Redskins

Arizona's Scott makes wait pay off

Arizona's Scott makes wait pay off

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Matt Scott entered his sophomore season as Arizona's starting quarterback, having no reason to believe it was anything but the start of three great years.

Instead, it lasted three games.

His job gone and his confidence almost shot, Scott decided to stick it out at Arizona, patiently waiting for his chance to come again.

It took more than two years, but Scott finally got it.

And, boy, did he make the most of it.

Shredding defenses with his arm and his legs, Scott developed into one of the nation's top quarterbacks his final season in the desert, securing his place in Arizona lore and possibly a spot in the NFL in a short period of time.

``Matt's played with a chip on his shoulder since we've been here and you can tell,'' said Rod Smith, Arizona's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

``His past experiences have driven him and he told me, `coach, I'm not relinquishing anything this year, I'll to be the best we've ever had.' He worked and prepared that way.''

It just took him a while to get there.

One of the nation's top quarterback recruits out of Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., Scott played sparingly as a freshman, but emerged from spring drills and preseason camp as the starter in 2009.

He started the first three games, but was replaced by Nick Foles after struggling against Iowa.

Foles went on to start the rest of the season and the two years after that, leaving Scott to mostly fill in as an injury replacement or in mop-up duty.

He did well in two starts after Foles was injured during the 2010 season, piling up 688 yards of combined total offense in games against Washington and UCLA. Mostly, though, he waited around, watching instead of playing, his confidence still dented from being benched so early in his career.

``It was real tough,'' Scott said. ``Coming out of high school, everybody is that guy and it's real hard to take a backseat to someone else. It was a real humbling experience for me.''

Scott got his chance to show what he could really do this season.

After a redshirt season in 2011, he was the undisputed starter entering this season after Foles was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Scott turned out to be a perfect fit for new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez's read-option offense.

An athletic 6-foot-3, Scott has a strong arm and can make every throw imaginable. He threw for 3,238 yards and 24 touchdowns, both third on Arizona's all-time single-season list.

Scott also was a dangerous runner, finishing as Arizona's second-leading rusher behind All-American Ka'Deem Carey, the FBS leader.

Scott had 3,723 total yards, second in Arizona history and seventh nationally this season, and had four of Arizona's top 10 single-game performances for total yards. Against Stanford, which has one of the nation's best defenses, he set school records by completing 45 of 69 passes and came close to another mark by throwing for 491 yards.

Not bad for a player who was mostly an unknown entity to Arizona's new coaching staff.

``Matt Scott is a stud,'' Rodriguez said earlier this season.

He's also pretty tough.

With depth issues on the offensive line, the Wildcats had a hard time protecting Scott. There were times when Arizona's coaches called fewer running plays for Scott to protect him and sometimes it didn't matter what they did.

He suffered a painful hip injury against Oregon early in the Pac-12 season, was knocked out of the game against Southern California and suffered a concussion against UCLA.

Other than the concussion, which caused him to sit out against Colorado, Scott kept getting back up, even vomiting on the field a couple of times before playing on.

``Even when we didn't run him, he took a beating,'' Smith said. ``But in college football, the quarterback is going to take a beating. But he's a tough kid. Never once did he ever want to sit out a game. He's one of those guys who just wants to play. If it's broke, he'll just cut it off and keep going.''

Now it's time for Scott to head off to his future,

Considered an average NFL prospect at the start of the season, Scott had scouts flowing to Arizona's games this season to get a look at his arm strength, decision-making and improvisational skills.

But for Scott, there's no time to think about that just yet.

He still has a final game to play.

After leading Arizona to seven wins in Rodriguez's first season, Scott will take the Wildcats to Albuquerque on Saturday night to face Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

No matter what happens in that game, Scott has already cemented his place in Arizona football history with a legacy that may be tough to match.

``Hopefully, they see me as one of the best quarterbacks to play here,'' Scott said. ``I only had one season to prove that, but I think we did prove a little something.''

He sure did. It just took a while to get his chance to do it.

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

SAN DIEGO -- Quiet finally settled over the downtown Hyatt in San Diego on Thursday morning. The baseball industry packed, then left, leaving behind every imaginable facet of the pro machine. Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke Wednesday and a report trying to explain fluctuations with the baseball was delivered. All 30 managers held media sessions across the three days. Recent graduates hunted starts to front office futures. Clubhouse attendants held a meeting of their brethren. Everyone was perpetually stuck in the slow-moving elevators.

In essence, the Nationals’ defense of their World Series title started in southern California while these events transpired around them. They made an enormous move by signing Stephen Strasburg. They continued to manage the third base market, watching warily as they tried to figure out how not to be left short after Anthony Rendon signed a long-term contract with Anaheim and the frenzy for Josh Donaldson began. The Nationals also still need bullpen help.

In addition, a new battle against complacency exists. What’s happening for the Nationals is an offseason unlike any other because they won, and its fresh dynamics include convincing someone full he is still hungry. Ways to do that? Subtle changed mixed with standard procedures. They hope.

Next season always comes calling, loaded with the same 162-game grind, even for those teams who were still pitching on Halloween. Recent champions -- in particular the Nationals -- deployed their starting pitchers differently in the postseason en route to a title. Patrick Corbin made three postseason starts and came out of the bullpen five times. An injection coupled with a chiropractic rescue enabled Max Scherzer’s Game 7 start. Stephen Strasburg threw more pitches than anyone in baseball. 

Boston eased its pitchers into the 2019 season and appeared to pay for it. Their starters rarely threw in spring training games after winning a championship. Three of them threw seven innings or fewer in games during the Grapefruit season. Scherzer threw 26 and 26 ⅔ innings, respectively, the last two spring trainings. So, Mike Rizzo expects standard programming in West Palm Beach, not additional rest.

“I just think that we remind them what we do this stuff for and the elation that we had I think is still going to be with us and for us to feel that way again, we know what it takes to get there,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long hard road and it’s a lot of work. It starts Day 1 spring training and ends the last game. That’s going to be our outlook. We’re going to prepare for spring training like we have every other year. We’re not going to be complacent because we played an extra month of baseball. We’re not going to make any adjustments for preparation of our pitchers.”

Davey Martinez made adjustments. He swung his coaching staff around, moving Bob Henley to first base, Chip Hale to third and Tim Bogar to bench coach. Why? In part to reboot the holdover staff before they begin working with the players.

“Complacency,” Martinez said. “Everybody talks about those World Series blues, and that’s one thing we don’t want. We don’t want to be complacent. There’s going to be a target on our back, so we’ve got to come out and be ready to play from day one. We want these guys to understand that. We’re not just going to sit around and say: ‘Well, we’ve got plenty of time.’ No, the time is from day one. We’re going to get ready for the season, and hopefully do it again.”

Martinez will work with the same premise at spring training: go 1-0. He can still ride other sayings -- like “win your day” -- but the large white flag which said “Conquer” in red letters and traveled with the team is probably due for retirement. “Stay in the fight” fell with the end of the regular season. “Fight finished” isn’t phrasing which can carry to a new season.

“The message is going to be clear: Hey, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year, that's for sure,” Martinez said. “So we've got to be ready to go from day one. With that being said, I want them to understand, hey, we're going to do business like we've done in the past, and we're just going to try to go 1-0 every day. Why change something that works?”

Why change? That’s the question, and the answer for the defending champions seems to be they don’t want to. Get ready. Stay ready. Try to do it again as if it never happened.

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