Capitals

QB Freeman wants slumping Bucs to finish strong

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QB Freeman wants slumping Bucs to finish strong

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Tampa Bay's postseason hopes have slipped away during a four-game losing streak that's also raised questions about whether Josh Freeman is the Buccaneers' quarterback of the future.

The fourth-year pro is closing in on becoming the first 4,000-yard passer in franchise history. Still, his inconsistency has created concerns about whether there is a limit to how good the Bucs can become with Freeman running an offense that sputtered again during a mistake-filled 41-0 loss to New Orleans.

The current skid ensures Tampa Bay (6-8) will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, yet Freeman said Monday there's still plenty to play for in the final two games of the team's first season under coach Greg Schiano.

The Bucs host St. Louis on Sunday, then finish at Atlanta.

``After every game we talk about just sticking together as a team,'' said Freeman, who threw four interceptions and also lost a fumble in his worst performance of the year against the Saints.

``You hate to see it come down to a game like that, but I think this is going to be a great time for our team to come together. We had a rough one. We dropped the ball, but now how do we respond to adversity? ... It's times like these when you really forge the nucleus of your team.''

Before Sunday, the Bucs had not lost a game by more than eight points. Schiano gave players Monday off in hopes that an extra day away from the practice field will help them get refocused for the Rams.

``I think our team is disappointed in what we did,'' Schiano said, explaining the decision to give the players the day following a game off for the first time all year.

``Thirteen games, every one of them either we won or it came down to a one possession game where we could have won if we had a possession to do it. That's competitive football,'' the coach added. ``And then we go out and throw our first clunker. ... But the sky's not falling. We've got a lot of good young players. We have some experienced really good players. We threw a clunker. Now, we've got to get over it.''

Freeman, who has one season remaining on a five-year contract that will pay him $8.43 million in 2013, said the remaining two weeks are about getting better.

He vowed to clean up the mistakes he made against the Saints, miscues he attributed mostly to some ``miscommunication'' between him and his receivers.

``I've got to communicate better, I've got to make sure everybody's on the same page, make sure everybody's doing exactly what they need to do,'' Freeman said, adding that he's also committed to making sure the team's preparation and effort doesn't suffer now that Tampa Bay is out of playoff contention.

``As a quarterback that's what I do every day. Everybody has their own style of leadership, but to the best of my ability I try to convey the message of do your job, sacrifice for your brothers,'' Freeman said.

``Even late in the game, guys were still trying to do everything they could to get something going. It says a lot about the character of the guys on our team. Even when the game's out of hand and things aren't going great, guys are still giving effort,'' Freeman added. ``There's no quit in this team. As the quarterback, as the captain, as a leader, it's great to see that. It makes it that much easier to motivate guys and lead.''

Schiano reiterated that while Freeman can play better than he has the past month, he's not concerned about his young quarterback, who's completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 3,471 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Two years ago, Freeman led the Bucs to 10 wins in his first full season as a starter, throwing for 25 TDs against six interceptions and narrowly missing the playoffs.

The 24-year-old took a step back in 2011, throwing for 16 TDs and 22 interceptions en route to a 4-12 record that included a 10-game losing streak to end the season.

``If Josh Freeman wasn't coming in and just spending all kinds of time, and I wasn't getting texts ... asking questions at 10 o'clock at night about coverages and things like that, then yeah I'd have reason to be concerned,'' Schiano said.

``But I know everybody goes through better times and lesser times. I also know that those who persevere, those who work and tend to their knitting, are going to be fine,'' the coach added. ``Josh is tending to his knitting, so we're going to be fine. Just collectively we've got to fight our way out.''

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, 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.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS 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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 19, seven days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

We know what to expect out of many members of the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan will register between 10 and 13 sacks. Zach Brown will be among the league leaders in tackles. Jamison Crowder will compile about 800 yards receiving. But we really don’t know what to expect out of a lot of the players expected to play key roles. Here are five of them.

S Montae Nicholson—Although most of the uncertainty surrounding Nicholson is about his health, we really don’t know what he can do over a full season. Sure, he looked good in the six games he played last year but opposing offenses did not have much of a chance to probe his weaknesses. If he stays healthy, his ability to adjust to what the offenses are doing against him will be the next phase of his development. 

CB Fabian Moreau—As a rookie, he was impressive as a punt team gunner, but he got very limited playing time on defense (59 snaps, only seven after Week 5). The Redskins will be counting on him stepping into a bigger role after the departures of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. He has the tools but we won’t know how well he can handle the job until he gets extended playing time. 

WR Maurice Harris—Last year he went from spectacular to invisible in a hurry. He made a sensational catch for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings the first time he was targeted. In five games after that, he had just three receptions for 26 yards. Should he have had more playing time (76 snaps)? Or did he just not earn more targets? The real Maurice Harris should come to the forefront in 2018.

NT Phil Taylor—You know the story here. He was looking great in training camp until a quad injury sidelined him for the season. Taylor is healthy enough for the Redskins to give him another chance but this is a player who has not taken the field since November of 2014. We simply don’t know what to expect out of him even if he does make into Week 1 in good health. 

RB Samaje Perine—His play improved as the year went on but he wasn’t good enough to keep both Jay Gruden and Doug Williams from saying that running back is a draft need. Ideally, he shares carries with the probable draft pick with a few going to Chris Thompson and they combine to rush for 1,800 yards. 

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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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 33
—Training camp starts (7/26) 98
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 143

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