Virginia has new theory on QBs: Let's play 2

Virginia has new theory on QBs: Let's play 2

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia coach Mike London finally settled the Cavaliers' dual quarterback situation, deciding to play both Phillips Sims and Michael Rocco - and the system has received strong initial reviews.

The Cavaliers (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) got touchdown passes from both quarterbacks last week in ending a six-game losing streak with a 33-6 victory on the road at North Carolina State.

London says both will play again Saturday when Virginia hosts Miami (5-4, 4-2).

``Both guys have things that they do, different skill sets that they bring to the table. Michael is a guy that's been in the offense, knows the offense,'' London said of Rocco, who started all last season.

``Phillip has a strong arm and is kind of learning on the job, so to speak. And he has some skills himself that we like, and can get the ball to some of the other playmakers,'' London said.

The arrangement works for Sims, a transfer from Alabama who arrived last May and took over as the starter four games ago. He struggled, but said lots of reps in an off week helped iron some things out.

``Especially in a timing-oriented offense like ours, you have to have reps,'' he said. ``And not only just reps within the offense, reps with certain receivers, because everybody runs routes differently.

``No matter how much you try to teach all your receivers to run routes at the same time and at the same yard distance, everything like that, everybody runs routes a little distinctly.''

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's game plan also helped, Sims said.

``The play-calling got me into a good rhythm early,'' he said of his 8-for-10 passing day for 115 yards with a 38-yard TD to Tim Smith. ``Just quick passes to get the ball out of my hands real quick and get guys the ball in space. It got me into a rhythm early, and it just carried on throughout the game.''

The Cavaliers need to beat the Hurricances, North Carolina and in-state rival Virginia Tech to have a chance of going to a bowl game, and the Hurricanes bring their own intrigue to the noon matchup.

They lead the conference's Coastal Division and would win it if they beat Virginia and then Duke next weekend. But the school still hasn't determined if it plans to accept any postseason invitation or self-impose a ban as it did last season because of an ongoing NCAA investigation into its compliance practices.

A victory would make Miami eligible for a bowl game, moving the Hurricanes closer to the ACC title game and potentially a spot in the Orange Bowl. So this year, the decision figures to be even more difficult, either for the school to make or for fans - if another self-imposed ban comes - to accept.

``I'll definitely have mixed emotions,'' Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said. ``I'm not in control of that. No one on this team is.''

Miami has more pressing concerns than anything that goes past Saturday: Virginia has beaten the Hurricanes in their last two meetings; and Miami's defense will likely be without linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) after safety Deon Bush (shoulder) was already been ruled out of the contest.

Virginia will be without freshman defensive end Eli Harold for an issue described as ``medical.''

With the Cavaliers suddenly clinging to their own bowl hopes, they have the Hurricanes' attention.

``We know we'll get their best,'' Miami safety A.J. Highsmith said. ``But we've got motivation as well.''

And the Cavaliers' two-quarterback approach only adds further intrigue.

``They're both good,'' second-year Hurricanes coach Al Golden said. ``Obviously, they've won with both of them. They're hitting their outlets. They'll throw it to the two tailbacks out of the backfield.

``I'm sure (Virginia) sees them differently in terms of how they operate. But right now we're just preparing for the totality of the Virginia offense, not really just one quarterback or the other.''


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.


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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Still too close to call in the Metropolitan Division


Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Still too close to call in the Metropolitan Division

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner and there is still a lot to be decided.

The Metropolitan Division is going to come right down to the wire as each team seemingly continues to win and put the pressure on the first place Capitals.

With just over two weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff matchups for the first round of the NHL playoffs are still up in the air with only five points separating the top four teams in the Metro. Washington is in good position with a four-point cushion between themselves and the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. With both teams meeting on April 1, however, the Caps are still a long way off from clinching the division and earning home ice in the first round.


Metropolitan Division
1. Washington (93 points, 74 GP, 40 ROW)
W1. Philadelphia (88 points, 75 GP, 36 ROW)

2. Pittsburgh (89 points, 74 GP, 40 ROW)
3. Columbus (89 points, 75 GP, 36 ROW)

Atlantic Division
1. Tampa Bay (106 points, 74 GP, 45 ROW)
W2. New Jersey (82 points, 73 GP, 32 ROW)

2. Boston (100 points, 72 GP, 42 ROW)
3. Toronto (95 points, 74 GP, 37 ROW)

Still in the hunt:
Florida (81points, 72 GP, 34 ROW)


Washington has won only one out of four games against the Philadelphia Flyers this season. That's not an ideal first-round matchup for Washington, but there is still time for the Flyers to climb and overtake Columbus or Pittsburgh in the standings..

What seems unlikely to happen is for New Jersey or Florida to pass Philadelphia. While things remain close near the top of the standings, there seems to be a growing divide between the top-four teams in the Metropolitan Division and the two teams battling for the final remaining spot in the playoffs.

The Flyers may be in fourth place in the division, but they still boast a healthy six-point lead over the Devils who sit in the second wild card.

If we assume New Jersey and Florida will not be able to climb to any postseason position, but the second wild card, that makes the three most likely candidates to face Washington in the first round Pittsburgh, Columbus and Philadelphia.

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Need to Know: Redskins likely to return at least 16 of their 22 starters from last year

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Need to Know: Redskins likely to return at least 16 of their 22 starters from last year

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 23, 34 days before the NFL draft.  

Stability at the top of the depth chart

A Redskins defense that ranked 27th in total defense and was dead last against the run is likely to return nine or 10 of the players who were the primary starters in 2017. The Washington defense, which was 16th overall and 27th running the ball, will certainly return seven starters and could have eight the same as last year.

I’m sure that this will alarm many Redskins fans, but it shouldn’t. Before getting into that, let’s look at the changes.

On defense, the nine starters who are assured of returning are DE Stacy McGee, DL Jonathan Allen, OLB Preston Smith, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Mason Foster, CB Josh Norman, S Montae Nicholson, and S D.J. Swearinger.

As of right now, a tenth returning starter has to be penciled in at nose tackle. Yes, if the season started today it would be Ziggy Hood at nose tackle again. More on that in a minute.

The only starting spot that is certain to turn over is the cornerback opposite Norman. Even though Bashaud Breeland’s contract agreement with the Panthers fell through due to a failed physical he is much more likely to land on another NFL team than he is to return to the Redskins.

It is impossible to think that the Redskins will not do something to address the nose tackle position, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency. Then again, it’s impossible to believe they have run the 3-4 defense since 2010 without coming up with a long-term solution at the nose.

On offense, the seven starters certain to return are WR Josh Doctson, WR Jamison Crowder, OT Trent Williams, C Chase Roullier, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses, and TE Jordan Reed. RB Samaje Perine could be an eighth returning starter depending on if the Redskins take a running back early in the draft.

The new starters will be QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, and someone at left guard.

Having between 16 and 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-9 in 2017 may not be enough turnover for some fans. That’s not a completely unreasonable point of view. However, there is such thing as having too much churn in your starting lineup and some stability for the Redskins may be a good thing this year.

They had five new starters on defense last year and a new defensive coordinator. They also had a new coordinator on offense along with two new wide receivers and, by midseason, changes in the starters at running back and center. This is not counting all of the on-the-fly changes that had to be made due to injuries.

Continuing to make changes in the starting lineup is not always a recipe for success. Sometimes you just need to pick a group of players and, to the extent that you can in the free agency-salary cap world of the NFL, stick with them. Sure, you have to address weakness like nose tackle and possibly running back and fill holes created by free agency departures. However, it is often better to give a player time to acclimate to a system and, especially with a rookie, time to learn the fine points of the game.

Tearing things down and starting over again after a mediocre season is a recipe for, well, more mediocre seasons.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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In response to a tweet about this article that said that the Redskins led the league in losing important players in injuries:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 25
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 127
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 171

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