Capitals

Saints looking to win out, playoffs or not

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Saints looking to win out, playoffs or not

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints guard Jahri Evans acknowledges a measure of regret that it took so long - probably too long - for New Orleans to resemble the playoff contender it had been the previous three seasons.

``We knew the talent we had in the locker room and definitely displayed yesterday. We wish could have done that a little bit earlier in the season,'' Evans said Monday, a day after the Saints turned in by far their most complete game of the season in a 41-0 rout of NFC South rival Tampa Bay.

``You definitely saw a glimpse of what we were trying to do going into the season and what we knew we had in this locker room and hopefully we can keep it going, finish strong and take it into next year.''

When the Saints kick off at Dallas next Sunday, they will still be mathematically alive for the last NFC wild card berth, but also facing exceedingly long odds.

To make the playoffs, the Saints will have to win their last two games against the Cowboys and at home against Carolina, and need eight games involving other teams to go their way during the final two weeks.

Specifically, New Orleans also will need the Cowboys to lose their season finale against Washington, St. Louis to lose one of its last two games, and Minnesota, Chicago and the New York Giants to all lose their final two games.

If it happens, the Saints will finish in a five-way tie at 8-8 and incredibly sneak into the playoffs based on a series of tiebreakers.

They would welcome that, of course, but they're certainly not deluding themselves. Rather, they're talking about building for next season as if they've already been eliminated.

``It's sad that it's a little late in the season'' for the Saints to play their best football, said defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had a sack, strip and fumble recovery on the same play against the Buccaneers.

``It's nice to see we're capitalizing on the potential that everybody saw in us this past game, but we should have showed that earlier.

``Most definitely it's a pride issue right now,'' Jordan added. ``I'd love to break even. We're 6-8 right now. Two games left. I'd love to get these last two wins.''

The Saints piled up lopsided wins through much of past three seasons, which including a Super Bowl title, two divisional titles and three straight trips to the postseason. The Saints had 13-win regular seasons in both 2009 and 2011, along with an 11-win run in 2010.

But in the spring of 2012, the Saints became embroiled in scandal, losing head coach Sean Payton for an entire season in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation. General manager Mickey Loomis got an eight-game ban and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games.

While suspensions for two current Saints defensive captains, linebacker Jon Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, were ultimately thrown out, their legal effort to overturn their punishment hung over the franchise all the way through Week 14.

Now the Saints, who won more games than any NFL team from 2009 to 2011, can't finish better than .500 in the 2012 regular season.

Still, after their rout of the Buccaneers, an 8-8 finish hardly seems out of the question.

The Saints' defense, which allowed 400 yards or more in each of the first 10 games, has not allowed 400 yards in a game since and has posted the first shutout of any Saints team since 1995.

``When you get off to the rocky start we did, it's human nature and I don't blame guys one bit to have a little bit of doubt,'' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. ``These guys have never given up. ... They've embraced it, even through some down times, because certainly in this business it's all about winning and I don't think anybody here feels like we've won enough. But after yesterday, I would hope that there's a lot more comfort and confidence.''

The Saints' offense also looked as if it was back to its old prolific self, accounting for 447 yards, including 149 on the ground against Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked run defense, which came in allowing only 78.2 yards per game. Drew Brees threw for 307 yards and four TDs.

``We've got a lot of guys that have a lot of want-to on this team and have a lot of pride,'' Vitt said. ``It was a good team win and we probably put together four quarters as well as we have all year long.''

Now the question is whether the Saints can carry it forward against a Dallas squad in a playoff hunt of its own. As far as Evans is concerned, New Orleans' motivation remains high, regardless of playoff scenarios.

``As long as there are games to be played there are games to be won,'' Evans said. ``It's never too late to play well.''

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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