Capitals

OSU O-line: From 'nonfunctional' to team leaders

OSU O-line: From 'nonfunctional' to team leaders

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Andrew Norwell says when he and the rest of Ohio State's offensive linemen walk into a room, the conversation stops and everyone takes note of the small group of large men.

People are noticing them even more these days, now that they're central figures on a team that is unbeaten and ranked No. 8.

Coach Urban Meyer credits the line for the Buckeyes' big wins the past two weeks against nationally ranked Michigan State and Nebraska. Meyer used to denigrate the position.

No more.

Last spring, he said the front wall was ``nonfunctional.'' Slowly but surely, he has become the unit's biggest fan.

``Our offensive line is the whole reason why we're where we are today,'' Meyer said this week. ``Tell it the way it is. Our offensive line is coming on. We called that group nonfunctional, because they were.''

After the Buckeyes' 17-16 win at Michigan State two weeks ago - a game in which the line allowed Ohio State to run off the last 4 minutes while playing keep-away with the ball - every member up front was designated by the coaching staff as a player of the game.

In the wake of Saturday's 63-38 beatdown of No. 21 Nebraska, Meyer again heaped praise on the big guys after they forged the openings that led to 372 rushing yards. For a coach famous for his spread attack, for fleet receivers and sprinters who line up in the backfield, he also said something curious.

``We're kind of a `pound you' offense right now,'' he said after midnight on a crisp Saturday at Ohio Stadium. ``I don't mind that. I've not had a lot of those. But that's a `pound you' offense.''

So, it's almost as if the offensive line - tackles Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel, guards Marcus Hall and Norwell and center Corey Linsley - has changed Meyer's mind as much as he's changed his mind about it.

There are a lot of theories why the line has gotten so much better. Some say it's because it goes up against the likes of John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, the Buckeyes' two man-eating D-linemen, every day in practice.

Others say it's because the linemen are so close they are almost indistinguishable from each other.

``All of us are friends, all of us came in in the same recruiting class except for Norwell, and he's one crazy dude and fits right in with us,'' Linsley said. ``There's no separation within the line. There's nobody looking at each other: `Oh, man, why isn't he playing well?' There's none of that on the sideline or in the locker room or anywhere. It's all positive reinforcement, we all know each other. We all feel like we're brothers.''

Fragel, converted from tight end to starting right tackle this spring, is the tallest at 6-foot-8, although the group averages 6-6. Linsley is the ``lightest'' at 295 pounds, even though there's only a 20-pound variance between him and the heaviest, Hall.

They're used to standing out.

``When we walk into a room together, go out to eat, all eyes are on us because we're not average people,'' Norwell said.

He said it's not togetherness but plain old effort that made them more than functional.

``It was just hard work, coming in every day and getting coached hard,'' said Norwell, his long hair tied back in a ponytail. ``You take baby steps and just move forward.''

Even opposing coaches have noticed the transformation. The Buckeyes play at Indiana (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday night.

``Everybody talks about the spread. You can talk tempo, you can talk shotgun, but the game is still a physical game,'' Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said. ``It's (requires) a physical presence and it starts in a couple of areas. (Up front) they're making some great strides. I've been very, very impressed with their line.''

Now if there was just more of them. Meyer frets that even the slightest injury to anybody arrayed along the front wall could be a disaster for the paper-thin Buckeyes.

``Our backups are nonfunctional,'' Meyer said. ``God bless us, if a shoe string breaks or something, we're going to call timeout and get a new shoe string because we just don't have the depth there right now (to sub somebody else in).''

The starters, however, continue to play every down and make every play. They've helped turn quarterback Braxton Miller into a Heisman Trophy contender and the running attack into a facsimile of what it used to be back in the glory days of Archie Griffin and Eddie George.

``We're not a finished product there. We still have a lot of things to continue to grow and clean up and get better at,'' line coach Ed Warinner said. ``But they're really playing hard and they're starting to understand what we really want in the spread offense.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 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.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201