Redskins

Texans look for more after clinching playoff berth

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Texans look for more after clinching playoff berth

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans aren't content with their accomplishments after clinching their second straight playoff berth over the weekend.

They plan to build on their franchise-best 11-1 start to improve their playoff position. The Texans are also dealing with mounting injuries in the secondary and to their linebackers.

``Now every time we step to the plate we can probably gain something else,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``So we just have to stay focused on that. Our last month is going to be difficult, but when it's difficult, that's what gives you the best chance to prepare to be a good football team in January.''

The first step is a Monday night matchup at New England. They'll have to face Tom Brady and the Patriots without cornerback Brice McCain, who will be placed on injured reserve list/designated for return after surgery to repair a broken left foot Monday.

Kubiak is concerned about facing a top quarterback with an injury-riddled and inexperienced secondary.

``Well it's Monday and it's scary so I'm sure it's going to be real scary getting toward the end of the week,'' he said only half-jokingly. ``We know we're going to play a great player and one of the top passing games in the business for a long, long time. It's a challenge.''

McCain, who has appeared in each game with two starts, is Houston's nickel cornerback. He was injured in the first half of the win at Tennessee on Sunday. By being placed on the designated to return list he must sit out eight weeks, which means the earliest he could play is if the Texans reach the Super Bowl.

Brandon Harris, a second-year player out of Miami, will fill in for McCain. Harris has seen limited action this season, appearing in just four games. They'll also look to fellow second-year player Roc Carmichael to help replace McCain.

``I liked what I saw from Brandon and Roc (Sunday),'' Kubiak said. ``Brandon's very competitive, has a lot of confidence ... and that's what you're looking for. They've got to rise to the occasion, and we can sure help them if we can rush the passer like we did (Sunday).''

The Texans bounced back from a pair of weak defensive performances to sack Jake Locker six times Sunday. Kubiak said the unit was helped by the return of nose tackle Shaun Cody, who missed the previous three games with a back injury. Another key to success was the development of linebacker Darryl Sharpton. Sharpton sat out the first nine games this season after tearing his right quadriceps last October.

``Getting Shaun Cody back gave us some versatility inside and took some snaps off some players, and we got our pass rush back,'' Kubiak said. ``I think a couple of things going on there helped us get back to playing our kind of football defensively. I think Sharpton's more comfortable, this is three games he has under his belt. And he's going to have to be, because he's going to be big going down the stretch here.''

Houston will be without linebacker Brooks Reed for another few weeks as he recovers from a groin injury. But the Texans could get several injured players back this week. Kubiak said starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, and linebacker Bradie James, out last week with a hamstring injury, will be listed as day to day this week.

Cornerback Alan Ball, who started for Joseph two weeks ago, also missed the Titans game with a sore foot, but should be ready for Monday night's game. Kubiak said the team is looking at their options in the secondary and could possibly add a player because they can't be as thin in that area as they were Sunday down the stretch.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.