Capitals

Browns' Richardson not scared of Giants

Browns' Richardson not scared of Giants

BEREA, Ohio (AP) While breaking down game tape this week, Trent Richardson noticed some gaping holes in New York's defense. He plans to run through them - and the Giants - Sunday.

The Browns rookie running back is aware the Philadelphia Eagles piled up 191 yards - 123 by LeSean McCoy, who got 121 in the second half - last week in a 19-17 win over the Giants. On a conference call with New York reporters, Richardson was asked if he thinks he can rack up some yards against the defending Super Bowl champions.

``Oh yeah,'' he said.

Richardson doesn't lack confidence. Now he just needs a few more blocks.

``If we put our hat on a number (block), just cover them up, I think we can get good yardage on them,'' Richardson said. ``But at the same time, I know they're going to throw everything they can at us. I'm pretty sure they're going to game plan around our running game, so we need to make sure we open up the passing game so we can get some good runs in.''

The winless Browns (0-4) will likely need a big game from the talented Richardson if they hope to snap a 10-game losing streak dating to last season.

Richardson has rushed for 222 yards on 64 carries this season, and the first-round running back seems to be getting stronger after missing the entire exhibition season after undergoing knee surgery. The Giants seem susceptible to the run, and Richardson hopes Cleveland's offensive line can create some cracks in New York's front seven.

``We have to run some outside zone and really need to cover number 90 (Jason Pierre-Paul) as much as we can, and big (Jason) Tuck,'' Richardson said. ``Both of those guys can bull rush and use their power and their quickness because those guys are two big guys that are very fast. I think that if we cover the edges and run hard, not doing all this juking and that, one move and go, I think we can have some success in the running game.''

Richardson missed practice on Friday to be with his girlfriend as she gave birth to his third child. Browns coach Pat Shurmur expects Richardson to travel with the team and play. Shurmur doesn't think Richardson's personal issues will have a negative impact on him giving a good performance.

``I've seen guys go through family situations, personal situations and come out and play outstanding games,'' he said. ``What's important is that he tidies up on the preparation that he missed, which I know he will.''

Richardson should be well rested. The Browns haven't played since Sept. 27, and the 10-day break has given him extra time to recover and prepare for the Giants defense, which is ranked just 23rd against the run.

Richardson had only 14 carries against the Ravens, and the Browns would like to get him as many touches as possible. To optimize Richardson, however, the Browns have to avoid falling behind and needing to throw to get back into the game. Richardson has only played four games, but he's already noticed that teams are designing their game plan around stopping him.

``Most definitely,'' the former Alabama star said. ``That's one thing they always have done. They've seen me play a little bit now, so they're going to try to stop me more than anything now. But what makes it easier on our receivers. If (quarterback) Brandon (Weeden) has 300-some passing yards and we win the game, that's good with me.

``If they key on me and we lose, I feel it's my fault.''

Weeden knows it's vital for Cleveland's passing game to open up the field for Richardson. Without the threat of a passing attack, New York will just overload the line of scrimmage and make it hard to move.

``That's when it's my job to try to do some things to get into a pass or check out of a play and get us into a better play,'' Weeden said. ``You don't want to run against eight-man boxes. You're just running into a brick wall. Your optimal is just to create some space and let Trent do his thing. These guys, they like to play seven- and eight-man boxes, so we've just gotta take what they give us.''

Richardson plans to take us much as he can.

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NOTES: Browns S T.J. Ward will play just a few days after undergoing surgery on a broken left thumb. Ward had nine screws inserted during the procedure. He'll wear a protective immobilizing brace. ``I can't grab,'' he said. ``I don't have a thumb. I have a few fingers free. I'll just have to play normal. It's a thumb. It's not like my whole arm is gone.'' ... With Browns WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin doubtful with hamstring injuries, rookie Josh Gordon will make his first start. Gordon has seven catches. ... TE Alex Smith will miss his third straight game with a concussion.

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.

This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.

Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:

Get off to a better start

It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.

With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.

The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.

Stay out of the penalty box

Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.

So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.

If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.

Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.

Win the top line matchup

The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.

It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.

Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.

Take advantage of the power play opportunities

The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.

Not a coincidence.

Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.

Win the goalie matchup

Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.

Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.

Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.

But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.

Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.

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Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins dead cap situation

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USA TODAY Sports

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins dead cap situation

Cut bait. Sunk cost. Under water. 

Whatever the term might be, all industries deploy a certain phrase for wasted money. In the NFL, that term is dead cap, or the salary cap space a team must allocate for a particular player that has been cut or traded. 

In the specific case of the Redskins, the team carries more than $5.2 millon in dead cap space. Where did it come from? Who's to blame? Let's take a look.

Terrell McClain ($3.75M) - The Redskins signed McClain away from the Cowboys early in the 2017 free agency period. The move wasn't quite a disaster, but it wasn't very good. Washington gave McClain a four-year deal worth $21 million, and paid out nearly $7.5 million for the 2017 season. McClain never played well for the Redskins, started just two games and this offseason he agreed to give up a significant chunk of guaranteed money. Without that move from McClain, this cap hit would have been much worse. 

Su'a Cravens ($711k) - The money isn't as big of a loss as the talent. The Redskins selected Cravens in the second round of the 2016 Draft and he showed promise as a rookie while also dealing with injuries. In 2017, however, things fell apart as Cravens dealt with a training camp injury, discussed retiring from football and eventually found himself on the reserved/left squad list for the season. Prior to the 2018 Draft, the Redskins worked a deal to send Cravens to Denver for an additional fifth round pick as well as swapping picks. 

Kendall Fuller ($360k) - A promising young cornerback, the Redskins traded Fuller to Kansas City this offseason as part of a package to acquire QB Alex Smith. Losing Fullers stings — even head coach Jay Gruden admitted that — but Washington had to find a quarterback after the long-discussed Kirk Cousins saga veered toward, and eventually ended in, separation. 

Matt Jones ($150k) - One of the worst Redskins draft picks in the last five years, Washington reached for Jones in the third-round in 2015. As a rookie, Jones looked like a solid contributor, but in the 2016 season he developed a bad fumbling habit and found his way to the bench. From there, things got worse, as Jones ended the season on the inactive list after a squabble about playing special teams. In 2017, Jones was cut. He signed with the Colts, where he played in just five games and was cut earlier this year. This offseason, Jones signed with the Eagles.

Arie Kouandjio ($130K) - This is a weird one. Kouandjio was selected by the Redskins in 2015, and cut by the team in 2017. The dead money comes from that rookie deal. When Washington brought Kouandjio back late in the 2017 season off the Ravens' practice squad, the dead money from the rookie deal remained. Now, Kouandjio is injured and a candidate to start the 2018 season on the PUP list or maybe even the IR. 

Robert Davis ($103k) - Drafted as a sixth-rounder in 2017, Davis did not make the team leaving training camp. Even though he got signed to the practice squad, the dead money tolls from the rookie deal. 

Nate Sudfeld ($69k) - A late-round developmental prospect from the 2016 draft, Sudfeld made the team as a rookie but couldn't survive cuts in 2017. Quickly signed by the Eagles, Sudfeld ended up as the backup quarterback in Philadelphia's improbable Super Bowl run earlier this year. Dead money on the Redskins cap, but a Super Bowl ring in Philly. Strange. 

Tyler Catalina and Kevin Bowen account for about $12,000 in dead cap space as well. 

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