Redskins

Packers won't have Woodson back for Bears game

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Packers won't have Woodson back for Bears game

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Jay Cutler can't catch a break this season.

Clay Matthews was back at practice Wednesday for the first time since pulling his hamstring last month, and he's eager to terrorize the Bears quarterback again Sunday when the Green Bay Packers (9-4) travel to Chicago. The Packers can clinch the NFC North title with a victory over their biggest rivals.

``When you have a good day rushing the passer - it might not equal sacks directly, but if you feel good as a pass rusher you get into a routine, a rhythm and a groove,'' Matthews said. ``I definitely felt that was the case the first time we played them. I want to break out a little bit of the rust, obviously, sitting out a few games, but there shouldn't be a drop-off.

``Hopefully, there isn't.''

Tormenting Cutler has become one of Matthews' favorite activities. He has six sacks in seven games against the Bear, and Cutler probably still has some bruises from their meeting in September. Matthews had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks, seven tackles - six of them solo - and also batted down a pass. The Bears managed just 168 yards in that game, a 23-10 Green Bay win that was even more lopsided than the score indicated.

Despite missing the last four games, Matthews still leads the Packers - and is tied for sixth in the NFC - with nine sacks.

``He's practicing today? That's good to know. We could use all the help we can get,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said in a conference call with Packers media. ``He's one of the best players in the league. That'll definitely give them a boost. They're a better football team with him on the football field.''

The Packers would be even better if Charles Woodson was ready to go, but coach Mike McCarthy said doctors decided the perennial Pro Bowler needs to give his broken collarbone another week to heal. Woodson practiced last week, and was hoping he'd be able to play against Chicago.

The Packers-Bears rivalry is the oldest in the NFL and, no question, its fiercest. Curly Lambeau and George Halas used to refuse to shake hands after games, and Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said Wednesday he's never disliked a team as much as the Packers.

That the Packers can clinch the division title has only added to the hype.

``Very frustrating day. Charles was ready to play, he's ready to go,'' McCarthy said. ``It's the judgment of our medical staff, in particular Dr. McKenzie. He does not feel it's in Charles' best interest to play in this game. Trust me, that's not easy. He's been preparing himself. He practiced last week. I know he's extremely frustrated.''

Matthews is anxious to get back on the field, too, but he knows he has to be smart about it. This is his third hamstring injury, and there's no sense getting back on the field if he's only going to have to come right back off a week or two later.

Especially with where the Packers are in the season.

Green Bay has been one of the hottest teams in the NFL after its 2-3 start, winning seven of its last eight. Not only are the Packers closing in on the division title, they still have a shot at the NFC's No. 2 seed - and the first-round bye that goes with it.

``I'm not going to put myself in an older category, but maybe a younger Clay might have pushed it a little too much in trying to get back out there,'' said Matthews, who is in his fourth season. ``But you have to realize the bigger picture here. ... With a few games left and an opportunity to clinch this thing, with an opportunity to get into the playoffs, ultimately that's the big picture. It's to get healthy and go into the last part of the season and playoffs full-strength and full-speed. Hopefully that's the case. Today was a good step.''

McCarthy said they'll see how Matthews responds the rest of the week. The Packers aren't practicing in pads at all this week, but they will be in shells Thursday and it will be their longest and hardest practice.

``The plan is for him to play in the game,'' McCarthy said. ``But that's why you practice. It's important to go through the process physically, mentally. ... We'll do our best to get him ready.''

Cutler might want to do the same.

Notes: OL T.J. Lang practiced after missing last week's game with an ankle injury. At his old left guard position, no less. Lang was shifted to right tackle after Bryan Bulaga suffered a season-ending hip injury Nov. 4 against Arizona. ``Today was the first day I really got to run around and plant on it, put weight on it,'' Lang said. ``I'm definitely feeling better each day. If I continue to make the improvements I'm making the past week, I feel pretty good about Sunday.'' ... McCarthy said WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is a ``longshot'' for Sunday's game. ... Jeff Saturday remains the starter though Evan Dietrich-Smith took snaps at center during practice.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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.

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2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is here with the annual showcase set for Los Angeles.

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

2018 NBA ALL-STAR GAME

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

ROSTERS

TEAM LEBRON:

Coach: Dwane Casey, Raptors
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Warriors
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Goran Dragic, Heat
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Paul George, Thunder
Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Kemba Walker, Hornets

TEAM STEPHEN:

Coach: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets
Stephen Curry, Warriors
James Harden, Rockets
Joel Embiid, 76ers
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves
Draymond Green, Warriors
Klay Thompson, Warriors
Al Horford, Celtics
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Three things to watch...

New format

The NBA switched it up this season by doing away with the traditional matchup between the East and West. The teams were instead chosen by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two top vote-getters in All-Star fan voting. The idea was to breath new life into the All-Star Game and hopefully make it more competitive. The league also installed a system where the winners each get $100,000, $75,000 more than the losing team. 

All pro sports leagues struggle drawing interest with their All-Star showcases. They are always trying to get ratings up and this is the latest ploy by the NBA. The new format is definitely intriguing, but whether it will have a major impact on the competition itself is hard to tell. We'll see how the fans respond.

RELATED: JOHN WALL GIVES UPDATE ON HIS REHAB

Reunion time

The teams picked by James and Curry will give fans some throwback combinations with former teammates back together again. Team LeBron is full of them. James will reunite with Kyrie Irving, who essentially forced his way out of Cleveland over the summer after the two combined to reach three straight NBA Finals and win one title.

We will also see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play together again. They of course teamed up to win a lot of games with the Oklahoma City Thunder before Durant signed with the Warriors. Westbrook will also be reunited with Victor Oladipo, who was traded from OKC to the Pacers over the summer.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's All-Star debut

Wizards fans will of course be focused on Bradley Beal, who is making his first All-Star appearance. He is Washington's lone representative, as John Wall is still recovering from left knee surgery.

Beal may not get many minutes on a stacked roster of guys who have been in the game before. If that happens, it's probably for the best. Beal is currently fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. He needs the rest if he can get it.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS