Nationals

Broncos pass-rushing duo credits Del Rio, Manning

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Broncos pass-rushing duo credits Del Rio, Manning

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos lead the NFL with 48 sacks, and all those crumpled quarterbacks in their wake can blame not only Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller but also Jack Del Rio and Peyton Manning.

Dumervil and Miller have 28 1/2 sacks, earning the league's most prolific pass-rushing tandem return trips to the Pro Bowl - although they're determined to spend all-star weekend preparing for the Super Bowl in New Orleans rather than enjoying the sand, surf and sun.

Miller's freakish athletic ability and Dumervil's extraordinarily long arms that give him built-in leverage on every tackle are two of the biggest reasons for the Broncos' league-best 10-game winning streak.

In their eyes, though, the credit for all these sacks goes to the team's two biggest offseason additions, Del Rio and Manning, who embarked on comebacks in Colorado after messy exits from their former teams.

When Manning arrived from Indianapolis in March, Miller envisioned the four-time MVP leading those famous clock-chewing drives that would allow the Broncos to turn loose their ``Orange Rush'' answer to Indy's Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis come the fourth quarter.

``We wanted to be the best together, me and Elvis, and when we picked up Peyton Manning, we knew we had a chance to get it done,'' Miller said. ``If we could get up a little bit, that allows us to do what we do best.''

When Del Rio became Denver's seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons following his firing as Jacksonville's head coach, Dumervil imagined the former linebacker's reputed run-stuffing defenses enabling the Broncos to get after quarterbacks long before the fourth quarter rolled around.

``Peyton coming here, it was big, but if you stop the run like Jack's teams did in Jacksonville, you get a chance to rush the passer,'' Dumervil said.

Turns out both were right.

Teams no longer run roughshod over the Broncos, who rank third in the league against the run a year after ranking 22nd. They get after the quarterback better than anyone and they rank sixth against the pass after finishing 18th last year. So, it's no surprise they're rolling toward the playoffs as the Super Bowl oddsmakers' latest sweetheart.

``Von is a special talent,'' cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``You always have to know where he is. And when you find out where he is, here comes the other guy.''

Miller is just the second player since the league started tracking forced fumbles in 1994 to have a season in which he racked up at least 15 sacks, 25 tackles for loss and forced five fumbles. The only other player to do it was Dallas' DeMarcus Ware in 2008.

Dumervil leads the league with six strip-sacks, and Miller has four.

``We definitely want to rake the ball,'' Del Rio said. ``Those can be game-changing plays.''

Dumervil was the first to hug Miller, who has 17 1/2 sacks, last week when he broke his single-season franchise record of 17.

``He's a special guy,'' Dumervil said. ``If there's anybody I'd be happy and proud of for breaking the record, it would definitely be Von.''

Left tackle Ryan Clady said facing Dumervil and Miller in training camp was the best preparation he could have hoped for as he prepared to protect Manning's blind side.

``No question, going against Elvis and Von, they're great players, Pro Bowl players, and it elevates my game,'' Clady said.

``Doom & Gloom,'' as they are known, provided a taste of what was in store with 21 combined sacks last season despite playing one-armed for much of the time.

Dumervil was dogged by an injured left shoulder last year before collecting all 9 1/2 of his sacks in the final eight games. Miller, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, did most of his damage before playing the last two months with a cumbersome cast that covered his broken right thumb and prevented him from grabbing and shedding offensive linemen.

Miller and Dumervil were teasing each other Thursday in the locker room about selfishly stealing the other's sacks, but in truth, they appreciate having the other on the field, healthy and hearty again.

And they love having Manning and Del Rio on their side, too.

``I think the biggest thing, a lot of people don't realize, is when you stop the run, it gives you a second-and-8 or a third-and-long. In previous years, it was second-and-3, third-and-3, the ball comes out quicker, your chances of rushing is not the same,'' Dumervil said. ``So, having Peyton definitely gives you the lead more toward the end of the game, but the early first three quarters sacks come from stopping the run.''

Dumervil and Miller have both rounded out their games under Del Rio's tutelage, combining with the likes of Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein and Kevin Vickerson to stuff ball carriers as much as they chase down QBs.

``Coach Del Rio is like a wizard,'' Miller said of the man who's moved him up and down the line, sometimes lining him up alongside Dumervil in what has to be an offensive lineman's biggest nightmare.

Others have also benefited from Del Rio's schemes. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard (5 1/2) and cornerback Chris Harris (2 1/2) have career highs in sacks, while Vickerson (2) and safety Mike Adams (1) tied their career bests, and rookie tackle Derek Wolfe has five.

Dumervil and Miller, though, have done the heavy lifting for the Broncos, whose 48 sacks are the team's most since 1999.

``I'm always patting them on the back, because without them, we'd be nothing back there,'' Bailey said of Denver's star-studded secondary. ``Those guys, they make it easier for us. It'd be a lot of work for us if they weren't getting pressure. I think that's what really makes a good secondary - is your pass rush.''

The ingredients for that superb pass rush are Dumervil, Miller, Del Rio and Manning.

Notes: The Broncos have a tough test coming up Sunday even though the Chiefs (2-13) are ranked dead last in the AP Pro32 rankings and Denver is ranked first. RB Jamaal Charles ran for 226 yards last week in a game in which the Chiefs piled up 352 yards on the Colts' backpedaling defense and still lost. ``That's a crazy kind of number on the ground in this day and age where it's a so-called passing league,'' Vickerson said. ... RG Chris Kuper (migraine, ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. WR Brandon Stokley (thigh) also was limited.

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

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

MORE NATS COVERAGE: 

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

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