Redskins

Bengals coach Lewis challenges Dalton, Maualuga

Bengals coach Lewis challenges Dalton, Maualuga

CINCINNATI (AP) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis publicly challenged quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga on Wednesday to become more forceful leaders on their 3-4 team.

The move was out of character for Lewis, who prefers to handle things quietly and internally. It underscored the Bengals' predicament approaching the season's midpoint - it's time to start winning or else.

``We've wallowed around here in mediocrity,'' Lewis said. ``Let's go. That's the thing we've got to do.''

Cincinnati has lost three in a row heading into home games against the Denver Broncos (4-3) and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants (6-2). The Bengals went 9-7 and got a wild card berth last season, when Dalton was a rookie and Maualuga was in his first season at middle linebacker.

With this season starting to slip away, Lewis challenged the two young players - Maualuga is in his fourth season overall - to step up.

``We're looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team, and I think that's important for us,'' Lewis said. ``I think both guys are such good people, that you've got to be a little bit of a (jerk). You do.

``Andy has a great deal of confidence, self-confidence, internal confidence, confidence in the guys around him. But at some point you step out of your skin and you go. And it's time to go.''

Lewis' comments weren't off-the-cuff. He said essentially the same things during a conference call with writers in Denver, making a point to challenge the quarterback and the linebacker.

Lewis has defended Maualuga as the defense struggled this season. The linebacker said he feels he has the support of Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He accepted Lewis' comments as a challenge to become a more vocal.

``So I guess it is my opportunity - not like it was never given to me but at the same time, time to be a jerk, time to get in the middle of that defense and start spicing things up and get everybody running around and be on the same page,'' Maualuga said. ``A quote that coach (Lewis) gave me before I came to the facility: `The rate of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader.'

``So I think the quicker I get things going, the quicker I get things riled up, the more people will buy into it and the more we can get things started and get going. I love the opportunity and the challenge, so I'll give it everything I've got.''

Dalton was reluctant to assume a leadership role last season, when he was a rookie learning the offense as he went along. He left it up to other veterans to take charge, concentrating on what he had to do to learn the position.

Lewis wants Dalton to start taking a bigger role in making sure everyone on the offense is doing things correctly.

``The natural progression of it,'' Dalton said. ``As a rookie, you come in and you are meeting new people. Now, second year, it is your offense. It is your team. That is how I've got to treat it.

``He just wants some fire out there, making sure we are perfect in practice in everything we are doing. I am not too worried about what he said. It's just he expects a lot out of us.''

The coaching staff talked to him during the bye week about taking on a more prominent role.

``We're looking for Andy to take the next step of being the leader of this football team,'' Lewis said. ``A confident, vocal (leader) if it needs to be, but grab this football team by the back of its neck and let's go. Let's move forward.''

Notes: DT Pat Sims returned to practice Wednesday on a three-week roster exemption. Sims hasn't played because of a hamstring injury on July 26th. He can practice for three weeks before the Bengals have to decide whether to add him to the 53-man active roster. ... C Kyle Cook will have a pin removed from his right ankle within the next week, giving the Bengals a better idea of whether he'll be able to return this season. He hurt the ankle in the final preseason game. He went on the injured reserve list with the option of returning during the season if he's healthy.

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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