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No. 21 Cincinnati wants improvement from QB Legaux

No. 21 Cincinnati wants improvement from QB Legaux

CINCINNATI (AP) Playing as a ranked team for the first time this season, No. 21 Cincinnati wants to see its junior quarterback make everything look routine.

Cincinnati (4-0) has two chances to fix its biggest problems before getting back into Big East play. The Bearcats' most glaring shortcoming: Munchie Legaux is missing the easy throws. He often winds up and puts too much on his passes when he sees an open receiver.

Legaux overshot one in the corner of the end zone, then severely overthrew another down the sideline during the first half of a 52-14 win over southwest Ohio rival Miami on Saturday. The wasted chances didn't matter against Miami, and Legaux could probably get away with it again on Saturday against Fordham (4-2).

Next, though, come games at Toledo and at Big East favorite Louisville, where every missed chance could make the difference.

``I can't come out and miss those deep balls like I did and those `gimme' throws,'' Legaux said. ``That's the mark of a good quarterback, being consistent.''

The Bearcats are pleased with Legaux's development in his first year as the starter, running an offense with seven new starters in all. He has completed 55 percent of his throws for 946 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions, one of them on a throw he forced into coverage in the end zone.

The dual-threat quarterback also has run 31 times with a touchdown.

His finest moment came during a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech two weeks ago. Legaux led the first game-winning drive of his career, throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left.

He's been good in the biggest moments. It's the routine ones that have been the problem.

``Munchie has to become much more consistent,'' coach Butch Jones said. ``I thought he played a very good second half (against Miami). I was not pleased with the first half. We are leaving way too many yards out there. We have to be able to play pitch-and-catch.''

Expect to see Legaux airing it out against Fordham, a late addition to the schedule. The Bearcats needed another game after TCU backed out of the Big East realignment, and the Rams, of the FCS, were available. It'll be the first time they've played.

The Bearcats are trying to get Legaux out of some bad habits before they get back into Big East play. He sometimes drops his elbow when he throws, releasing the ball head-high. As a result, his passes tend to be flat, hurting his accuracy. He'll also step into his throws too much, making them sail.

It's tough to change a quarterback's throwing motion in the middle of a season.

``You can change it a lot,'' Legaux said. ``It's just repeating it over and over. It's just becoming second-nature to you. You've got to work on those types of situations in practice so they come easy to you during the game. So this week I have to do a better job of doing the little small, mechanical things.''

Legaux also got a lesson in coping with national attention last week after his winning touchdown pass against Virginia Tech. It's the first time he's had to juggle a lot of interview demands with everything else during a week leading up to a game.

``You talk the maturation of a football team, the maturation of a quarterback - it's understanding the scrutiny,'' Jones said. ``Last week he was under much scrutiny. He was having all different interviews. He was being loved up around the country.

``Well, that's part of the scrutiny. Praise and blame, it's all the same. Understanding how you manage those expectations, how you manage that, but also the way you work.''

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AP freelance writer Paul Dehner contributed to this report.

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

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USA TODAY Sports

With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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