Browns' Dawson having perfect season

Browns' Dawson having perfect season

BEREA, Ohio (AP) As Phil Dawson stuffed a seemingly endless supply of cleats into his travel bag, the Browns kicker kept in mind the wicked weather forecast for Sunday's game in Oakland.

Rain is expected to soak the Bay Area.

``I keep hearing the word torrential,'' the soft-spoken Texan said. ``Where I come from that means a lot.''

Figures. There will be less-than-ideal conditions when the Browns (3-8) try to snap a 12-game road losing streak as they visit the Raiders (3-8).

But that's nothing new for Dawson, who despite kicking in swirling winds, on soggy, chewed-up fields and for bad teams throughout his career, is having a perfect season.

In his 14th year with the Browns, the super-steady 37-year-old has never been better. He's made all 21 field-goal attempts, including five from beyond 50 yards. Dawson, unquestionably the best thing about the Browns since their return as an expansion franchise in 1999, has converted 27 straight kicks since last season, and he's the only full-time kicker in the NFL without a miss.

Yet, when the league recently released fan balloting for the Pro Bowl, Dawson wasn't among the top, more than 60,000 votes behind Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski.

Dawson won't campaign for selection, but punter Reggie Hodges isn't ashamed to stump for his teammate.

Hodges, who also holds on field-goal tries, has started pushing for Dawson on Twitter, posting his favorite kicker's statistics on the social media site and ending his messages with (hash)Dawson4ProBowl. Get Hodges started on Dawson's Pro Bowl worthiness and he makes a pretty strong case for his teammate to be bound for Hawaii when the season ends.

Hodges believes Dawson is being wrongly overlooked.

``He's been doing it for 14 years and he's been doing it in the worst conditions,'' Hodges said. ``Browns Stadium is the toughest place in the NFL to kick - by far. Chicago is a distant second. This place is unbelievable. Late in the year our field gets chewed up, and through the course of a game with the rain and snow, it's tough for him to find the right spot to kick off of. And to be 21 of 21 with five over 50 (yards), five of five from 40 to 49, that's incredible. Nobody's doing that.

``Janikowski is having a great year, but he's kicking in California. You get a little wind out there - maybe.''

Janikowski has only missed once, from 64 yards. Dawson holds Oakland's lengthy lefty, who shares the NFL record with a 63-yarder, in very high regard and doesn't like to compare himself to other kickers - except on game day.

``Each and every week I don't get an opponent across the line of scrimmage, so I try to compete against the guy I'm going against and obviously going against Sebastian is quite a challenge,'' Dawson said. ``He's one of the best there is and deservedly so. I look forward to getting out there and competing against him and see how it totals up at the end of the day.''

But as far as making the Pro Bowl, Dawson isn't worried about anything other than keeping his head down, striking the ball well and putting it through the uprights.

``It's not a make-or-break event to feel good about my career,'' he said. ``It's obviously been a goal for a long time, so to check the box so to speak, would be meaningful. And for a family of five, free vacations are a highly sought-after event. It would be great to experience.''

The fan's Pro Bowl balloting, which concludes on Dec. 17, counts as one-third with players' and coaches' votes making up the other two-thirds.

Dawson has earned the respect of his peers for not only his consistency this season, but his full body of work. Opposing kickers who visit Browns Stadium, where the unpredictable winds wreak havoc with kicks, often tell Dawson how impressed they are that he's been so good for so long.

``It's impressive really, especially, and I don't want this to come across the wrong way, but for his age and how long he's been doing it,'' said Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, who has looked up to Dawson for years. ``He's tracking the ball great, just as good as anybody in the league obviously. I think that's most impressive is all his kicks over 50.''

Maybe more impressive are Dawson's career numbers at home. He has converted 84.7 percent (149 for 176) of his kicks in Cleveland compared to 78.2 percent (179 for 229) for opposing kickers.

Dawson can count on getting a vote for Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

``He's been a Pro Bowl quality kicker for a very long time,'' Shurmur said. ``I've got a great deal of respect for who he is and what he is as a player. I'm really glad he kicks for us. I think all that type of stuff, all those accolades, he's very deserving of that. I'm not going to sit here and campaign for him, but I do really appreciate what he does for our team.''

With five games left, Dawson is again facing an uncertain future with the Browns. For the past two years, the team has been unable to sign him to a long-term contract and used its franchise tag on Dawson. If the team does that for a third year, the Browns would be forced to pay him the average salary of the top five players in the league - a number that could be $15 million.

That's an unlikely scenario, and Dawson is thinking ahead past Sunday.

``One thing I've learned the last couple years is whatever's going to happen, is going to happen,'' he said. ``So whether I worry about it or think about it, that doesn't change things. So while I have an opportunity to come to work each and every day and try to be the best every day, that's what I'm going to do.''

And so far, that plan has been perfect.


NOTES: Browns KR Josh Cribbs practiced after missing two days with a shoulder/chest injury and expects to return punts and kickoffs against the Raiders. ... The Browns left for California following practice, flying out one day earlier than usual. ... Browns S Eric Hagg (illness) missed practice but made the trip. ... The Oakland-Cleveland matchup will be seen in only seven TV markets: two in Ohio, Medford, Ore., Reno and three California cities.


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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 


Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?


Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.


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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.



NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.