Capitals

Brees aside, Giants prepare for Saints RBs, too

Brees aside, Giants prepare for Saints RBs, too

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There's more to the New Orleans Saints offense than Drew Brees these days, and the New York Giants know it.

While ranked 27th in the league in rushing, the Saints have a four-headed run attack that has averaged nearly 120 yards in the last five games.

If Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram get going on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Brees is going to have another big game and the Giants (7-5) may not find themselves alone in first place in the NFC East afterward.

The Giants have been shaky against the run of late. Washington gained 207 yards rushing last week with running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin III combining for 196. The Redskins gained 151 in the second half.

In four of New York's losses, the opposition has rushed for at least 100.

``A lot of people talk about their pass game and that's what a lot of people focus on,'' Giants linebacker Michael Boley said. ``But they run the ball very well. They have four backs that can run it and they do a good job of putting those guys in good situations.''

Coach Tom Coughlin said the Saints also have a big offensive line that can open holes as well as protect Brees.

``We've been victimized by that before,'' Coughlin said. ``They rush the ball very well and the fullback (Jed Collins) is a good player.''

Linebacker-defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka said some of the pre-play responsibility in defending opponents falls to veteran cornerback Corey Webster. It's his job to see who is coming on and off the field and to call it out to the defense. If Sproles is in the game, for example, there's a good chance he'd be an option for a pass out of the backfield.

``I don't want to repeat myself, but it's the same thing: You have to stop the run. You have to defend the pass and you have to get to the quarterback,'' Kiwanuka said. ``If you don't stop the run, no team is going to throw the ball. But they are very effective at both. It all comes back to us as a defensive squad. If we play the way we can and everybody plays with the intensity we had a few weeks ago, we'll be fine.''

The Saints, who likely need to win out to have a postseason chance, have had their way offensively with the Giants recently. They posted a 48-27 win in 2009 and ripped New York 49-24 last season. Brees threw eight touchdowns and no interceptions in those wins.

``I wanted to forget about that game because they kicked the (stuffing) out of us,'' Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of last year's contest. ``We have a chance to defend them this time and we're doing everything that we possibly can, watching as much tape, getting as many tips as we can in order to be able to compete with these guys this year.

``They have a very good football team.''

Fewell said the game was so bad that he didn't even want to watch the tape. But Webster did.

``I use that film to get better, move forward and see what we can use to help us be a better team this time around,'' he said. ``Many mistakes that we made last year, hopefully we can correct and don't make those same mistakes. Any tip or tendency we can get from what they're doing that will help us in this game, I'm going to use that.''

Make no mistake, the Saints still rely on the pass. Brees has thrown for a league-high 31 touchdowns to go along with 16 interceptions. But Boley said no matter what Brees has done, the principles of defense do not change.

``You have to read run first,'' he said. ``That's with any team. If you are thinking pass first, you are going to be back on your heels and they are going to pound the ball at you.''

Defensive tackle Chris Canty said if the Saints can run the ball, it will slow down the Giants pass rush. Webster concurs.

``We have to stop the run,'' he said. ``It all starts up front. If you don't stop the run, it makes the pass game a lot easier. That will be a big challenge this week.''

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NOTES: LB Jacquian Williams seems ready to play for the first time since a knee injury vs. San Francisco on Oct. 14. ...S Tyler Sash (hamstring) and TE Travis Beckum (knee) won't play Sunday. ... S Kenny Phillips (knee) is doubtful, while WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) is questionable after being limited in practice on Friday.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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