2 and a trim 225 pounds - and his arm strength. Draft ``experts'' projected McElroy as a decent system quarterback, a guy who could be a solid backup but probably couldn't be an NFL starter. So, McElroy slipped to the seventh round last year.

Ryan said McElroy's arm is ``immensely'' better than it was when he first joined the team, and since missing all of last season after dislocating a thumb in a preseason game. He made some news in the offseason, though, when he told an Alabama radio station that there was a ``corrupt mindset'' in the Jets' locker room that included some ``extremely selfish individuals.'' He later apologized to his teammates for the comments.

``His whole resume speaks about him obviously being a very confident guy and a confident leader,'' Ryan said. ``He understands that we have to protect the football. That's where we're at right now.''

And that's because Sanchez failed miserably at that, turning the ball over 50 times since the start of last season. After McElroy's solid performance against the Cardinals - 5 of 7 for 29 yards and a touchdown - Ryan took a few days before deciding to stick with Sanchez.

That second chance lasted two games as Sanchez struggled mightily while McElroy wasn't even in uniform, listed as inactive. Despite the Jets being eliminated from postseason contention, Sunday's game couldn't be bigger for McElroy.

``I think it's a tremendous opportunity, a tremendous moment for me,'' McElroy said. ``I can't emphasize enough that this is not a finish line.

``This is a starting point.''

It could also signal an end point for Sanchez, once considered the face of the franchise who drew comparisons to Joe Namath after helping the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons.

Ryan reminded reporters of that on Wednesday, highlighting Sanchez's four playoff road wins and ability to ``make all the throws.'' He also was critical of the quarterback's mistakes, but refused to say that the Jets misjudged his talent when trading up to draft him fifth overall.

``Well, it's disappointing,'' Sanchez said. ``You just hate letting other guys down on the team and that's the worst part of it. You're going in there, trying to play well and improve and I just made some bad decisions. I just have to take care of the football better and own up to my mistakes and get better.''

Sanchez threw four interceptions and couldn't handle a shotgun snap from Nick Mangold with the game on the line in the Jets' 14-10 loss at Tennessee. It was an ugly ending to what perhaps could be his last play as New York's starting quarterback - although Sanchez believes he'll be in that position again someday.

``Sure, absolutely,'' he said. ``And you have to feel that way and be confident as a quarterback, no matter how many interceptions or touchdowns or anything you've thrown. I just have to be ready to come back strong and I will.''

Running back Joe McKnight, a former teammate at Southern California, suggested that the move to bench Sanchez came as a result of the coaching staff giving in to fans who have been calling for Tebow or McElroy to start for weeks. Sanchez disagreed with Ryan's decision but said he would fully support McElroy in practice and during games.

``Everything that I've learned at this position in this league has been from Mark,'' McElroy said. ``He's the guy that I've seen every day. Every day that I've been an NFL player, I've been looking up to him. I've been observing him and trying to follow after his lead. I've been watching him. I understand how to play this game because of him and I'm very grateful for that opportunity.''

Neither Ryan nor the other three quarterbacks would speculate on what next season will bring, but it's a good bet Sanchez will be back. The Jets owe him $8.25 million in guaranteed money because of a contract extension last offseason. There's a chance New York could just cut ties with him, or try to trade him. Sanchez refused to entertain any of those possibilities.

``Look, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals of me being here, not being here, whatever,'' he said. ``We're focused on this week, we're ready to play San Diego and that's where my mind's at. So, any question about what's going to happen next year, are you going to be a starter ever again, I'm not even going to go there.''


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News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year. 

A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all. 

  • The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded. 
  • We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now. 


  • Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above. 
  • Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react. 
  • The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous. 
  • Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson. 
  • Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player. 
  • Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
  • Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing. 
  • The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold. 
  • The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
  • To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long. 


  • A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid. 
  • What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore. 
  • Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up. 
  • Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre. 

  • Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due. 
  • I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done. 
  • Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying. 
  • So is Bennie Logan. Just saying. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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