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Arizona's Washington emerging as one of NFL's best

Arizona's Washington emerging as one of NFL's best

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) While the team around him has stumbled through five straight losses, Arizona inside linebacker Daryl Washington is emerging in his third season as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

The former TCU star slipped to the second round of the 2010 draft because of concerns he wasn't big enough to play the position.

``Obviously,'' he said, ``I think I've proved them wrong.''

Washington has eight sacks, 72 unassisted (out of 79 total) tackles, nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

And he still has seven games to go.

``I look at the way he plays,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said, ``the speed, how he can avoid guys, the big sudden change plays that he makes, and it's very impressive.'

The Cardinals are looking awfully smart for locking the fleet 26-year-old up with a big contract before this season began. That six-year, $32.5 million deal - including a $2.5 million signing bonus and $10 million in other bonuses over the life of the deal, could be a bargain. He's making $2.5 million this year.

Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes has watched Washington's fast-track maturing through the usual troubles of a rookie season, to considerable growth in 2011 - to this year.

``This year he's just a different animal,'' Rhodes said. ``He knows everything. He's such a smart guy. He's very instinctive and he can make all the plays on the field. He could play safety. I think he understands football now. He's not just an athlete running around - which he's very good at - but he understands football now.''

Washington, 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, said he's heard the ``too small'' talk for years.

``That's always been motivating - to prove you wrong and continue to prove you wrong. People ask me all the time `What position do you play?' and I tell them what position I play and they kind of laugh and say `You don't play that position.' So it's more motivation than anything, just to continue to prove them wrong each and every game, each and every day.''

In 2010, the Cardinals traded up in the second round to get Washington, the 47th player chosen overall. Size was not a concern to the Cardinals, Whisenhunt said.

Washington's skills fit perfectly into Arizona's 3-4 defensive scheme, where players up front occupy the offense, freeing the inside linebacker to make the big plays.

``It's the coaching staff and the players around me that allow me to do what I do on the field,'' he said after the team practiced on Thursday. ``Without those guys, I wouldn't be in this situation getting all the excitement. So I really need to credit the whole defense and (defensive coordinator) coach Ray Horton.''

Whisenhunt isn't sure that other teams will sacrifice size for speed at inside linebacker, but it certainly works for the Cardinals.

``If you have that kind of guy then you have to have some guys up front that are unselfish, that do a good job of eating up some of those bigger linemen and give these guys the opportunity to make those plays in space,'' Whisenhunt said. ``He's a good fit for our team and what we're trying to do. Daryl, I think, would be good in any defense, but it's a good fit for what we do.''

Washington was named to numerous so-called midseason All Pro teams by various media outlets.

``It's not surprising at all because it's what I expect,'' he said. ``I expect to make plays and be a good player in this league, be one of those guys that they talk about for some time. So it's not surprising. It's much expected.''

He has no second thoughts about signing the new contract, even though he could well have made much more had he waited.

``I just wanted to make sure I knew where I was going to be for a long time,'' Washington said.

He said he's ``on the verge'' of reaching the numbers goals he set for himself before the season.

``Many times I mentioned I wanted 100-plus tackles, three interceptions, 10 sacks,'' he said. ``So far I've got 79, eight sacks, no interceptions, but two forced fumbles. So I'm on the verge with seven games to go. But I think the most important thing is accomplishing my goals as well as the team goals.''

And those team goals haven't gone so well. After a 4-0 start, Arizona has lost five straight going into Sunday's game at Atlanta, where the Cardinals are heavy underdogs.

``It's frustrating,'' Washington said. ``When people say `You're doing great, you're doing great individually.' Well, yeah, I'm not surprised by that. But those individual goals don't mean much if you're not winning.''

All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods are simply something he expects as his career progresses.

``I want those kinds of accolades,'' he said, ``but the most important thing is winning.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

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USA Today Sports

National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

In less than a month, the 2018 MLB All-Star game will take place at Nationals Park.

There are plenty of details that still need ironing out, but none are more important than the 64 players that will be taking the field at the Midsummer Classic.

Surely the Washington Nationals are hoping that many of their hometown stars will make the cut.

So, lets clear the air. How are the MLB All-Star rosters created? Well it is a combination of the fan vote, the player ballots, and the MLB Commissioners Office. No, it is not a 33-33-33 split, but rather a political (yet fair) process. Here is how it shakes out for there to be 32 players on each team:

  • Fan vote: eight position players in NL/ nine in AL (DH); plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 16 players in NL; 17 players in AL (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players) and five AL players (four pitchers, one position player)

Keep in mind, the MLB Commissioner’s Office merely is just there to ensure that there is one representative from all 30 MLB teams. Additionally, the player’s ballots are generally in-line with statistics and name recognition.

So let’s see how this shakes out for the National League All-Star Game roster. This factors in the latest fan vote returns:

National League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Buster Posey, Giants (Fan Vote), Wilson Contreras, Cubs (Player Ballot)
1B – Freddie Freeman, Braves (Fan Vote), Jose Martinez, Cardinals (Player Ballot), Justin Bour, Marlins (Commissioner’s Office)
2B – Ozzie Albies, Braves (Fan Vote), Scooter Gennett, Reds (Player Ballot)
3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Fan Vote), Kris Bryant, Cubs (Player Ballot)
SS – Brandon Crawford, Giants (Fan Vote), Chris Taylor, Dodgers (Player Ballot)
OF – Nick Markakis, Braves (Fan Vote), Bryce Harper, Nationals (Fan Vote), Matt Kemp (Fan Vote), Albert Almora Jr., Cubs (Player Ballot), Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (Player Ballot), Corey Dickerson, Pirates (Player Ballot), David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Commissioner’s Office), Christian Yelich (Commissioner’s Office)

SP – Max Scherzer, Nationals (Player Ballot), Sean Newcomb, Braves (Player Ballot), Jon Lester, Cubs (Player Ballot), Aaron Nola, Phillies (Player Ballot), Jacob deGrom, Mets (Player Ballot), Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Brad Hand, Padres (Player Ballot), Sean Doolittle, Nationals (Player Ballot), Josh Hader Brewers (Player Ballot), Wade Davis, Rockies (Commissioner’s Office), Kenley Jansen (Commissioner’s Office), Jeremy Jeffress (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Dave Roberts, Dodgers

After this, there will be one more player chosen by another fan vote. The MLB Commissioner’s Office, along with the manager, choses five players to be selected in the penultimate vote. 

This puts three Nationals on the All-Star team with the Braves leading the charge with five selections.

Now of course nothing ever goes to plan, but heck its baseball, not everyone will be happy.

MORE NATS NEWS: