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S Zimmerman has No. 4 Kansas St defense dialed in

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S Zimmerman has No. 4 Kansas St defense dialed in

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Ty Zimmerman knows when to turn it up.

When practice is getting monotonous or his teammates on No. 4 Kansas State need a big stop on third down, the junior safety and team captain mimics the motion of twisting a dial.

``One day in practice, I saw some guys over there cranking it up,'' linebacker Arthur Brown said. ``They call it turning the tempo up. We just all seemed to gather together and rally around it. It's definitely been his leadership that has helped us propel as a defense.''

Though the gesture started with Zimmerman and fellow defensive back Allen Chapman, everyone on defense knows what it means now.

``It's just emphasizing we need to tune in, dial in and regain our focus,'' Brown said.

With four interceptions in the last four games, Zimmerman exemplifies the progress of a Kansas State secondary that was a perceived weakness after allowing 263.4 yards passing per game last season.

Kansas State hasn't allowed more than 21 points to any of its seven opponents this season, and that includes West Virginia. The Wildcats picked off Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith twice and limited him to 143 yards passing, his only touchdown toss coming when the Wildcats were well on their way to a 55-14 victory last Saturday.

Brown had one interception, Zimmerman the other.

``You look at that from most points of view, and that looks like it's going to be a big play for West Virginia, and all of a sudden here comes Ty,'' wide receiver Curry Sexton said. ``He just had himself into a good situation and kind of baited Geno into that throw, which is kind of what Ty does. He just puts himself in good situations.

``On top of that, Ty is a very athletic person. He has so many capabilities,'' Sexton said. ``He just has a presence on the field, more so than everything.''

That presence comes from being the son of a high school coach.

Zimmerman's father, Randall, is the head coach at nearby Junction City, and that means the young playmaker grew up with a front-row seat for the Wildcats.

``He wasn't recruited real highly,'' Randall Zimmerman said. ``He had a couple other options, but then when K-State came forward, offered him a gray shirt, he jumped on that right away. There was no question where he was going to go and what he was going to do.''

What Zimmerman would do - like so many other high school quarterbacks - was switch positions, and then excel at his new spot on the field.

``He has a tremendous capacity to be able to have a global understanding of both defenses and offenses,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``Coming from the offensive side of the ball to defense, you have a better understanding, particularly at that position, of what offenses do and what they are trying to do and how they go about doing it.''

Zimmerman already has nine interceptions in his career, putting him on pace to match the school record of 15 set by Jaime Mendez, a consensus All-American, from 1990-93. Snyder said he sees similarities between Zimmerman and Mendez, the former safety who played two decades ago and is now enshrined in Kansas State's Ring of Honor.

``Both of them are instinctive players,'' Snyder said. ``Jaime had a great feel for the game. I think Ty has a very positive feel for the game as well. Not just from their position standpoint, but a collective vision of both offense and defense. Both of them were good leaders in terms of being able to give guidance and direction to their teammates on the field, and both of them are young guys that worked hard and did everything right.''

Snyder and players are keeping the improvement of the secondary in perspective. West Virginia's passing offense was ranked second in the league last week. Now, Texas Tech has taken over that spot, and the Red Raiders come to Manhattan this Saturday.

``It gives us a lot of confidence, but we can't get too high on that,'' said Jarard Milo, who starts next to Zimmerman in the Kansas State defensive backfield. ``Obviously, we have a great team in Texas Tech coming in this week, who does the same things West Virginia can do, and so for us to be able to contain them, that's what we're looking into.''

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do. 

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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.