Bama's quiet Mosley becomes latest LB star


Bama's quiet Mosley becomes latest LB star

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is smaller than Dont'a Hightower and isn't as much of a vocal leader. He's not a fierce pass rusher like Courtney Upshaw or a dominant all-around player like Rolando McClain.

The different style and personality clearly haven't stopped Mosley from becoming the top-ranked Crimson Tide's latest star linebacker.

The junior has emerged from the shadows of those predecessors - all now in the NFL - to become the on-field leader of the nation's top scoring defense. He has been steady enough for the coaches to name him a defensive player of the week five games running.

Defensive end Damion Square raves about Mosley's athleticism.

``C.J. is awesome, man,'' Square said. ``C.J. is one of those guys that I haven't seen before. He has great athletic ability, he escapes a lot of situations that a lot of guys can't escape. And he does things, you know, he just pops up when the ball is thrown to the flats. And he finds the end zone some type of way. Every year he's been here, he finds out how to get to the end zone in big games and big situations. So C.J. is a great player. He got recruited to come here and be a great player and he's living up to it.''

Mosley's 39 tackles is two more than he had last season and 15 better than Alabama's No. 2 tackler, fellow linebacker Nico Johnson. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the opener against Michigan, picking up where he left off in the national championship game when he injured his hip on a return of a pick against LSU's Jordan Jefferson.

Mosley returned a pair of interceptions for scores as a freshman.

The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Mosley and Johnson are the veterans of the linebacking corps with Hightower and Upshaw going among the top 35 selections in the NFL draft.

``C.J's a good player for us,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``His greatest asset is his athleticism and his instincts. He can run. He's a good cover guy. He's got really good ball skills. He fits the runs a lot better. He's gotten bigger and stronger so he's better against the run. He's just great when we play nickel. He's very productive.

``He's the most productive player we have on defense right now in terms of production points, because he's such a playmaker. He doesn't say much but if you just match his intensity and match the way he does things, I think his leadership is effective as well.''

Teammates say that Mosley is speaking up more and filling some of the leadership void left by Hightower, a two-time team captain who was a first-round pick by the New England Patriots.

``C.J.'s a big person on our defense,'' cornerback Dee Milliner said. ``He knows that, so he just steps up and talks to us and tries to lead by example and by talking. He's just stepping up this year and being more of a vocal leader rather than just trying to lead by example.''

Mosley has split time with Johnson much of his career. Johnson's the run-stopper and Mosley excels when the Tide has five defensive backs on the field.

Mosley appears to finally have convinced Saban he's more valuable than just the nickel.

``Well, I've been trying to show it since I got here, so I guess it's starting to wear off on him a little bit,'' Mosley said, smiling. ``So, hopefully, I'll stay on the field more.''

He said he's not worried about his streak of player of the week honors ending.

``I'm just trying to stay on the field as much as possible, and when I do I'm just trying to make plays when I can, just to help the team, just to keep the defense going and the team going,'' Mosley said.

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Packers

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Packers

Here is what you need to know on Wednesday, September 19, four days before the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers  

Talking points

The Redskins are taking on the Packers on Sunday and here is a look at what I found out taking a first look at them. 

It’s all about Aaron Rodgers

You can argue about who the best QB in the game is, but you can’t argue that the Packers are a Super Bowl contender with Rodgers and a sub-.500 team without him. No player carries his team to the extent that Rodgers does. We will see what pops up on the injury report regarding Rodgers after that Week 1 knee injury, but it would be foolish to expect anything other than him taking every snap. 

The Packers’ offensive line is a notch below that of the Redskins

They have a pair of quality tackles in LT David Bakhtiari and RT Bryan Bulaga. But they don’t have a Brandon Scherff equivalent on the inside. Between the line and Rodgers’ mobility (which is somewhat in question due to the condition of his knee), they manage to avoid sacks so don’t look for a pass rush that has been struggling to get better against Green Bay. 

Green Bay’s leading rusher is averaging 3.4 yards per carry

Jamaal Williams in the only Packer who is has more than seven rushing attempts. In two games, Green Bay’s 2017 fourth-round pick has 31 carries for 106 yards with a long run of 11. They use converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery as a change of pace back; he has seven carries for 38 yards (5.4 ypc). 

There are solid players on every level of the Packers’ defense

At age 32, Clay Matthews is not the player who made six Pro Bowls and posted double-digit sacks four times from 2009-2015. But it would be inaccurate to say that he’s a shadow of his former self. He has had trouble staying on the field the last couple of years but when he’s healthy, which he is now, he gets pressure. The Redskins wanted to sign DL Sheldon Richardson, a top-notch run stuffer, this offseason but he went to Green Bay. At safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has 12 interceptions in four-plus years in the league, including one off of Kirk Cousins last week. 

Ball control will not be enough

The conventional wisdom when it comes to beating the Packers is to control the ball with runs and short passes and keep Rodgers on the sideline. Well, that formula didn’t work for the Redskins against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Washington had the ball for 33 minutes, but red zone problems doomed them. They will have to score touchdowns to win on Sunday. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Packers have only one loss in a game that Rodgers started and finished where their opponent scored fewer than 30 points. As the fight song goes, the points will have to soar if the Redskins are going to have a chance to hail victory. 

Injuries of note

RB Rob Kelly was put on injured reserve with a toe injury. He is a candidate to return from injured reserve after he misses at least eight games. 

The agenda

Today: Alex Smith press conference 12 noon; Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Upcoming: Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 4; Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 19; Cowboys @ Redskins 32

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler is locked into the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

Stephen Strasburg matched his season-high with 11 strikeouts and Bryce Harper tied a career-high with five walks as the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 Tuesday night.

Anthony Rendon drove in two runs for the Nationals (77-75), who entered Tuesday's game 7 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and 7 games back in the race for the final wild-card spot.

Strasburg (9-7) pitched six innings and allowed two runs and five hits with two walks. At one point, he struck out six consecutive batters.

Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 26 opportunities.

Peter O'Brien hit his third home run of the season and J.T. Realmuto had two hits and knocked in a run for the Marlins.

Adam Eaton and Trea Turner had consecutive RBI singles in the second inning to give the Nationals an early lead.

O'Brien's solo homer off Strasburg cut the Marlins' deficit to 2-1.

Rendon's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-1, but Realmuto pulled Miami within 3-2 with a base hit in the fifth.

Rendon's single in the sixth pushed Washington's advantage to 4-2.

Sandy Alcantara pitched four innings for the Marlins and allowed six hits, six walks, and three runs.


Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.53 ERA) will begin a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham (0-2, 7.36) will take the mound on Thursday when Miami begins the final home series of the season, a four-game set against Cincinnati.