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Arizona's Horton could be future NFL head coach

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Arizona's Horton could be future NFL head coach

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) In a miserable season for his Arizona Cardinals, defensive coordinator Ray Horton is nonetheless a rising star in NFL coaching circles.

Expect Horton to be interviewed for some head coaching positions this offseason. Perhaps even in Arizona, should the Bidwill family decide to fire coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Horton was saying all the right things Friday after the team's final practice of the season.

``I would say today all I'm trying to do today is be the best D-coordinator in the league,'' he said. ``I didn't do it because we didn't accomplish our goals and the rest of that stuff kind of takes care of itself. Usually teams that win more are rewarded that way.''

But he did acknowledge it's every coach's goal to someday get the top job.

``That's what you're trying for,'' he said, ``and if you prepare well you should be ready.''

Last year, after his first season as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, he was interviewed for the St. Louis job that eventually went to Jeff Fisher. Horton said there's no secret to having a good job interview.

``I think if you're confident in what you do, probably every interview would be good,'' he said. ``I think I'm prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and everything that goes along with whatever that entails.''

Horton was an assistant at Pittsburgh when Whisenhunt tabbed him to be Arizona's third defensive coordinator in five years. Horton has a year left on his contract, meaning he couldn't leave for another coordinator's job without the Cardinals' permission. He could, however, leave to take a head coaching job. His players certainly believe in him. Defensive end Calais Campbell says Horton would be an ``awesome'' head coach.

``I wouldn't be surprised if he had a lot of different offers because he's very talented at what he does,'' Campbell said. ``He's smart, he understands the game, he's a great motivational speaker. I think he'll make a great head coach. He has that passion for winning.''

There hasn't been much winning in Arizona, though. The Cardinals, after a 4-0 start, have dropped 10 of 11 and are huge underdogs at San Francisco. The problems almost entirely are the fault of the offense, especially poor play at quarterback. Arizona is starting Brian Hoyer at the position on Sunday less than three weeks after he was picked up on waivers from Pittsburgh.

The defense, on the other hand, ranks 12th in the NFL overall and is third against the pass.

The Cardinals' 22 interceptions are second in the NFL, one behind Chicago. Their 33 takeaways rank fourth in the league. Their opponent passer rating (68.5) is first in the NFL and their opponent completion percentage (54.1) is second only to Houston (53.2). Their 37 sacks are tied for 10th. The defensive superlatives, however, do not include run defense. The Cardinals are 28th in the NFL in that category.

Still, Horton gives his defense a B-plus for its performance.

``Personally I would have liked to have seen a couple of shutouts and maybe a couple of other scoring opportunities that we could have helped the offense,'' he said. ``Probably over the season I'd probably take back no more than five plays, less than a handful, that I would love to call again.''

Horton said there was never a serious rift between the defense and offense, despite the stark differences in the performances of the two units. He credited the makeup of his team.

``They are highly motivated and inspired,'' he said. ``They play for themselves, meaning they have a lot of personal pride in their performance.''

Whisenhunt gave the defense an overall good review.

``You'd have to say the defense has played well,'' he said. ``I mean, we haven't done as good a job against the run game as we need to, but as far as turnovers and keeping us in games and making plays and scoring, the defense has done a great job.''

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Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

The 2019-20 season for the Wizards can be viewed as somewhat of a gap year, in that they hope their current organizational reset doesn't take long. It seems to be their goal to be back in the playoff mix next season with John Wall back and Bradley Beal operating through his prime.

Their best path towards doing that may look a lot like the team they face on Wednesday night, the Miami Heat (7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington). After missing the playoffs last season with a 39-43 record, the Heat are now 30-13 and second in the Eastern Conference.

The jump they have made is unusual, so don't focus too much on the standings. Instead look at how they have improved and how parallels could be drawn to the Wizards.
The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, an All-Star wing who is a level above everyone else on their roster. The same could be said about Bradley Beal.

They have a point guard in Goran Dragic, who is still effective despite not being the 20-point scoring All-Star he used to be, now that he's lost a step. The way he plays could be a reasonable expectation for Wall as he works his way back to All-Star form coming off an Achilles injury.

Miami has assembled a deep and multidimensional roster around them. They have an ascending young frontcourt player in Bam Adebayo. Rui Hachimura could follow a similar trajectory, albeit as a different style of player.

Miami also has an array of shooters. Duncan Robinson was undrafted, then signed to a two-way contract. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are rookies. The Wizards have their own group of emerging perimeter threats in Davis Bertans, Garrison Mathews and Jordan McRae.

The way the Heat win is with an efficient offense that includes deadly-accurate outside shooting and a slightly above average defense. They rank seventh in offensive rating (111.7) and 13th in defensive rating (108.1). And they are second in the NBA in three-point percentage (37.6) and eighth in threes made (12.7/g).

The Wizards are, of course, nowhere near even average on defense. Their defensive rating is 30th in the NBA and they possess none of the traits that make the Heat the defensive team they are. Miami, for instance, is first in opponent three-point percentage (32.7) and also first in defensive rebounding (32.3).

The Wizards, though, do already check off some boxes on offense. They are 11th in offensive rating (110.7) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.5). 

The Wizards have a long way to go to reach Miami's level, but the Heat's approach in a macro sense could be worth following and especially once Wall returns. Though Butler is their clear-cut best player, he only attempts 13.4 shots per game, second-most on the team. Dragic, despite being a former All-Star, takes only 12.1 per game.

The Wizards have long done things differently. Back in 2016-17, when they had their best season in many years, Wall averaged 18.4 shots and Beal took 17.2 per game.

Despite taking fewer shots, Butler is still able to put up numbers. He is averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. Combined with his defense, that is plenty to compete for the All-Star team and maybe even All-NBA honors. Meanwhile, he gets credit for being the face of a winning team.

The Heat have a roster that is a bit top-heavy that has been filled out nicely with unheralded moves and young players. That is how the Wizards' roster might be described a year from now. In order to make it work and win some games, they might want to pay attention to how Miami is doing it.

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'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

One of the first things some Nationals fans noticed about PlayStation's trailer for the "MLB The Show 20," which was released Wednesday, was the inclusion of the "Soto Shuffle" after Juan Soto takes a ball.

Back in November one (possibly psychic?) Nationals fan tweeted his hope that the newest edition of the game would include Soto's iconic move at the plate, which the outfielder uses to psych-out opponents.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas wasn't too happy with the "Soto Shuffle," but Soto never stopped the move.  

According to the preview, the new video game also includes a Trea Turner dugout dance party at Nationals Park and former National Anthony Rendon in his new Los Angeles Angels garb.

No word yet as to whether Gerardo Parra's "Baby Shark" or Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick's "Clutch and Drive" made the cut. 

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